Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is coming under criticism after a massive red carpet was laid over public roads for his motorcade during a trip to open social housing projects in a Cairo suburb.

Images of the giant red carpet prompted a wave of mockery on social media Monday, and one local newspaper devoted its entire front page to accusing el-Sissi of decadence while he asks Egyptians to tighten their belts.

That criticism led the military to give a rare public response, with Brig. Gen. Ehab el-Ahwagy appearing on several talk shows Sunday night to defend the use of the carpet. He said it was not purchased by el-Sissi's administration and that it was used to present a prestigious image of the presidency.