Kingdom of Egypt

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Kingdom of Egypt
المملكة المصرية, al-Mamlakat al-Miṣrīya


Associated areas: Anglo-Egyptian Sudan (Egyptian-British condominium ) /
السودان الإنجليزي المصري, as-Sūdān al-Inglīzī al-Maṣrī
Gaza Strip (occupied and administered since 1948) /قطاع غزّة, Qitāʿ Ġazza

Flag of the Kingdom of Egypt Coat of arms of the Kingdom of Egypt
flag coat of arms
Flag of Egypt (1882-1922) .svg Sultanate of Egypt

Republic of Egypt Flag of the Republic of Egypt

Italian Libya Anglo Egyptian Sudan French Equatorial Africa British KenyaFlag of Italian Libya
Flag of Anglo-Egyptian Sudan 1953-1956
Flag of French Equatorial Africa
Flag of the Crown Colony and Protectorate of Kenya

Constitution Constitution of the Kingdom of Egypt from 1923

Constitution of the Kingdom of Egypt of 1930 Transitional Constitution of
February 10, 1953

Official language Arabic

as well as unofficial languages: English , French , Italian , Turkish , Albanian , Hebrew , Greek , Armenian , Berber languages , Nubian languages , Bedscha , Nuer , Dinka , Fur , Shilluk
Capital Cairo
Form of government federal hereditary monarchy
System of Government
- 1922 to 1930
- 1935 to 1952
- 1930 to 1935
- 1952 to 1953

constitutional monarchy

authoritarian monarchy
military dictatorship
Head of State
- 1922 to 1936
- 1936 to 1952
- 1952 to 1953
King of Egypt and Sudan
Fu'ad I.
Fu'ad II.
Head of Government
- 1922 (first)
- 1952 to 1953 (last)
Prime Minister
Abdel Chalek Sarwat Pasha
Muhammad Nagib
- 1922
- 1926
- 1947
- 1950

4,529,065 km²
4,376,629 km²
3,521,259 km²
3,516,207.87 km²
- 1947

Population density
- 1947

7.9 inhabitants per km²
Founding of the state February 28 and March 15, 1922 (Proclamation of the Kingdom)
resolution June 18, 1953 (proclamation of the Republic)

National Anthem
- 1922 to 1936
- 1936 to 1953

Royal Anthem

Eslami ya Misr
Es Salaam el malaki el masr
Salam Affandina
currency Egyptian pound = 100 piastres = 1000 millièmes
Time zone UTC +2
Location of the Kingdom in Africa from 1934 to 1953

The Kingdom of Egypt ( Arabic المملكة المصرية, DMG al-Mamlakat al-Miṣrīya ), also (New) Egyptian Empire ( Arabic الإمبراطورية المصرية الجديدة, DMG al'iimbiraturiat almisriat aljadida ), denotes the entire state of the empire of the Muhammad Ali dynasty in North and East Africa in its last phase in the period from 1922 to 1953.

The kingdom was granted state independence on February 28, 1922 by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and came into being with the proclamation of the previous sultan Fu'ad I as king on March 15, 1922. This was preceded by a popular uprising against the colonial power in 1919 . After more than 2000 years of multiple foreign rule under a monarchist form of government , a sovereign Egyptian nation- state had emerged for the first time .

The Kingdom of Egypt extended over the territory of the present-day republics of Egypt , Sudan and South Sudan and at times included parts of the states of Libya (most of the historical region of Cyrenaica ) and Chad ( Ennedi and Borkou regions ) and the controversial Ilemi Triangle (now controlled by Kenya ) and was so far the largest modern state in Africa and at that time the sixth largest state on earth . With over 27 million inhabitants, the monarchy was also the most populous country in the Middle East . As a result, the country had an enormous political and cultural influence in the Arab and Islamic world and thus effectively replaced the Ottoman Empire , which fell in 1922 and to which the country had nominally belonged until 1914, as the Sunni leading power. For three decades, the Kingdom of Egypt therefore claimed a regional hegemonic role politically, militarily and economically over the European colonial powers there and the already independent Arab-Islamic states. In Libya , the empire fought with Italy and local tribal leaders, and in Sudan with Great Britain for economic and political supremacy. After the Second World War , the Kingdom of Iraq , Iran and Turkey fought for military and economic dominance in the region. In the Arab League , newly founded in 1945 , the empire challenged Saudi Arabia for the leadership role in the organization and, with it, fought for economic influence in the Kingdom of Yemen . In Palestine , the Egyptian expansion policy led to conflicts of interest with the neighboring states of Jordan and Syria .

During the time of the kingdom, Egypt was characterized in economic and social history by rapid industrialization and a course of social modernization , which aimed, among other things, at radical secularization , extensive gender equality and an improvement in the standard of living . Economically and socially and structurally, the empire began to change from about 1925 from an agricultural to the first industrial state in Africa . With the expansion of cotton trading and banking, the service sector also gained in importance. The rapid economic growth was temporarily slowed down by the global economic crisis and the long-term economic crisis that followed. Despite the considerable political consequences, this did not change the structural development towards an industrialized state. This economic and social stabilization phase lasted from 1922 to 1939.

Characteristic of the demographic change in the monarchy were rapid population growth , internal migration , urbanization and the intensified immigration of European foreigners. The structure of society was changed significantly by the increase in the urban working population and the formation of a new bourgeoisie made up of technicians, white-collar workers, small and medium-sized civil servants and the military. In contrast, the economic importance of handicrafts and agriculture - in relation to their contributions to the gross national product - tended to decline. Nevertheless, the Egyptian and Sudanese aristocracy were able to maintain their high social prestige and their dominant role in the military, in diplomacy and in higher civil administration. With the rise of several mass associations and parties and the expansion of radio and newspapers into mass media , public opinion also gained in importance.

Domestic and foreign policy developments were determined primarily in the early years by the nationalist Wafd party . Their various governments have taken a relatively liberal course with many political and social reforms. In terms of foreign policy, attempts were made to secure the empire through a complex system of alliances with the great powers Italy, France and Great Britain (e.g. Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936).

The phase after the death of King Fu'ad I in 1936 led to a considerable personal influence of his son Faruq on daily politics. His reign was also marked by corruption and a contradicting foreign policy, which fluctuated between a reference to the fascist dictatorships in Europe and the western democratic states and ultimately led Egypt into isolation on the eve of the Second World War. The economic situation also deteriorated increasingly with the global economic crisis from 1930. The subsequent rise of the fascist Young Egyptian Party and the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood led to a five-year dictatorship (1930-1935).

In 1940 Egypt was occupied by Great Britain. The country was involved in a multi-front war and it was not until 1942 that the troops of the British Empire were able to repel the invasion of the Axis powers, which had been ongoing since 1940 . The deep economic and political crisis resulting from the war in 1946 and the continued considerable British influence led to a strong loss of support for the monarchy among the population and the military .

