SPIEGEL: Mr. President, you were preceeded in office by both Hosni Mubarak, an autocrat, and Mohammed Morsi, an Islamist. You served under each of them as a military officer. Did you ever think it possible that you might one day find yourself living here in the presidential palace?
Sisi: To be honest, no. Under normal circumstances, if I succeeded in my work, I would reach the highest echelons within the armed forces
SPIEGEL: But it must have been clear to you when you took control after the fall of President Morsi on July 3, 2013 that the military's time had come again and that your time in the palace had come with it.
Sisi: Any sensible and rational person who knows the magnitude of the problems and challenges faced by the country would not venture into such a position.
SPIEGEL: Are you suggesting that you have sacrificed yourself?
Sisi: You are making your judgments in accordance with your own knowledge of most presidents and leaders whom you have met previously. I decided that I was ready to assume this position when I discovered that the chance to save the country was very meager. I was prepared to sacrifice myself for this country and its 90 million people. They want food, fuel and electricity and yearn for a decent life. Any president who does not pay attention to such details or is unable to provide the minimum level of stability should leave office.
SPIEGEL: Despite these concerns, are there moments in your new position that give you pleasure?
Sisi: When I see that people want to listen to me and when I feel that they are supporting the goals that I am committed to, then I am very pleased. This love of the people is a new experience for me. I had never experienced it before in my past life in the army, which involved issuing orders or carrying them out.
SPIEGEL: After 40 years spent as a member of the military, you are now in a situation in which you have to approach your opponents, seek compromise and conduct endless negotiations. Is that difficult for you?
Sisi: Any person by nature has inherent capabilities. You have to trust your instincts and act with spontaneity.
SPIEGEL: And what's the biggest difference between the two roles?
Sisi: In the armed forces, the chances of success are quite high. That's due to the clarity of the military structure -- everything is sketched out. In politics, there are many more surprises and detours, and it's a lot more unpredictable.
SPIEGEL: Mubarak continued to act like an officer even after he had become president. He issued orders to Egyptians and demanded obedience.
Sisi: He comes from a different generation. Mubarak came to power under totally different circumstances.
SPIEGEL: You landed in this office because of a coup. That's what we call it when a democratically elected president -- even a lousy one -- is toppled with force.
Sisi: Your characterization of the situation is not clear and hence your understanding is inaccurate. You judge our experiences from your own cultural, civilizational and developmental vantage point and you cannot remove yourselves from this context. You need to understand what happened in Egypt in light of the circumstances, challenges and threats faced by Egypt.