But enough with first impressions. Egypt had a tumultuous 2012 that was disillusioning, to put it mildly, for many of the young revolutionaries who supported the January 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak. While you can't see the economic pain of the past year by walking the streets of Cairo, just a few early conversations with friends and acquaintances make it clear that it's very real. In the fashionable districts of Cairo, shopkeepers say business is down. In more working class neighborhoods, the guys selling vegetables or clothing say likewise. Men who paint houses or fix plumbing say work is less steady, with customers putting off non-essential work.
And while in my few brief conversations with Egyptian contacts the focus has been disappointment with the new Muslim Brotherhood-backed constitution, or anger at Morsi and the Brothers' apparent accommodations to a military hierarchy that has cast a shadow over Egyptian politics for a generation, it is economic conditions that will make or break the emerging new Egyptian political order in 2013.
The two, of course, are not mutually exclusive. While Morsi has spoken of a need to restore a battered Egyptian economy, neither he nor anyone else has been better able to provide stability or bread than the military was when it was running Egypt from February 2011 until June of this year.
On one level, they can be forgiven. The past year has seen certain post-Mubarak assumptions (or hopes) seriously ruptured. A popular Egyptian view of the military as protector of the nation was eroded. In February, more than 70 people died following a soccer match in Port Said at which security, the responsibility of the army, was conspicuous by its absence.