The decline and the end of the empire came in the wake of the Cold War . In this, the kingdom initially gained enormous geopolitical influence as a strategically important power . As an initially pro-Western non-aligned state, the country successfully intervened in the Greek civil war against the communist insurgents there . With the defeat of Egyptian-Arab troops against the newly formed state of Israel in the Palestine War of 1948/49, Egypt lost its position of power in the region and broke politically with the West in 1951 . The increasing repression of the left-wing liberal, communist and Islamist opposition in the post-war period led to diverse social tensions, which culminated in the " Revolution of July 23 " in 1952, in which Faruq was overthrown. The subsequent dictatorship of the military during the reign of the minor Fu'ad II until 1953 led to an increased reliance on the Soviet Union and its satellite states and to the rise of Arab nationalism . On June 18, 1953, the centuries-old monarchy was abolished and the territory of the empire was divided. The northern part of the country became the Republic of Egypt in the same year, the southern part of the Republic of Sudan in 1956. The two subsequent states abolished the aristocracy , expelled the Muhammad Ali dynasty and Egypt implemented land reform . Not least because of the experiences of the following decades ( Six Day War 1967, strengthening of Islamism , dictatorship of Husni Mubarak 1983–2011, military rule and war of secession in Sudan 1969–1985 and 1983–2005) there is a versatile positive culture of remembrance of the Kingdom of Egypt in today's successor states .


Ottoman rule and establishment of the Muhammad Ali dynasty

Muhammad Ali Pascha , painting by Auguste Couder 1840
Egypt under the Muhammad Ali dynasty from its founding until 1914

The roots of the Kingdom of Egypt lay in the conquest of the country by the Ottoman Sultan Selim I. Afterwards, Egypt became a major province of the Ottoman Empire as Eyâlet . In the 16th century , the country became an important base for the Ottomans to expand into North Africa and Arabia . The constant military presence of the Ottomans had profound cuts in Egyptian civil society and the previous economic institutions. It led to a weakening of the economic system. The Eyâlet Egypt then became impoverished and suffered six famines between 1687 and 1731 . The famine of 1784 alone cost about a sixth of the population at the time.

In 1798, in the course of the Second War of Coalition between the European monarchies and the revolutionary French republic , Napoleon Bonaparte conquered Egypt . The Egyptian expedition only ended with the expulsion of the French in 1801 by the Ottomans. Then internal power struggles broke out in the country, in which the Mamluks , parts of the British armed forces , the Ottomans and Albanians , who were nominally loyal to the Ottomans, vied for power. From this chaos, the commander of the Albanian regiments, Muhammad Ali Pasha, emerged victorious. Muhammad Ali was in 1805 by Sultan Selim III. awarded the title of Wālī (Governor) of Egypt. In the same year he founded the dynasty of the same name .

After coming to power, Muhammad Ali Pasha shifted his focus to the military. He created the modern Egyptian army and conquered Sudan (1820-1824), Syria (1833), parts of the Arabian Peninsula, Anatolia and Greece (see Greek Revolution ) in several campaigns . In 1841, fearing that Muhammad Ali might overthrow the Ottoman Empire, the leading European powers slowed the territorial expansion of Egypt and forced the province to return most of its conquests to the Ottomans. Muhammad Ali was awarded the Turkish-Egyptian Sudan and he was allowed to continue to rule largely independently. Then he modernized the country. He sent Egyptian and Sudanese students to the West to make the new techniques of the great powers accessible to Egypt and invited foreign training missions to Egypt. He tried to industrialize the country , built a system of canals for irrigation and transport , and reformed the public service .

1820 Egypt began with the export of cotton . The cultivation was supported and promoted by Muhammad Ali. This created a monoculture that would shape Egypt until the end of the century. The social impact of this project was enormous: land ownership was restricted, many foreigners came into the country and production was relocated to international markets.

In September 1848, Muhammad Ali, who was to die in 1849, handed over the office of Wālī to his son Ibrahim , followed by his grandson Abbas I (in November 1848), then Said (1854) and Ismail (in 1863). Abbas ruled Egypt relatively reluctantly, while Said and Ismail were ambitious developers. The Suez Canal , built in partnership with France from 1859 to 1869, was completed in November. The construction was associated with high costs.

British rule until World War I.

Map of the Khedivat of Egypt from 1912

The high cost of building the Suez Canal had two effects: it led to Egypt's enormous national debt with the European banks and caused discontent among the local population because of the burdensome taxation. In 1875, Ismail was forced to sell shares in the canal to the British government. Within three years this led to the introduction of British and French financial controls and made the country dependent on the three great powers France , Great Britain and the Kingdom of Italy . France and Great Britain also reserved the right to each send an official to assist the Egyptian government.

The influence of European countries on Egypt gave rise to an Islamic and Arab nationalist opposition . The most dangerous opposition for the British at this time, however, was the Egyptian army, which was largely dominated by the Albanians and the Mamluks. The military saw the reorientation of economic development as a threat to its previous privileges.

A large military demonstration by the Urabi movement in September 1881 forced the Khedive Tawfiq to dismiss its Prime Minister Riyad Pasha and to issue several emergency decrees. The Europeans already living in the country withdrew to their quarters, as in Alexandria , and organized self-defense against nationalist attacks.

The unrest resulted in French and British warships being sent to the Egyptian coast in April 1882. The invasion did not begin until August, after the Urabi movement took power in Egypt in June. It began by nationalizing all assets in Egypt and promoting anti-European violence and protests . In connection with an Islamic revolution in British India , the British dispatched an Anglo-Indian expeditionary force to take the Suez Canal. At the same time, French forces landed in Alexandria. The operation succeeded and the Egyptian army was defeated at the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir in September 1882. After that, Tawfiq took control of the country again.

The aim of the invasion was to restore political stability in Egypt under a government of the Khedives and to make the country accessible again to foreign influence. However, the permanent occupation of Egypt soon became apparent. In 1883 a British Consulate General for Egypt was created, the first consul of which was Evelyn Baring, 1st Earl of Cromer . Believing that Egypt's political stability needed financial stability, Cromer created a program of long-term investment in Egypt's productive resources, especially cotton production, the mainstay of the country's export revenue.

In 1881, a religious uprising broke out in Sudan, which is still part of Egypt, with the Mahdi uprising. The insurgent leader Muhammad Ahmad proclaimed himself Mahdi of the country and conquered large parts of the state by 1885. With the capture of the city of Khartoum in 1884/1885 and the proclamation of the Caliphate of Omdurman, Egypt finally lost control of Sudan.

In 1896, during the reign of Tewfik's son Abbas II , a massive Anglo-Egyptian force under the command of General Herbert Kitchener began the reconquest of Sudan. In the battle of Umm Diwaykarat in 1899, Egyptian rule was restored in Sudan.

In 1906, the Dinschawai incident led to nationwide protests in Egypt and the formation of new nationalist political camps, some of which were financed and supported by the German Reich . Britain's main goal in the early 20th century was to eliminate these groups again in Egypt. By the eve of the First World War, Egypt had developed under British rule into a regional economic power and a major trading destination in the Middle East . Immigrants from less stable parts of the world, including Greeks , Jews, and Armenians, as well as numerous British, French, and Italians , began to go to and settle in Egypt. The number of foreigners in the country rose from 10,000 in the 1830s to 90,000 in the 1840s and to over 1.5 million in the 1880s.

The way to independence

Creation of the Sultanate of Egypt

Africa and the Sultanate of Egypt 1917

In December 1914, as a result of the declaration of war by the Ottoman Empire, to which Egypt still nominally belonged, Great Britain declared a protectorate over Egypt and deposed the previous Khedive Abbas II and replaced him with Hussein Kamil , who became the first Egyptian sultan exclaimed.

