To call Hosni Mubarak a despot or tyrant is inaccurate. His dictatorship is more relaxed, more avuncular, and less brutal than, say, a Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi. For the past 30 years, Mubarak has been haunted by a single fear: assassination. Since he came to power via a spectacular public slaying of his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, Mubarak and his close advisors have ensured he is mostly invisible in his own country, except on television or in parliament.
When I visited Cairo just after Yasser Arafat’s death, the taxi-driver wouldn’t even take me to the heavily barricaded street in which the presidential palace is situated. I later learnt that Mubarak is almost never seen in public, especially after the close shave he had in Ethiopia in 1995. The Islamic Jehad group had taken responsibility for the failed attempt then. You could say he is a stranger in his own country.