President Obama’s election was warmly greeted in Egypt by both the country’s leader and population. In Cairo, Obama promised a new beginning, not only in America’s relationship with Egypt, but the whole Muslim world. By the time he left office, the American Egyptian relationship was in shambles. In this essay, Samuel Tadros examines the illusions that shaped Obama’s adventure in Egypt in pursuit of an imaginary transition to democracy, offering a cautionary tale for the Trump administration. If the US Egyptian alliance is to be strengthened and Egypt is to survive the regional upheaval, President Trump should forgo the illusions Washington holds about the country and base his strategy toward Egypt not on Egypt as it should be, but on Egypt as it is.