At the beginning of the First World War , the area of ​​the Suez Canal in the Middle East, which was strategically very important for Great Britain and was the shortest connection to its colonies, was the main target of the Ottoman army . In January 1915, she crossed the Sinai Peninsula and advanced towards the canal. In the first half of 1916, the Egyptians and British succeeded in retaking parts of the Sinai Peninsula and repulsing the Ottomans. After the Battle of Rafah in January 1917, the Turkish troops were completely driven from Sinai.

When the war ended, nationalists began again to demand Egyptian independence from Britain. They were influenced and supported by the US President Woodrow Wilson , who defended the self-determination of all nations . In September 1918, Egypt undertook the formation of its own delegation (from Arabic وفد Wafd ) for the Paris Peace Conference 1919 first steps towards independence . The idea for such a delegation came from the Umma party (حزب الأمة, Hizb al-Umma ), whose prominent members such as Lutfi as Sayyid, Saad Zaghlul , Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil , Ali Sharawi and Abd al Aziz Fahmi should be the delegates.

On November 13, 1918, when Egypt was celebrating Yawm al Jihad (Day of Fight), Zaghlul, Fahmi and Sharawi were granted an audience with the British High Commissioner for Egypt Reginald Wingate . They called for complete independence with the stipulations that Britain would be allowed to control the Suez Canal and monitor the country's public debt. They also asked permission to go to London to take their claims before the British government under David Lloyd George . On the same day the Egyptians formed a delegation for this purpose. However, the British refused to allow the delegation to go to London.

On March 8, 1919, Zaghlul and three other members of the Wafd were arrested and deported to Malta the next day . An action that sparked the 1919 revolution.

First World War and consequences

Revolutionaries with the religious symbols of the Islamic Crescent , Christian Cross and Jewish Star of David during the 1919 Revolution, Cairo
Egyptian Revolutionary Flag

The revolution of 1919, called the "first revolution" in Egypt, marked the end of British rule in Egypt. At the popular uprising representatives attended all social classes ( nobility , upper middle class , clergy , workers and peasants in part). There were violent clashes in Cairo and the provincial cities of Lower Egypt , especially Tanta , and the uprising spread to Cyrenaica , northeast Chad , Sudan and Upper Egypt .

The deportation of Wafd delegates also sparked student demonstrations and escalated with calls for strikes by students, government officials, skilled workers, women and transport workers. Within a week, Egypt's infrastructure had been shut down by general strikes and unrest. Railroad lines and telegraph lines were cut, taxi drivers refused to work, lawyers failed to show up for court cases and etc., with the revolution being largely carried out by women from the upper classes. They organized strikes, demonstrations and boycotts of British goods and wrote petitions that they sent to foreign embassies.

The British reacted to the unrest with tough repression measures , which led to the deaths of more than 800 Egyptians and 31 Europeans by the summer of 1919.

In November 1919, a commission headed by Alfred Milner was sent to Egypt to try to clear up the tense situation. However, cooperation with the Commission was boycotted by the nationalists, who opposed the continuation of the protectorate as Britain was calling for. The arrival of Milner and his advisors was accompanied by renewed strikes by students, lawyers, professionals and workers.

In 1920 Milner presented his report to the British Foreign Secretary George Curzon , recommending that he abolish the protectorate and establish a British-Egyptian military alliance . Curzon agreed and invited an Egyptian delegation led by Saad Zaghlul and Adli Yakan Pascha to London. The delegation arrived in London in June 1920 and by August 1920 negotiated a treaty that would bring Egypt largely independent from Great Britain. In February 1921 the British Parliament approved the agreement, and Egypt was asked to send another delegation to London to reach a final agreement. The second delegation arrived in June 1921 and obtained far-reaching concessions from the British. Egypt was guaranteed full sovereignty over itself and Sudan, but the British retained control of the Suez Canal . Parts of the agreement were later not fulfilled.

Shortly before Egypt's planned declaration of independence, there were renewed unrest in Cairo in November and December that the British could no longer bring under their control. In December 1921, the British authorities declared martial law in Cairo and had Zaghlul banished to the Seychelles .

Grant of independence and establishment of an empire

King Fu'ad I in the new Egyptian parliament, 1924

On February 28, 1922, Egypt was granted extensive state independence in the Declaration to Egypt by Great Britain, which continued to regard itself as the protective power of Egypt . The treaty was ratified by the Egyptian and Liberal British governments of David Lloyd George .

It did so with four restrictions. British troops continued to be stationed in the country for external defense purposes. In addition, the British retained extensive rights of intervention in Egypt and in jointly administered Sudan , which restricted the country's foreign policy independence. This also included rights with regard to traffic routes, such as the Suez Canal and the Nile , and to secure the claims of foreign creditors. In the subject of Egyptian foreign policy, a reduction in British interventions and a reduction in British troops, personnel and military bases in the kingdom were laid down. In return, Egypt undertook to support the British Empire in times of crisis, to make the use of the airspace available, and to allow the British to operate military bases on Egyptian territory. Other political, economic and cultural commissions were also included.

Parts of the contract met with rejection from both sides. Some Egyptian nationalists saw the country's independence as incomplete. Nevertheless, the British succeeded in splitting the Egyptian national movement and calming the country down. In London, in addition to the failure in Syria to support Arab nationalists against the French, the treaty led to the overthrow of Lloyd George in October 1922 in the wake of the Chanak crisis and the formation of a conservative government under Andrew Bonar Law that recognized Egyptian independence.

Shortly after independence was granted on March 15, 1922, the previous sultan, the son of the Khedive Ismail Pasha , Fu'ad I , who enjoyed a high reputation among the population and was popular, proclaimed himself King of Egypt in Cairo . The monarchy's first prime minister was Abdel Khalek Sarwat Pascha , who had been head of government since March 16, 1922. Egypt was, besides Liberia (independent since 1847), the Abyssinian Empire (never colonized) and the South African Union (independent since 1910), the only sovereign state in Africa.

In his title “King”, Fu'ad I. followed the tradition of the pharaohs ( Hebrew for “king”) in ancient Egypt . The country was therefore also the "new Egyptian empire" (الإمبراطورية المصرية الجديدة al-imbiraturia al-misriyya al-jadida ). On November 4, 1922, when the tomb of Tutankhamun wasdiscovered, itagain gained international attention.

The first parliamentary elections were held in January 1924 . The newly formed Wafd party emerged as the winner with 87.4% . Earlier, a 30-member committee of representatives from all walks of life had worked out together with the king a new constitution, which took effect on April 19, 1923 in force and the Kingdom of Egypt, to the monarchical principle aligned, federal and constitutional hereditary monarchy under a parliamentary system of government made . The new constitution was based primarily on the constitution of the Kingdom of Belgium from 1831 and partly on the constitutions of Prussia , Japan , Italy , Great Britain , the USA and etc. Nevertheless, it guaranteed the ruling monarch extensive powers. Fu'ad I had a right of veto and often made use of his right to dissolve parliament . During his rule, no parliament could constitutionally end its legislative period .

A flag with three white stars, which stood for Muslims, Christians and Jews and was surrounded by a crescent moon, was chosen as the new state symbol . The coat of arms of the Muhammad Ali dynasty served as the national coat of arms.

