In Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt's tourism oasis on the Red Sea, the beautiful Maritim Jolie Ville Golf and Resort is prowled by dozens of armed security guards. Sitting in the opulent lobby, burly men in leather jackets mutter into hidden radios. These are the elite of Egypt's much feared former state security.
The reason for their presence, incongruous among the five-star swimming pools, palm trees and pristine beaches, lies next door. Behind a thick wall, overlooking the sparkling waters of the Red Sea, is the villa of the defeated former president Hosni Mubarak.
For the residents of Sharm el Sheikh, his imminent arrival was signalled two days before his resignation. Residents recall the whir of helicopters and docking of five armed navy ships. The neatly trimmed road to his villa is barricaded and protected by more security detail.
Snippets of information build a picture of Mr Mubarak's new life. "His grandchild has destroyed three buggies on the golf course so far," says one source close to the ex-president. "He is having widescreen televisions installed in every room, and his furniture brought from his Cairo palace," says another.
By many accounts, the fallen leader is making this villa his last redoubt. "He is in love with this city. He would prefer to stay," says General Ahmed Saleh, the deputy governor for South Sinai, whose governorate includes Sharm el Sheikh.
Following his resignation, rumours circulated that Mr Mubarak might be called to trial as the head of a regime accused of money laundering, squandering state wealth and abusing its authority. However, police snipers targeting protesters, the detention and torture of so many Egyptians during his 30-year rule, and the reality of swathes of the population living on less than $2 per day, all seem very distant here.
Will Mr Mubarak be allowed to slip out of the spotlight and into the luxurious calm of Sharm el Sheikh for the rest of his days?
For the Egyptian army, the answer seems to be yes. Egypt's new military-led government have promised to protect him from prosecution, and to allow him to live freely in retirement in his Sharm el Sheikh holiday home. "The military has sworn an oath not to pursue legal action against Mr Mubarak," said one army source.
Some have suggested that he is essentially under house arrest. Corruption in part fuelled the protests that forced Mr Mubarak from power. Egyptian authorities have since begun a global pursuit of public funds, perhaps billions of dollars, that have disappeared. They have called for a freeze of the assets of four former ministers, a party insider and their families. On Monday, Egypt's general prosecutor issued an order to freeze the assets of Mr Mubarak and his relatives.
"The people are asking [that he be put on trial]. I think the army leaders are aware of this," says Abdel Galil Mustafa, the coordinator for the National Association for Change, the opposition party led by Mohamed ElBaradei. "I expect them to satisfy the demands of the people, I know that it is not easy for the army, but for Egypt and its people it is a must."
A trial, even if the evidence was available, might be a moot point anyway. News of the frail health of Mr Mubarak, 82, dominated the headlines immediately after he stood down. "His illness has been very bad in the last month," said another source close to the former president. "He fainted twice during his last speech." Mr Mubarak had travelled to Germany for gall bladder surgery last year.
Calls for his reprisal have eased among some Egyptian citizens. "Honestly I am sad for him, he is old and a citizen in Egypt," says Hamdi Mahda, 42, who works in a restaurant on Sharm el Sheikh's now empty tourist thoroughfare. "He loves Egypt, he can stay and die here."
For others, the question of Mr Mubarak's future raises a disinterested shrug. The focus now is simply to enjoy the new freedoms brought by his resignation.
Family politics may also absolve Mr Mubarak of some of the accusations against his regime. A family source, who also asked to remain anonymous, recounts how Mr Mubarak has for years been in an "ivory tower" of ignorance, buffered by family members and advisers.
"As Mr Mubarak began to fall sick seven years ago, his wife manoeuvred her son Gamal to assume the leadership and take more control," the source said. "They began hiding information from him and distancing him from the Egyptian people. 'Don't tell the president as he doesn't feel good,' they would advise."
It was a poorly hidden secret that the younger Mubarak was being groomed for leadership. But Gamal fled to London early in the protests and his ascension to power was ruled out almost from the beginning.
Mr Mubarak's future no longer dominates the agenda as it did during the peak of protests in Tahrir Square. It remains to be seen if the governments to come, military or civilian, will come to Sharm el Sheikh seeking to hold him to account. For now, the former leader can contemplate his legacy to the sound of gently crashing waves.
*Published in the UAE-based THE NATIONAL on Feb. 24, 2011