Mohamed Ali infuriates Field Marshal President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt. His waspish, cruel, outrageously funny, solemnly pedantic videos and social media messages transmitted from his self-exile in Spain, mocking the man who overthrew Egypt’s first elected president, even brought demonstrators back on to the streets of Cairo in September. But the 45-year-old actor and businessman admits to me, after much false modesty, that he would like to play Sisi – if only for just one day.
And if his description of the president – corrupt and corrupting, leading a nepotistic clan of army officers – is anything like the truth, then I have a suspicion that Sisi might like to play Ali for a day too: for the iconoclast who chain-smokes his way through his video rants, demanding back pay for the massive army palace he claims to have constructed for Sisi, might be a satisfying role for a man who claims not only to be uncorrupted by power but to have saved Egypt from Islamist “terror”. Sisi calls all of Ali’s allegations “lies”.