Founding and stabilization phase

New borders, secularization, social reforms

Upper Egyptian-Libyan border from 1926
Saad Zaghlul , important social reformer and Prime Minister in 1924. In Egypt he is called Zaeem al Ummah (leader / father of the nation)
Port Said , painting by Alexander Yakovlev 1927

On January 26, 1924, Saad Zaghlul was elected as the new Prime Minister by the Egyptian parliament. He succeeded Abdel Fattah Yahya Ibrahim Pascha (in office since March 15, 1923). He was on a course of modernization and was in conflict with Great Britain. Zaghlul demanded from the British to recognize the Egyptian sovereignty in Sudan (" Unity of the Nile Valley ") and wanted to completely withdraw the Egyptian army from British influence.

On November 19, 1924 in Cairo on the British Governor General of the Sudan of Egyptian troops (and British commander Sirdar ) Lee Stack an assassination perpetrated who died as a result on 20 November and pro-Egyptian riots broke out in Sudan.

The murder led to a state crisis in Egypt and became the first stress test for the young state. When the British issued a public apology from the Egyptian government for the act of paying a heavy fine , upgrading the irrigation system in Gezira in favor of European settlers and withdrawing all Egyptian officers and Egyptian army units from Sudan to protect supposedly foreign investors , demanded, the crisis escalated. The Zaghlul fulfilled the first requirement. The second failed due to resistance from King Fu'ad I.

The Egyptian troops did not feel bound by the orders of their British officers by their oath on the Egyptian king and mutinied. The British tried to suppress the mutiny by force, removing parts of the Egyptian army from Sudan and liquidating some important Egyptian officials from the administration. Nevertheless, the uprising was only calmed under pressure from the Egyptian government and the condominium remained de jure legally valid, but in practice Egypt had lost much of its influence over the administration of Sudan. The uprising, however, formed, along with the Mahdi uprising , one of the most successful uprisings in the Third World against colonialism .

In the aftermath of the attempted overthrow, the British administration viewed most of the Sudanese, some of whom had supported the revolt, as potential propagators of “dangerous” nationalist ideas from Egypt. Lee Stack's successor, Geoffrey Francis Archer , was appointed Governor General of Sudan in 1925 and began forming his own Sudan Defense Force , which was completely separated from the Egyptian army. The new army was under his authority and included only pro-British Sudanese officers who had previously served in the Egyptian army.

On November 24, Zaghlul was deposed by Fu'ad I, who was increasingly in conflict with the Wafd party , and under pressure from the British and replaced by Ahmed Ziwar Pascha . Ahmed Ziwar Pascha continued the course of modernization and he and his successors laid the final borders of the Kingdom of Egypt with its neighboring states Italian-Eritrea and Abyssinia in the east, British Uganda and Kenya in the south, Belgian Congo , French-Equatorial Africa and Italian-Libya in the West, firmly.

In 1926 Egypt ceded the Kufra oases and parts of the current Libyan provinces of al-Kufra , Murzuq and al-Wahat to Italian Libya , despite broad resistance right up to the royal family and unrest in the population . The areas were not conquered by Italian troops until 1931. After a treaty for the final clearing of the Egyptian-Libyan border , the small town of al-Jaghbub with al-Butnan was ceded at the proposal of Great Britain . In an Egyptian-French border agreement, Egypt ceded a 152.436 km² territory, which included the north of today's Chadian regions Ennedi and Borkou , to the French-Equatorial Africa colony .

In 1934, the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, the Sarra Triangle , which comprised the Ma'tan as-Sarra oasis , was separated and connected to Libya. Overall, the Egyptian monarchy with Sudan ceded an area of ​​855,370 km² to Libya by 1934. Nevertheless, the land mass of the empire remained enormous at over 3.5 million square kilometers. The kingdom was by far the largest state in Africa , followed by Belgian Congo with over 2.3 million km², the largest Arab and Muslim country and in 1930 the fourth largest contiguous independent state after the Soviet Union , the Republic of China , the United States and Brazil worldwide.

Domestically, the ruling Wafd party sought from 1925 a secularization and, despite the preservation of the aristocracy , a modernization of the previous social order . Although Islam remained formally the state religion in the 1923 constitution , the principle of separation between religion and state actually prevailed and the kingdom can be viewed as a secular state. The Wafd party went even further. It initiated a fundamental upheaval in the previous religious structures. Among other things, the public wearing of the burqa was forbidden (but mostly tolerated) and a reorganization of marital divorce law was carried out, although women were still denied the right to vote until 1956. For the Wafd party, the process of equality between men and women that had lasted since the 1919 revolution was largely complete. Further reforms were the abolition of the Islamic calendar and the introduction of the European Gregorian calendar , which was mainly due to Adli Yakan Pascha and Mustafa an-Nahhas Pascha . In the Egyptian school system, too, the various secular and partly anti-religious governments of the Wafd went on a course of confrontation with Islam. All religious influences were banned from schools until Fu'ad's I death in 1936, and religious and Koran lessons were abolished. From 1930 onwards, the Wafd governments increasingly expelled numerous clergymen from the country, as the party viewed them as a danger to the nation and the monarchy, and in 1923 replaced the Koran-based case law of the Sharia with a civil code . The legal norms were modeled on the civil code . The entire economic , criminal and civil law , which originated from the Ottoman era, was redesigned according to Western models. Modern inheritance and family law from the Civil Code and Italian criminal law were also adopted. The Egyptian government oriented itself towards Turkey under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and towards the apparently rapidly rising Iran under the rule of Shah Reza Shah Pahlavi .

The Muslim Brotherhood stood in opposition to the social reforms . It was founded by Hasan al-Bannā in 1928 and campaigned for the end of British rule in Egypt and actively for the strengthening of Islam and the Ummah . They also called for the abolition of the aristocracy and the end of the monarchy , which brought them into conflict with the secular Egyptian state. Their influx therefore remained limited in the first few years after it was founded. Staged boycotts of Jewish and Coptic businesses were also unsuccessful.

Economic boom, failure of the liberal state from 1930, instability

Fu'ad I. with the Belgian King Albert I and his wife Elisabeth Gabriele in Bavaria at the Misr train station during a visit to an industrial exhibition in Cairo, January 1930

In 1929 the Wafd again won a clear electoral victory and the leader of the party Mustafa an-Nahhas Pasha was appointed Prime Minister for the second time on January 1, 1930.

During his tenure, there were conflicts with King Fu'ad I, because Nahhas Pasha saw himself as a defender of the constitutional order and had already been deposed by the monarch in 1928 when he spoke out against the suspension of the constitution by the king. He also began the modernization of the country, promised by the Wafd party in 1924. He was responsible for the reorganization of the Cairo stock exchange , which subsequently became one of the five largest stock exchanges in the world, and carried out a tax and agricultural reform . The main concern of Nahhas Pasha, however, was an increased industrialization of the country in order to be on a par with the European nations. New industrial plants were built in Cairo , Alexandria and Gizeh . Most of the port cities such as Port Said or Sues were greatly expanded and new roads and railway lines were built , some of which extend into what is now South Sudan . New power grids and a renewed communication system were also formed to supply the entire kingdom with electricity and information. This made Egypt the very first industrial state in Africa and the most modern country in the Middle East .

