Skip to content
Subscriber Only

Investors Flee Egypt as Violence Spreads

The hope of the revolution has given way to despair, crime, and vigilantism
A youth shows off his bootleg pistol in a Cairo barbershop
A youth shows off his bootleg pistol in a Cairo barbershopPhotograph by David Degner

In a dimly lit Cairo workshop, Hussein spins a metal pipe on a lathe, sending sparks flying. Soon it will become the barrel of a gun. Sometime after that it will join the growing arsenal of illegal weapons on the streets of Egypt.

Artisans who make machine parts by day are turning into bootleg gunsmiths by night, says Hussein, 54, who asked not to be identified by his full name for fear of prosecution. He sells only to a middleman because, he says, “trust the wrong person and you’re going to jail.” Hussein says he can make as much as 3,000 Egyptian pounds ($435) per gun—about 20 percent of what a legally licensed one costs. “People buy the guns because they’re afraid,” he says. “People buy the guns because they want to scare others. We’re in a jungle now.”