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Jasmine Dispatch

Going once... Going twice... Sold! (For absolutely nothing)
December 11, 1999

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In 1882, things weren't going so well in Egypt. The army was in a state of mutiny, the treasury was bankrupt and the administration was defunct. It was enough to make those mummy's roll over in their graves. Luckily (or maybe not so luckily) for the Egyptians someone was lurking in the background to come to the rescue. But why would anyone want to sink their teeth into those problems? What did Egypt have to offer? Fertile lands, a thriving cotton industry, and a gateway to India and the Far East.

Colonialist countries like Britain, France, the Netherlands, Italy and Portugal felt some countries, such as Egypt, needed their "guidance." That sounds fair enough. But their "guidance" was imposed on the lifestyles and cultures of others. Is that fair?! Egypt had much to offer and England wanted to add this fertile region to its empire, despite the cost to the Egyptian people.

The British had been helping Egypt with its finances for years, causing Egypt to feel indebted. The British also bought stock in the Suez Canal, a very lucrative piece of property. Given these ties, it seems logical that England would help Egypt in its time of need. But, it seems that no one ever bothered to ask the Egyptians if they wanted or needed help. To make matters more complicated, the French also had their eye on Egypt. As a solution to this problem the British agreed to let the French have Morocco, if the French would leave Egypt to the English. And so the deal was agreed to, signed, sealed and delivered. Sounds like a game of chess to me. But the pieces are entire countries, not to mention the native people living in these countries.

Well, the King of Egypt (so to speak) at that time was Lord Cromer. He was the man responsible for the absolute rule of Cairo. He became a British Agent in 1883 and ruled Egypt for 24 years. He made Cairo a "happening" place, attracting well-off Britons to live in the fair city. Slowly, Western ways started to seep into the Egyptian culture.

Cromer left in 1904 and passed down his duties to Sir Eldon Gorst. Under Gorst, the influence of the British was impossible to overlook. By 1900, trams lined the city, and English shops were found on every street. Things were starting to look and feel very different.

Lord Kitchener, resident minister of Egypt, set up a legislative assembly in Cairo which was structured just like the Parliament in England. Now, what works in one country might not always work in another. The ministers were always a little wary that the Egyptians might realize they could revolt against all these changes. It was not until World War I that the dissension began.

Vocabulary Box

glean - to figure out
dissension - strong disagreement
sovereignty -what is gained by becoming separate from a ruling body
defunct - to be ended
lucrative - makes money
colonialist - describes a country which rules other regions (its colonies) from a distance, usually overseas

The war brought many commonwealth (Australian, British and New Zealand) troops to Cairo. Cairo had become a madhouse because of the British and all of their self-indulgences. And, the Egyptians were taking note. They watched people in many Arab countries revolt against the Turks in honor of their national liberation. The war was putting everyone on edge and things in Egypt took a turn for the worse. Prices began to rise and many people in the countryside were left to starve. All the while, the British were having the time of their lives in Cairo and couldn't want for more. This only angered the Egyptians further.

The British began to notice the dissension among the Egyptians. Because of this internal dissension, Martial Law was introduced in 1916. This meant that basic freedoms, including freedom of speech, were suspended by the British. The Egyptian became the enemy. People were unfairly punished and many Egyptians were kidnapped to serve in labor groups.

In 1918, the Wafd Party was formed. This nationalistic movement was formed to help plan for Egypt's future. The British ignored the requests of the Wafd, and exiled its leader. Violence broke out almost immediately. The cities stood still as the Egyptians seized control. Zaghlul, the leader of the Wafd was freed from exile but was not allowed to return to Egypt. He stayed in Paris trying to glean support for his cause. Meanwhile, the British still had control and it was not until 1922 that Egypt was granted sovereignty. However, the British reserved the right to intervene should their interests be threatened.

So, independence was not complete. Fuad became King and under his rule, violence broke out against the British. As a result, the Anglo-Egyptian treaty was signed in 1936. This increased Egypt independence but the Egyptians were still not completely free. The British still controlled most of the economics of Egypt and most importantly, they still controlled the Suez Canal. They simply would not give up this strategic sea passage to their colonies in India.

The British continued to live large while the Egyptians suffered. The Egyptians were lacking in every area including education, nutrition and health care. To make matters worse, WWII broke out. The British recruited the Egyptians to help in their fight. Many became electricians, mechanics, etc. This was a good thing, since it allowed many Egyptians to develop skills they were otherwise prevented from learning under British rule. Egypt served as an important base during the war. It was there that the Battle of El Alamein took place between the British, French and Italians. This battle changed the course of the war. The British were the victors. However, when they returned to Cairo they found it had lost much of the pizzazz it had held in the past. Most Egyptians would disagree.

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The Egyptians rose up again against the British. They broke off all ties and appealed to the UN Security Council to demand that Britain withdraw its troops and administration from Egypt. The Security Council, however, did not make any recommendation. Luckily, the British government evacuated its troops from Alexandria and Cairo early in 1947, and in 1952 Egypt was declared a republic. For the Egyptians, the road to independence was not an easy one. In fact, most of the other countries of Africa had to follow a similarly difficult road to independence.

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