You can trace the aspirations and disappointments of Egypt's revolution across the walls of the southern city of Assiut
You can trace the aspirations and disappointments of Egypt's revolution across the walls of the southern city of Assiut.
The most faded graffiti lambasts Hosni Mubarak, the autocrat who ruled for three decades until a 2011 uprising toppled him. More recent daubings take on his successors: a council of military generals and civilian president Mohamed Mursi.
Additions since the army overthrew Mursi this month attest a new wave of anger - this time from Islamists who feel cheated by his fall. "Egypt is Islamic, no matter what the Christians think," one reads. Another calls the army chief "a dog".
Assiut offers a window into what the future might hold for Egypt's Islamists, who have dominated election after election since the 2011 revolt and, until Mursi's ouster, constituted a commanding and ever more vocal force in Egyptian public life.
The poor, conservative region along the Nile has for decades been a stronghold for both radical and moderate Islamists, who have cemented their influence by delivering basic services in areas where the central government has historically been aloof.
The goodwill and logistics networks built up by those groups over decades - particularly Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood - helped win them political sway in the aftermath of Mubarak's fall.
But even the Islamists' heartlands have not been immune to the distrust and suspicion that has grown among many Egyptians during the past year over what they saw as the Brotherhood's ineffective and divisive rule.
The headquarters of the Brotherhood's political wing - which took about half the area's parliament seats - was sacked and looted this month. The governor Mursi appointed has not come to his office for weeks since protesters blocked him from entering.
The blow has inspired a mix of anger, defiance, fear and denial among Islamists in Egypt's south. But their history and heavy presence in the impoverished region also offers an insight into how they might work their way back into political life.
"The lesson for us has been to interact with the street more and more. That's all," said Mohamed Senussi, an official in the Assiut branch of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party.
"Your most basic power is in the streets."
Assiut's poverty is palpable outside the provincial capital. Farmers ride donkey carts through fields and harvest crops by hand. A huge cement factory run by Mexico's Cemex is one of the few obvious intrusions of an industrialised global economy.
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