February 12, 2011 / 1:22 PM / in 7 years

Mubarak Sharm retreat shows isolation from people

CAIRO, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Hosni Mubarak’s retreat to Sharm el-Sheikh encapsulates the chasm that had grown between him and most of the 80 million Egyptians he ruled for three decades.

To the 40 percent of Egyptians who live on less than $2 a day, the Red Sea resort’s five-star hotels, golf courses and coral reefs are a world away from their daily struggle to get by, depending on state-subsidised bread to feed their families.

Towards the end of his time in power, his health deteriorating, the 82-year-old Mubarak spent more and more time at the town at the tip of the Sinai Peninsula -- a popular destination for foreign tourists and wealthier Egyptians.

Mubarak and his family left Cairo for Sharm el-Sheikh hours before his resignation was announced on Friday.

As president, Mubarak kept an official residence in Sharm el-Sheikh, declared “the city of peace” because of the many Middle East peace summits he hosted there in an effort to maintain Egypt’s flagging position as a regional leader.

Sharm el-Sheikh and the rest of the Sinai were returned to Egypt by Israel under a 1979 peace treaty concluded by Mubarak’s predecessor, Anwar Sadat.

In his early years in power, Mubarak oversaw the final implementation of the Camp David accords that made Sinai part of Egypt again. But that part of his legacy is overshadowed by the poverty and political oppression that prompted the uprising that swept him from power.

Though Mubarak went to Sharm el-Sheikh on Friday, reports have speculated that he may have left Egypt. Some say he will go to Germany, where he has received medical treatment in the past.

The first-class medical care he enjoyed there demonstrated again the distance between Mubarak and most of the people he governed. Most Egyptians have to use a dilapidated public health sector they would rather avoid.

If Mubarak does stay put in Sharm el-Sheikh, on clear days he will enjoy views of the desert coastline of Saudi Arabia, just across the Gulf of Aqaba.

That is where his friend, former Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, fled last month, driven from his country by mass protests that ignited the Egyptian revolt. (Editing by Samia Nakhoul and Tim Pearce)

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