CAIRO (AP) â¿¿ Egypt's capital prides itself on being city that never sleeps, with crowds filling cafes and shops open into till the small hours. So, the government is facing a backlash from businesses and the public as it vows to impose new nationwide rules closing stores and restaurants early.
Officials say the step is necessary to conserve electricity in a nation buckling under economic crisis and fuel shortages. But the decision has a strong undercurrent of social control: A desire by secular conservatives and Islamists alike to tame a population they see as too unruly, especially in a post-revolution atmosphere of strikes, protests and relentless demands on a beleaguered government.
Simply put, officials say, Egyptians should stop thinking they can do whatever they want, should go to sleep early and work in the morning.
"Egyptian life has turned nocturnal. Egypt should not be a nocturnal state, but a morning state like all countries," Legal Affairs Minister Mohammed Mahsoub, an Islamist, told reporters on Wednesday. "Energy, endeavor, labor and working hard should be the foundation."
"I call on all those thinking of opposing this to think about themselves â¿¿ when should they wake up and go to sleep and when do their kids go to bed and wake up," he said. "This is really a behavioral issue."
He and other officials said the regulations will come into effect on Saturday. Under the new rules, shops would be required to close at 10 p.m. and restaurants and cafes at midnight. Businesses that have a tourism license â¿¿ which comes at a fee â¿¿ would be exempted, meaning that most bars and upscale restaurants would stay open later. Violators would face a fine and, if they persist, closure.
But many are furious over what they see as an outright violation of the nation's psyche.