September 11, 2019

At the beginning of the Egyptian president’s mandate in 2014, he kept his wife Entissar Amer away from the spotlight. Then, he let her appear gradually but on limited occasions trying to promote her human and social nature to protect her from critics. Despite all of his efforts, all of this has been in vain within the few last days, when the name of the First Lady spread widely (with negative feelings) on social media and among the Egyptian people, in the streets and in homes.

The secret of such a sudden shift is Mohamed Ali, the businessman, actor and the owner of “Amlak Co.” one of the leading companies in the contracting industry in Egypt. During the past few days, Ali has published a series of videos on social media, which have had millions of views and shares, as he mentioned several incidents of corruption and the waste of public money worth millions of pounds committed by the Armed Forces, the president and his wife. 

Ali has accused Entissar of being the reason he had to build a new presidential palace in al-Mamurah in Alexandria at a cost of EGP 250 million from the money of the people, as she didn’t want to lie on the same bed Suzan Mubarak had laid on, the wife of the former president that was ousted in the 25 January 2011 revolution. Ali accused her of being responsible for the building of a new luxurious villa in Helmeyat AZ Zaytoun in Cairo, when al-Sisi was the minister of defence.

These accusations have drawn many people’s attention, which turned into rage after the construction of the new villa near of the presidential palace in Montaza was confirmed. People united under the Arabic hashtag Entissar rules to express their shock at the First Lady as they believed she was a good person and had nothing to do with what happened in the country.

The rise of Entissar

Her full name is Entissar Ahmed Amer Amin, born in 1956 in Egypt. She is al-Sisi’s cousin from his mother’s side, and his childhood sweetheart. Entissar appeared, for the first time, in public in February 2014 to participate in a ceremony to honour senior retired officers from the army. She sat beside her husband, then minister of defence, after the former president Morsi was ousted on July 3 2013.

Although it was her first appearance in public, her Facebook page indicated that she was active in the shadows, as she won the award for the best officers wife from the American National War College where her husband was trained. According to the official page she implemented and supervised cultural courses and conferences for the officers’ wives during the mandate of al-Sisi as defence minister.

On his first TV interview after announcing his candidacy for the presidential elections and resigning from the ministry of defence, al-Sisi talked about their “love story.” He said that he promised to marry her if he succeeded in high school and enrolled in the military academy; which is what happened as they get married in 1977 after his graduation.

He was careful when he spoke about his wife, as he didn’t mention her name in the interview. But he talked about a meaningful incident – when he thought about running for the president he asked for advice and said, “actually we love you…  But our home may be lost.” Entissar was absent from the presidential campaign of her husband, and she hadn’t appeared again except in the inauguration ceremony in June 2014 when she and her sons attended the oath.

In the first presidential year, her activity was low profile and she didn’t travel. She has made four known visits including a visit to a harassment victim, while the other three activities were visits to the new corridor of the Suez Canal. Notably, there are no pictures or videos of these visits. Media reports have mentioned that the reason Entissar was absent in the public arena is her failure to learn etiquette, how to deal with people in public and diplomatic protocols during travels and receive foreign guests of the president. So it was decided her public appearances would be postponed until she become qualified properly.

In the second presidential year, her visibility increased, as she appeared in the opening ceremony of the new corridor of the Suez Canal in August 2015, and at the Armed Forces ceremony of the 42nd anniversary of the October Victory 1973, and on many other occasions. It should to be mentioned that Mrs Jehan Sadat, the wife of the former president, was Entissar al-Sisi’s godmother, as she appeared beside her in the majority of the visually documented public occasions such as al-Sisi’s inauguration ceremony, the opening ceremony of the new corridor of the Suez Canal in August 2015, and in the memorial ceremony of the October Victory as if she were assigned to guide and educate the new First Lady about how to handle public occasions. It’s interesting also that Entissar travelled abroad on two visits in 2015 without an announcement from the Egyptian presidency. Late in October she visited Bahrain within al-Sisi’s official visit. The Bahraini media broadcast the news and the pictures of the visit. In December, she participated in the celebration of Emirates National Day. The Emirates media broadcast the news about the visits and the Egyptian media picked it up.

From the beginning of 2016, her appearances have become regular, as she attended the speech of the president before the parliament in February, and she took the leadership of the funding campaign for Tahya Misr Fund established by her husband to finance as it deems appropriate away from the national budget.

The year 2017 was the First Lady’s real take-off. Besides her normal public activities, she participated, for the first time, in a presidential welcoming ceremony. Also, she accompanied her husband to China attending the BRICS summit, which would be her first official participation in an international forum.

In 2018, Entissar became a First Lady in the traditional recognised sense. She participated in  the presidential elections that resulted in a second mandate for her husband after he neutralised all of his competitive candidates. She has given more attention to community activities and attends more public events with her husband. But the most remarkable event was receiving Melania Trump, the First Lady of the US, during her visit to Egypt, which has been reported in the media. In the same year was the initiation of her official page on Facebook, thus she became the First Lady to have an official page on social media. Since then, she has written posts on several public events.

Entissar has become a target for criticism 

In spite of the president’s desire to make his wife invisible until she became well qualified, and the insistence on keeping her media appearances limited, she has been criticised at several events.

The main reason of such criticism is her life of opulence and luxury. In the celebration of Mothers’ Day of 2017 , she showed up wearing clothes and expensive diamonds estimated at $750,000, while her husband complains about economic conditions and asks the common people to donate a pound to the Tahya Misr Fund at least every day. In September 2017, she appeared with a Gucci handbag worth $1,400, which outraged social media users who responded with criticism. In the same month she visited the Bibliotheca Alexandria. Her motorcade completely blocked traffic in el-Geish road after the lane beside the sea along the Corniche was evacuated which generated a wave of criticism against her.

The accusations directed by the contractor Mohamed Ali, who participated in many construction projects including building presidential villas and palaces, were that she was responsible for spending millions of pounds to build extremely luxurious palaces, which belonged to the people. This generated anger and criticism. There is a tiny amount of available information indicating that she plays an important yet invisible role in her husband’s life. Also, it indicates the unreal image which the president tried to portray of her as an influential lady and a quiet housewife, rather than being a First