Newly elected speaker of the Egyptian parliament Mohamed Saad al-Katatni of the Muslim Brotherhood speaks during the first session of the newly-elected assembly in Cairo January 23, 2012. REUTERS/Khaled Elfiqi/Pool

At the end of January, a guest speaker drew an unusually large audience of diplomats to the 33rd floor auditorium at the Egyptian Foreign Ministry headquarters in Cairo. For latecomers, there was standing room only.

What made the event unique wasn’t the turnout, but the speaker: Mohamed Morsy, a leading figure in the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood, had come to outline his group’s vision of Egypt’s place in the world.

“One year ago, it was unthinkable. But a lot of things were unthinkable in Egypt one year ago,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Amr Roshdy, recounting Morsy’s address in the Foreign Ministry tower on the banks of the river Nile.

Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr did not have time to attend – he was busy with a foreign dignitary. But he caught Morsy on his way out of the building and invited him to his office for a coffee. They chatted for an hour.