Modern city map of Cairo, 1933
The Schinnawi Palace in al-Mansura , built in 1928

Despite great popular support, the Wafd party suffered two decisive defeats between 1930 and 1935 on the domestic and foreign policy level. The first was the failure to reconcile with Britain, which was ready to make serious concessions. The talks on this were initially successful, but were broken off due to disagreements over the controversial status of Sudan. At the same time, the looming Great Depression urged the king to take political initiative. Fu'ad I dissolved parliament and on June 20, 1930 appointed Ismail Sedki Pasha as the new Prime Minister. Ismail Sedki was party leader of the Hizb al-Shaab ("People's Party"), a monarchist party that campaigned for more political rights for the king. Fu'ad I. let the party have its way and Sedki began to erode the previous democratic institutions in favor of kingship. His first official act was his resignation from the party he founded, which did not want to support his course. Parliament also refused to support him. When Sedki presented an unconstitutional decree to Wisa Wasif, the President of Parliament at the time , and the latter refused to sign it, unrest broke out in the towns and villages. In addition, there were calls for violence by the Muslim Brotherhood , which incited against Jews and Coptic Christians .

Sedki crushed the revolt with police force . In parliament he was able to get the majority of MPs behind him by bribery . He sentenced the leading protesters to heavy fines and partially banished them to Sudan. On October 27, 1930, he announced that he would draft a new constitution that would significantly expand the powers of the king and government. However, he was met with heavy criticism in the press and the opposition parties refused to allow him any form of cooperation. They boycotted the parliamentary elections of 1931, and violence broke out again. Sedki then appointed people he had chosen as new members of parliament.

From 1932 onwards Sedki became increasingly politically radical and began to establish a dictatorship . The work of opposition political parties and associations was restricted under his rule, press censorship was introduced, and numerous alleged and actual opponents were arrested or murdered. From 1933 Sedki was authorized to issue decrees with the force of law and was formally responsible only to the monarch. During this time he also had a personality cult around him .

The creeping takeover of power met with resistance from Fu'ad I., who was actually played against the wall by Sedki and no longer had any weight in the political life of Egypt. Parts of the government under the leadership of Justice Minister Ali Maher Pascha also turned against the dictatorship. In September 1933 Sedki was dismissed by the king and the dictatorship was replaced by an authoritarian monarchy.

Economic crisis, return to democracy, balance with Great Britain

After the Wall Street Crash in October 1929, Egypt made the 1930 Great Depression . The foreign trade declined significantly and the country could barely cotton export. Industrial production also fell by more than 60%. There was brief hyperinflation and unemployment rose to a quarter of the population by 1935. The situation was particularly catastrophic for the farmers. Producer prices for agricultural products fell by 50% between 1929 and 1933, which reduced production and impoverished many people.

Abdel Fattah Yahya Ibrahim Pascha was supposed to solve the severe economic crisis in Egypt . On September 22, 1934 Fu'ad I appointed him the new Prime Minister. He tried to cope with job creation measures and regulating the financial markets and the introduction of social security during his tenure . However, the wages of the Egyptian workers remained low. Workers' unrest ensued and the Egyptian Communist Party , founded in 1921, emerged as a major political force for the first time. In November 1934, Fu'ad I. Abdel Fattah deposed Yahya Ibrahim Pasha. Muhammad Tawfiq Nasim Pasha became the new prime minister on November 15, but he continued the measures of his predecessor instead of embarking on a new course.

Official portrait of King Faruq

When the National Socialists came to power in the German Reich in 1933, fascism also germinated in Egypt . The National Group Egypt of the National Socialist foreign organization NSDAP / AO had existed in Egypt since 1926 . Since the group was not very successful at first, Hitler successfully threatened to boycott Egyptian cotton after the transfer of power. The Egyptian government then reversed its previously anti-Nazi policy and condemned the anti-German boycott movement in the country. In view of the German threat, the Egyptian press now also pilloryed the Jews as destroyers of the Egyptian economy, although such campaigns stopped again in 1936. In 1935 the National Socialists opened a branch of the German News Office in Cairo as a propaganda and secret service center. Just three years later, the German Empire had risen to become the second largest importer of Egyptian goods.

In October 1933, Ahmed Husayn founded the ultra-nationalist Young Egyptian Party , which advocated the establishment of a new Egyptian empire and claimed the borders of Egypt from 1922. With the so-called Green Shirts, the party had a paramilitary organization and was mainly oriented towards National Socialism with its radical anti-Semitism . Afterwards, they and the Muslim Brotherhood gained more and more support and gained political weight. Thereupon the Wafd party and the Egyptian parliament urged Fu'ad I in 1935 to repeal the constitution of 1930 in order to allegedly prevent another dictatorship. After initial hesitation, the king agreed.

On January 30, 1936, Ali Maher Pasha was appointed Prime Minister of the Wafd party by Fu'ad I. On April 28, 1936, after 14 years of reign and at the age of 68, the king died. He was succeeded by his sixteen-year-old son Faruq . On May 6th he returned to Egypt from studying in Great Britain. First, a Regency Council , consisting of Muhammad Ali Tewfik , Adli Yakan Pasha , Tawfiq Nasim Pasha , Aziz Ezzat Pasha and Sherif Sabri Pasha , took over the guardianship of the young king. On July 29, 1937, the council was dissolved and Faruq declared fit to govern.

The King after his enthronement in the Egyptian Parliament, 1937

In the parliamentary elections of May 1936, the Wafd party regained a majority in parliament and Faruq, who like his father rejected the democratic state system, had to appoint Mustafa an-Nahhas Pasha as prime minister on May 6th . Nevertheless, there was some cooperation between the monarch and the government. Faruq announced a comprehensive reform program at the beginning of his reign and commissioned Nahhas Pascha to implement it. The government amnestied all those who participated in political protests arrested between 1930 and 1933, granted all farmers a financial loan, and lowered taxes for all citizens. In terms of foreign policy, a settlement with Great Britain was sought. Nahhas Pasha resumed talks with the British and was able to successfully negotiate a treaty that settled the dispute between the two nations that had been going on since 1924 and made them allies. Through the Anglo-Egyptian peace treaty of August 26, 1936 , Great Britain renounced certain reserved rights in Egypt and gradually withdrew its troops to the Suez Canal zone, whereby it secured the right to access the Egyptian transport and communication system in the event of war. In addition, the Egyptian army was placed under the supreme command of the king and the previous office of sirdar was abolished and an ambassador was sent to Egypt as a British representative instead of a high commissioner . On November 14, 1936 Miles Lampson (High Commissioner) and in 1937 Charlton Watson Spinks (Sirdar) had to vacate their posts and the Kingdom of Egypt was finally able to shake off British rule, with British influence remaining considerable.

