In this Sunday, July 22, 2012 photo released by the Egyptian Presidency, Egyptian President, Mohammed Morsi, left, meets with the minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, Hesham Qandil, at the presidential palace in Cairo (Photo: AP)
After weeks of speculation, Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi on Tuesday appointed Hisham Qandil as his new prime minister, in a move that surprised many observers.
Qandil was minister of irrigation and water resources in the interim government of Kamal El-Ganzouri.
President Morsi met Qandil at the presidential palace on Sunday but his chances of being offered the premiership were dismissed by many observers, who said he was too young and lacking in political experience.
However, the water and irrigation engineer with a PhD from the University of North Carolina, appears to fit the criteria specified by leading members of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP).
Abdallah Shehata, a senior member of the FJP, told Ahram Online last week that the new prime minister should be under 60 years old, should believe in the Islamic project but not belong to any political group, should have experience in public administration and a solid background in economics.
Qandil, who was born in 1962, describes himself as a religious man who has never belonged to an Islamist group.
He received a BA in Engineering from Cairo University in 1984, went on to earn a masters degree in 1988 from Utah State University and a doctorate in irrigation in 1993 from North Carolina State University.
Qandil served as director of the office of irrigation minister Mahmoud Abou Zeid from 1999 to 2005 and was part of the Nile Basin Initiative launched in 1999 to develop the river in a cooperative manner.
He then worked as chief water resources engineer at the African Development Bank (AfDB) in Tunisia.
On 15 July Qandil travelled with President Morsi to the African Union summit in Ethiopia. The trip sought to rekindle Cairo's relationship with its African neighbours after years of neglect under former president Hosni Mubarak.
Improving Egypt's relationship with the Nile Basin countries is one of President Morsi's priorities, according to his presidential programme.
Qandil was appointed minister of irrigation and water resources by then-PM Esam Sharaf in July 2011, and was later asked by Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzouri to continue in his post in November of the same year.
In a rare interview whilst irrigation minister in El-Ganzouri's government, Qandil criticised recurring strikes and protests that have spread across the country since Egypt's 2011 uprising.
He told Al Jazeera that there were better ways to highlight workers' demands than strikes, which – from his perspective – took a damaging toll on the already suffering economy.