If bumping into the man who has been leading the country since President Mubarak was ousted last February was bizarre, the fact that he was not in his trademark military attire, but in a black civilian suit, was even more shocking.
Tantawi proceeded to walk the streets of Cairo while greeting and casually chatting to civilians, without any security in sight. The tour has sent shock waves around the country, with some dubbing it "the incident of the suit."
Video footage of the event was aired later in the day on the ‘Mubashr from Egypt’ program on state television. While the video showed excited civilians warmly greeting Tantawi, their fellow citizens on social networking sites were unhappy with Tantawi’s sudden appearance on the street.
A theory abounded on Facebook and Twitter that Tantawi’s Downtown tour was nothing short of a presidential bid or an attempt to assess his popularity among Egyptians before running for president after he steps down from his military position. Some activists complained that Tantawi’s tour indicates he is the “new Mubarak,” and planning to remain in power for a long time.
Following the tour, several Facebook groups were opened to mock Tantawi, including ‘Over my dead body Tantawi’, ‘Down with Field Marshall Tantawi’, and ‘No to civilian clothes for military officers’. Several activists even called on Egyptians to wear black suits similar to the one Tantawi was wearing, and begin a protest in Downtown Cairo to raise awareness of the demands of the revolution. Another group, annoyed at the Field Marshall’s attempt to reach out to people by dressing in civilian clothes, urged people to dress in “formal military garb,” during next Friday’s million man march against the reactivated emergency law.
Others also poked fun at the supposed spontaneity of Tantawi’s tour.
“The Field Marshall was just randomly walking in Downtown Cairo and the Egyptian State TV cameras just happened to be there,” one person wrote on Twitter.
Another joked, “can someone please tell the Field Marshall that we want a civil state not a civil suit,” in reference to the long time revolutionary demand.
Political activist Wael Ghonim also used his Twitter account to give Tantawi some style tips.
“To be honest you look much better in military clothes,” deadpanned Ghonim, before slamming Egyptian State TV for covering the event. “The Egyptian TV which operates on propaganda proves every day that there is a huge gap between them and the internet youth.”
Egyptian journalist and activist Belal Fadl also pitched in on Twitter.
“We congratulate Tantawi for his new civil suit,” Fadl wrote. “But regarding this whole issue about him being able to lead the country, we want to tell him if you love Egypt, forget it.”
Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff, who has been churning out pro-revolution cartoons since Egypt’s revolution took off, also gave his two cents worth, writing on Twitter that, ‘Tantawi is a dictator, [and] not all the most expensive suits in the world can change this fact.”
A special Twitter hash tag was even created specifically for the event, #BadletTantawi (Tantawi’s Suit), which abounded with jokes about Tantawi’s attempt at civilian attire.
One Twitter user wrote a spoof ad for ToysRus, saying, “ToysRus at Christmas: we have Tantawi in shorts, Tantawi in a tuxedo, Tantawi the sailor, Tantawi the doctor.”