New foreign policy, full employment, the eve of World War II

A banquet in the Abdeen Palace on the occasion of the wedding of King Faruq and Queen Farida of Egypt. Photographed persons from right to left:
Princess Nimet Mouhtar (1876–1945), Aunt Faruqs (on the father's side);
King Faruq (1920–1965), the bridegroom;
Queen Farida (1921–1988), the bride;
Melek Tourhan (1869–1956), widow of Hussein Kamil ;
Prince Muhammad Ali Ibrahim (1900–1977), Faruq's uncle (paternal side)
Prime Minister Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil reached a compromise with Great Britain during his second term until 1939

On May 26, 1937, Egypt joined the League of Nations and reoriented itself in terms of foreign policy. There was a lean towards the western democracies and another move away from the fascist Kingdom of Italy and the National Socialist German Reich , to which Egypt had increasingly leaned since 1933. Responsible for this was Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil , who was appointed by Faruq as the new premier on December 29, 1937 after Nahhas Pasha almost fell victim to an attack by the Young Egyptian party. Mahmoud maintained good relations with the British royal family and was a supporter of the Egyptian-British alliance of 1936. Under his government, Egypt condemned the annexation of Austria in 1938 and the previous Italian conquest of Ethiopia in 1935/1936. Tensions then arose with Italy and a conflict flared up again between the two countries over the final drawing of the border between Egypt and the colony of Italian-Libya . Italy also asked Egypt to extradite supporters of the fallen freedom fighter Umar al-Muchtar , who had fled into the country between 1923 and 1931 as part of the reconquest of Libya . The Egyptian government refused, and Italy built a barbed wire barricade, 270 to 300 km long and four meters wide, with paved checkpoints on the border with Egypt.

The new course met with opposition from a considerable part of the Egyptians. The Wafd party, which had been in the opposition since Mahmoud was appointed, also rejected him. The ruling party Liberal Constitutional Party (حزب الاحرار الدستوريين, Ḥizb al-aḥrār al-dustūriyyīn ), which split off from the Wafd, was then put under increasing pressure by Faruq and moderated its course again. Egypt did not condemn the German-Italian intervention in the Spanish Civil War and held back during the occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1939. Nevertheless, Egypt had discredited itself in foreign policy with the later Axis powers as well as with the western democracies, whose appeasement policy (above all the Munich Agreement 1938) Mahmoud did not want to support and only maintained good relations with the United States , which also ended the Economic crisis in Egypt made possible. Mahmoud relied on economic liberal structural reforms and Egypt reached full employment again in 1937/1938 . The liberal government also revived and continued the modernization program of the Wafd party, which stalled in 1930 and was broken off by Ismail Sedki Pasha in the turmoil of the dictatorship . The standard of living , especially in Cairo and in the countryside, rose considerably afterwards. With an average per capita income of $ 1,300 , the country approached the European average. There were big differences between the north and south of the country. In what is now South Sudan there was no sign of development and the majority of the population continued to live in poverty . In Khartoum , however, extensive urban renewal took place on behalf of Faruq . Large parts of the city were demolished and numerous European architects were brought in for the redesign. Egypt was able to return to the international stage on March 16, 1939. With the marriage of Faruq's sister Fausia to the Iranian Crown Prince and later Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi , a strategic alliance between Egypt and Iran and Turkey was established. From then on, Iran supplied extensive raw material supplies (especially oil ) to Egypt, while Egypt's officials helped build the then underdeveloped Iranian infrastructure. The alliance survived the Second World War and actually lasted until the couple divorced on November 18, 1948.

On August 18, 1939, Mahmoud was replaced by Faruq by Ali Maher Pascha , who became Prime Minister for the second time. Ali Maher was also a member of the Liberal Constitutional Party, but was critical of Great Britain and advocated permanent neutrality for Egypt. Nevertheless, like his predecessor, he condemned the National Socialist Nuremberg Race Laws and offered persecuted German Jews a new home in Egypt. He tried to keep his country out of the burgeoning Middle East conflict .

Second World War

Neutrality and British Occupation 1940

Ali Maher Pascha shortly before his release around 1940

In September 1939 the Second World War began in Europe with the German invasion of Poland . In the same month King Faruq announced the general mobilization of the army. The General Staff under Aziz Ali al-Misri sent most of the units to the Libyan-Egyptian border in order to be able to repel a possible Italian attack and possibly to advance into the territory of the colony of Libya . However, the Italians were far superior to the only 100,000 Egyptian soldiers in terms of material and people.

After the successful campaign of the Wehrmacht against France on June 10, 1940, Italy joined the Second World War on the side of the German Reich and declared war on Great Britain and France. Benito Mussolini wanted to use the war to re-establish the Roman Empire around the Mediterranean and also made claims on Egypt and Sudan. On June 10, 1940, the East African campaign began with Italian attacks on neighboring British colonies . Egypt was thus drawn into the Second World War and Italian troops advanced on its territory. They occupied Kassala , Gallabat , Kurmuk and Qeisan , which are now Sudanese .

On June 13, 1940, in response to the invasion, the Egyptian parliament broke off all diplomatic relations with Italy, but declared that it would remain neutral during the war. On September 13, the same steps were taken against the German Reich. On June 28, 1940, Ali Maher Pasha was dismissed as prime minister for refusing to sever relations with Italy. Hassan Sabry Pascha became the new head of government . Shortly thereafter, Great Britain invoked the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936, which allowed the occupation of the country if the Suez Canal were threatened. The Egyptian army had nothing to counter this. Faruq protested against the occupation, but was sidelined by the British. Protests by parliament and the population were also ignored and in some cases suppressed. In Alexandria and Cairo, the British interned the Italian minority for sympathy with the enemy.

In August 1940 there were uprisings and protests against British occupation policy. Italy took this as an opportunity to attack the apparently unstable and militarily weakly defended country from the north in September and thus bind the Egyptian-British troops in a multi -front war .

Axis invasion

Italian advance into Egypt and British Operation Compass
Territories and colonies of the Kingdom of Italy 1941

After minor skirmishes on the Libyan-Egyptian border on September 9, 1940 with a series of air raids on British border posts, the Italian invasion of mainland Egypt began on September 13 . Benito Mussolini had demanded this advance from the Italian commander-in-chief in Libya, Rodolfo Graziani , in order to wrest the Suez Canal from the British , occupy Egypt and thereby connect the Italian possessions in North and East Africa. The cautiously advancing Italians advanced within a few days up to about 100 kilometers into Egyptian territory, where they halted and set up fortified camps due to the destruction of their supply routes by British aircraft and warships. There they collided with the head of the British armed forces in Egypt, whose headquarters were in Marsa Matruh . On September 16, the place Sidi Barrani was occupied, whereby the Italian sphere of influence in the country reached its maximum.

Prime Minister Hassan Sabry Pasha died on November 14, 1940 . His successor was Hussein Sirri Pascha , who was said to have sympathy for the Axis powers . Nevertheless, he supported the counterattack by the British with Operation Compass , which began on December 8, 1940. On December 10th and 11th, Sidi Barrani was recaptured by British associations. Thus the Italian invasion of Egypt had failed. On December 11th, Rodolfo Graziani and his troops had to retreat to the Libyan-Egyptian border, where the British arrived the next day and captured around 38,000 Italian soldiers. Within the next 10 weeks they advanced around 800 km into Libyan territory, destroyed 400 tanks, captured 1,292 artillery pieces and captured around 130,000 prisoners of war.

During the entire Italian invasion of Egypt and the subsequent clashes from September 9, 1940 to February 9, 1941, the British and their allies lost only 500 men and had 1,373 injured and 55 missing. The company was a disaster for the Kingdom of Italy.

Cairo street scene during the war, 1941

The news of the Italian defeat in Egypt and the unsuccessful attack on the Kingdom of Greece , which soon demanded the full attention of the royal Italian troops due to strong Greek resistance and the attack on Taranto in October 1940, forced Hitler to intervene . In February 1941 he sent the newly founded German Africa Corps under the orders of Erwin Rommel to Tripoli , where he and the Italians prepared to attack. On March 31, the advance began, the main thrust of which was directed towards Marsa el Brega in order to be able to build a bridgehead for the capture of the Cyrenaica . The German-Italian advance stopped in mid-April near the Egyptian border town and fortress of Sallum east of Tobruk . On April 10th the Africa Corps started the siege of Tobruk .

