REG 200225 HOSNI177-1582637258346
Before he entered politics, Hosni Mubarak was a career officer in the Egyptian Air Force. He served as its commander from 1972 to 1975 and rose to the rank of air chief marshal in 1973. Image Credit: Agencies

Cairo: Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak, who died Tuesday, was a war “hero”, according to the Egyptian presidency. He was ousted in an uprising nine years ago.

Mubarak died in a military hospital in Cairo where he had stayed in recent weeks. He was 91.

His funeral will be held Wednesday in the Field Marshal Tantawi Mosque on the outskirts of Cairo before his burial in the family’s cemetery in the Egyptian capital, sources close to his family said.

Mubarak, an ex-army officer, resigned on February 11, 2011 after nearly 30 years in power in response to 18-day mass protests against his rule.

A statement from President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi’s office expressed “deep sadness” over Mubarak’s death. It praised Mubarak for his national service as one of “the heroes and commanders of the [1973] October war that regained dignity and pride to the Arab nation”. Mubarak served as the chief of the Egyptian air force in the 1973 war against Israel.

The presidential statement also offered “deep condolences” to Mubarak’s family.

The army called Mubarak “one of its sons and one of the commanders” of the 1973 war.

Paying homage to Mubarak, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash described the late leader as a statesman and a man of stances.

“President Hosni Mubarak was marked by wisdom and courage. His role in the battle for liberating the State of Kuwait and several other crises that hit the Arab nation are remembered by history,” Gargash tweeted, referring to Egyptian troops’ participation in a US-led coalition that ended Iraq’s occupation of neighbouring Kuwait in 1991.

Mubarak’s loyalists credit him with keeping the country stable in a turbulent region.

“President Mubarak’s era was marked by stability and avoiding military adventures,” said Farid Salah, a private entrepreneur. “Being a military man, he was cautious of dragging the country into military conflicts. He also maintained peace with Israel,” he added.

Mahmoud Shukri, a mechanic, has his own reason to admire Mubarak. “When the January 25 [2011] incidents happened, the man kept repeating that he was born in Egypt and will die in it and wouldn’t leave it. He kept his word. He was a true Egyptian man,” Shukri said passionately.

For Soheir Hatem, a tour guide, Mubarak will be particularly remembered for keeping Egypt’s tourism sector, a main source of the national income, thriving. “During his rule, tourism lived its glory years,” said Hatem. “Just one year before his resignation, the number of tourists who visited Egypt that year reached a record level of 14.7 million tourists.”

Egypt’s tourism has in recent months started to show signs of recovery after years of decline in post-Mubarak instability and militant attacks.

Mubarak’s opponents, however, say his long rule was marred by corruption, dubious privatisation deals and police oppression. They also accuse him of having groomed his younger son Jamal to succeed him, a claim that Mubaraks repeatedly denied.

Born on May 4, 1928 in the Nile Delta village of Kafr Al Muselha, Mubarak attended the Egyptian military academy where he graduated in 1950. He fought in Egypt’s wars against Israel.

In 1976, the then president Anwar Sadat named him as his deputy.

Mubarak took office in 1981, becoming Egypt’s fourth president after Sadat’s assassination by militant Islamists. Mubarak was re-elected several times through public referendums. In 2005, he won Egypt’s first multi-candidate elections, which the opposition dismissed as a sham.

After his ouster, Mubarak stood trial in several cases, including alleged complicity in protester deaths during the 2011 revolt. He was sentenced to three years in prison in a corruption case related to the embezzlement of state money allocated for presidential palaces.

In March, 2017, he was cleared acquitted of charges of involvement in killing protesters after a tortuous legal battle.

Last October, he appeared in a rare YouTube video reminiscing about the 1973 war.

Mubarak is survived by his wife Suzanne and two children Alaa and Jamal.