October 22, 2018
“So, in the coming year,” asks Egyptian TV personality Amr Adib, “Egypt will be more orderly and more stable because Saturn is in Capricorn?”
“Exactly,” says Passant Youssef, one of a number of astrologers whose predictions are delivered on pro-regime TV shows and in newspapers across Egypt. The Egyptian government seems to be using horoscopes as a new avenue for disseminating pro-regime messages, hoping that their mystical quality lends credibility to government messaging that is lacking in other outlets.
While orthodox Islam frowns on fortune telling, astrology has a long history in the Middle East’s popular culture, and especially in Egypt. Under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, political horoscopes have exploded. Fortune tellers appear on television and in print, expressing their confidence that President Sisi is leading Egypt to a secure and prosperous future because he is a Scorpio and “possesses a great deal of patience and fortitude.” Meanwhile, his political foes are cursed with bad fortune. His jailed predecessor Mohamed Morsi’s stars are not aligned, according to one astrologer, as he “operates mindlessly based on his emotions and has illusions of grandeur, since he is a Leo.”
Horoscopes also toe the regime line by encouraging struggling Egyptians not to expect government handouts. Youssef predicts, “Egyptians will learn how to do things themselves, rather than ask for them…They will hold themselves accountable.” In early 2018, Egyptian astrologers reached a consensus that the year would produce a flourishing economy, increased tourism, and great military, political, and diplomatic achievements. To their predictions, the astrologers were careful to include a cautious in sha allah—God willing.
This article is part of the CSIS Middle East Program series Mezze: Assorted Stories from the Middle East.