In November 1941, the Allies began Operation Crusader to end the siege . The attack proved successful and after a complex series of battles they reached Berga on January 6, 1942. The siege of Tobruk finally ended on November 27th and the Axis powers withdrew from Cyrenaica up to and including El Agheila . King Faruq and the Wafd party had enormous expectations of the victory and tried to reintegrate the areas ceded to Libya in 1926 and 1934, respectively, but this was unsuccessful.

In November 1941 the British were able to win back the initiative in East Africa . The fighting ended with the abandonment of Italian East Africa and liberated Egypt from the grip of two-front war . On the night of December 18-19, 1941, however, there was an attack on Alexandria , where combat swimmers from a special unit ( Decima Flottiglia MAS ) of the Italian Regia Marina carried out an attack on the port of Alexandria on the base of the British Mediterranean Fleet . Six Italian torpedo riders grounded the two battleships HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Valiant with explosive charges . As a result of this attack, the balance of power in the Mediterranean shifted for a few months in favor of the Axis powers.

In May 1942, the Africa Corps started the Theseus company . This offensive was able to push the British back as far as Egypt.

On June 20, 1942, the Axis powers attacked Tobruk again. The attack resulted in the capture of large quantities of fuel and ammunition. The British were unable to hold the city and gave up on the evening of June 21st. One day later, Rommel crossed the Libyan-Egyptian border again, where he stopped on June 24th. On June 26th the battle of Marsa Matruh took place, where Rommel was able to conquer the city on June 29th. The fall of Marsa Matruh was a great victory for Rommel. Now his troops were only 200 km from Alexandria and captured important war material. On the same day, the small town of El Dabaa was taken, from where the Panzer Army Africa was to advance to El Alamein (112 km west of Alexandria and 592 km east of Tobruk).

On July 1st, the first battle of El Alamein began . The fighting dragged on for about four weeks in July 1942 and ended with a British victory, because the British 8th Army concentrated primarily on weakening the Italian troops in order to weaken their German allies.

From the government crisis in 1942 to the end of the war

In February 1942, when the Africa Corps began a successful offensive in the direction of Egypt, the British and the Egyptian royal family came to conflict for the first time since the death of King Fu'ad I in 1936 . King Faruq wanted to reappoint the nationalist Ali Maher Pascha , who was hated by the British, as prime minister, but then decided to keep the previous government under Hussein Sirri Pascha in office. When the British government got wind of this, it demanded the formation of a new government under Mustafa an-Nahhas Pasha from the Wafd party, which should ensure stability in the administration in the face of the African campaign. When Faruq tried to defer the appointment of an-Nahas, the British ambassador in Cairo Miles Lampson had the king's palace surrounded by British troops with tanks on February 4, whereupon Faruq gave in. This act made clear to the Egyptian military and the local population that Faruq was powerless against the British and severely damaged his reputation. But the Wafd party, which again won an absolute majority in the March 1942 elections and had once been the flag-bearer of Egyptian nationalism , also became a symbol of collaboration with the British.

Faruq with ministers after the 1942 crisis

After the government crisis, anti-British and pro-German demonstrations and acts of sabotage took place in Alexandria and Cairo in early 1942 . High-ranking officers such as the General Staff of the Egyptian Army established secret contacts with the Italian and German staff. There were also numerous sympathizers of the Axis powers in the Egyptian elite around Faruq. However, compared to other Arab countries, cooperation with the Axis was largely limited. There were no boycotts directed against Jews, there were no physical attacks and the practice of religion was not hindered, and Faruq refused to extradite the Egyptian Jews in the event of an Axis victory .

The leadership of the United Kingdom tried successfully to calm the Egyptian people as a result of the protests. The Wafd party was able to regain its prestige and remained the dominant political force until it was banned in 1952.

The British battleship HMS Howe (32) with a felucca in the Suez Canal, July 14, 1944

From October 23 to November 3, the decisive battle of El Alamein took place , which ended in a British victory and led to the capture of over 30,000 soldiers on November 6. Bernard Montgomery , appointed Commander-in-Chief of the 8th Army by Prime Minister Winston Churchill on August 13, 1942 , was the Commander-in-Chief of the British Forces. The battle marked an important turning point in World War II and was the first major victory that British Commonwealth troops had over the German army. Today some historians believe that the Battle of Stalingrad was one of two great Allied victories that led to the total defeat of the German Reich in 1945.

After the complete withdrawal from Egypt, Libya also had to be surrendered by the Axis powers in January 1943. With the defeat in the Tunisian campaign on May 13, 1943, the African campaign also ended. This was followed by the Cairo Conference between US President Franklin D. Roosevelt , Winston Churchill and the Chinese Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek from November 22 to 26, 1943 . The three heads of government agreed on the Cairo Declaration on the war aims against the Japanese Empire in the Pacific War .

Shortly before his overthrow on October 10, 1944, Mustafa an-Nahhas Pascha organized a meeting of representatives from seven Arab states in Alexandria in September. On October 7th of the same year the founding of the Arab League was decided with the signing of the "Protocol of Alexandria" (so-called Memorandum of Understanding ) . In February and March 1945 there were further preparatory meetings in Cairo. On May 11, 1945, the Kingdom of Egypt became one of the founding states of the League. The emerging Egyptian dominance (the organization was based in Cairo and the first general secretary was an Egyptian, Abdel Rahman Azzam ) led to increased tensions with Saudi Arabia .

An-Nahhas' successor was Ahmed Maher Pascha from the liberal-monarchist Saadian institutionalized party (حزب الهيئة السعدية). Under Maher Pasha, his party and Faruq were able to expand their popularity. In January 1945, the boycott of the Wafd party gave the party an absolute majority in the parliamentary elections. On February 24, Mahir Pasha told the German Reich and Japan war . Egyptian troops did not take part in any combat operations and only flew reconnaissance flights against Italy until 1943 . Shortly after the declaration of war, the prime minister was assassinated in parliament by a deputy, and on February 26, Mahmoud an-Nukraschi Pasha was appointed prime minister as his successor

As one of the victorious powers , Egypt was visited on February 13, 1945 by Franklin D. Roosevelt. Other state guests were Ethiopia's Emperor Haile Selassie , the Saudi King Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud and Winston Churchill.

The post-war years 1945–1947

On October 24, 1945, Egypt, including Sudan, became a founding member of the United Nations and one of the first members of the UN Security Council . At the end of the same year parliament passed an anti-minority company law, according to which 75% of all employees in a company had to be Egyptians (90% of the workers in a factory) and 51% of the capital had to belong to an Egyptian. As a result, many foreigners lost their wealth. Their special jurisdiction was also abolished and all residents of the kingdom declared equal citizens, with the nobility retaining their high social prestige and continuing to assert their dominant role in the military, diplomacy and higher civil administration. However, the reforms came too late. After the war, many young Egyptians were disappointed by the parliamentary democracy , which was supposedly “controlled” by the British, and by the inactivity of the Egyptian political elite. In addition, the war led to a deep economic and political crisis. The mass of the people struggled with a rising rate of illiteracy . Endemic diseases spread across the country and the health system collapsed. In addition, per capita income fell and unemployment rose. The large landowners (around 4,000 families in 1952, who only made up around 1% of the total population, owned 70% of the total arable land) also increasingly suppressed the farmers and there were minor famines in the countryside . The foreigners also became impoverished and some emigrated. This created an atmosphere of rebellion and unrest. The first outbreak of violence was the Cairo pogroms of November 2-3, 1945, in which Egyptian Jews were excluded from Egyptian society for the first time since the establishment of the kingdom. Although King Faruq condemned the events and met with Prime Minister Mahmud an-Nukraschi Pasha with the Grand Rabbi Chaim Nahum of Egypt and Sudan, the events were not dealt with legally.

A French postage stamp for Alexandria, 1946
A reception of Islamic revolutionary personalities in Cairo in 1947. The photograph shows Hasan al-Bannā , Aziz Ali al-Misri , Mohamed Ali Eltaher and other Egyptian, Algerian and Palestinian representatives

In November 1945, the Muslim Brotherhood carried out an unsuccessful assassination attempt on the party leader of the Wafd party an-Nahhas. In January 1946, a diplomat who helped draft the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936 was killed. On February 9, an initially peaceful student demonstration ended with several deaths, and on February 21, students and workers stormed a British barracks in Cairo, killing 23 Egyptians by the British. The tense situation was fueled by the Young Egyptian Party and the Muslim Brotherhood. The two organizations looted numerous foreign shops, set fire to entire buildings, staged protests against the monarchy and carried out several terrorist attacks in Cairo and Alexandria . To end the protests, Faruq appointed Ismail Sedki Pasha as head of government on February 17, 1946. Sediki was officiating for the second time and crushed the protests with police violence . He was able to restore a certain stability to Egypt.

External relations with the West deteriorated during the unrest. In 1946 Egypt granted asylum to the former Mufti of Jerusalem Mohammed Amin al-Husseini , who was wanted as a war criminal in several European countries . In the same year the country took the former King of Italy Victor Emmanuel III. , who tolerated the takeover of power by Benito Mussolini and the Fascist Party after the end of the First World War, as well as the subsequent establishment of a dictatorship , which he adhered to until 1943. In addition, the country did not impose economic sanctions against the regime of Francisco Franco in Spain , although the Resolution 4 of the UN Security Council had agreed. The tense British-Egyptian relations since the occupation of the country in 1940 also continuously cooled. Egypt called for the 1936 treaty to be renegotiated and denied the British the right to access the Egyptian transport and communication system , as had been agreed in 1936.


Defeat in the Palestine War, ban on the Muslim Brotherhood in 1948, destabilization of the government

On May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion declared the independence of the State of Israel on the basis of the UN partition plan for Palestine of November 29, 1947, which Egypt had rejected , when the British mandate over Palestine officially ended.

Map of the UN Partition Plan for Palestine 1947
Muslim Brotherhood logo

King Faruq and the Egyptian government initially took a more conciliatory stance towards the new state. Fearing a coup or a seizure of power by the Muslim Brotherhood and to prevent the states of Transjordan and Saudi Arabia from gaining power , it was decided, together with the other Arab states of Syria , Lebanon , Transjordan and Iraq , to form a military alliance and Israel without a declaration of war to attack on May 15th. Faruq's goal after that was to annex the southern areas of the Palestine region . The Egyptian government sent an expeditionary force of around 20,000 men into the fighting. It consisted of five infantry battalions and one tank battalion. The regular units were supported by around 2,000 volunteers, mostly members of the Muslim Brotherhood, who had infiltrated the mandate area before the war began, and some Sudanese.

Mohammed Haidar Pascha , Egyptian Minister of War from 1948 to 1950. Due to poor preparation, he contributed significantly to the military disasters of the army during the war and was released in 1950

The commander of the Egyptian expeditionary forces, Major General Ahmed Ali al-Mwawi , planned two main thrusts. The smaller part was to advance through the Negev desert via Be'er Sheva to Jerusalem. This advance reached Ramat Rachel on May 23 on the southern outskirts of Jerusalem and was only stopped here by Israeli troops . The second major part of the Egyptian armed forces were advancing along the coast on Tel Aviv and encountered determined resistance in the Jewish settlements along the way. This advance, too, was finally stopped north of Ashdod . In the air and on the water the initiative was also lost. The Royal Egyptian Air Force (REAF), which in May still bombed Tel Aviv with the Sde-Dov airport en masse, lost many of its best pilots and numerous aircraft to the establishment of an effective Israeli air defense system . The country's navy fought a few minor sea ​​battles with the new Israeli navy at the beginning of the war . At the beginning of 1949, however, their operational possibilities were largely exhausted, whereupon Israeli ships bombed Egyptian coastal facilities from Gaza to Port Said .

The final turn of the war came on July 8, 1948 at Kibbutz Negba , when Egyptian troops launched a pre-emptive strike on the place. Although neither side could gain a decisive advantage, the Egyptian army was practically emaciated afterwards and suffered more and more from a lack of ammunition. In October the country tried to impose another blockade , but failed on October 15 when the Israeli air force destroyed the airfield in El Arish , and considered the use of mustard gas as a last resort . On October 22, Israeli troops finally advanced into Egyptian territory, whereupon the British government under Prime Minister Clement Attlee intervened and forced Israel to withdraw from Egypt. On January 6, 1949, the last Israeli soldiers left Egyptian soil.

On February 24, a ceasefire agreement was signed between Israel and Egypt in Rhodes , officially withdrawing the country from the war. The Egyptian troops then withdrew from the Negev desert and only retained control of what is now the Gaza Strip , where on September 22, 1948, Mohammed Amin al-Husseini proclaimed an "Arab government for all of Palestine", which however was completely dependent on Egypt . The other Arab states followed Egypt's insistence on a ceasefire agreement and gradually gave in. On July 20, 1949, the Palestine War ended .

The Egyptian defeat had enormous consequences for the country, despite the relatively favorable armistice conditions. In terms of foreign policy, Egypt was discredited as the most powerful Arab country and could not prevent Jordan (annexed the West Bank ) and Saudi Arabia from gaining influence. Domestically, the unrest of 1946/47 flared up again. In a renewed wave of violence in June and July 1948, Jews were targeted by bomb attacks and their shops were destroyed. The European residents of Alexandria and Egyptian Christians were also targeted by the Muslim Brotherhood's terror. The riots continued to some extent until 1952 and claimed several hundred deaths, including 70 Jews.

The government's response to the pogroms and the growing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood came when the Muslim Brotherhood was banned on December 8, 1948. The government of Mahmoud an-Nukraschi Pasha suspected that the Muslim Brotherhood was planning a revolution and viewed it as a threat to the ruling class Elites. In addition, the Brotherhood had its own hospitals, factories, and schools, which were then nationalized. The state also confiscated their substantial assets. This was followed by a brutal wave of repression on the part of the government. From 1948 to 1950 tens of thousands of Brotherhood members were arrested and many of them tortured or murdered in prisons . In November 1948, 32 prominent leaders of the Brotherhood were arrested and the spiritual leader of the organization Hasan al-Bannā , after having lived under strict police surveillance for months, shot on behalf of the royal family in Cairo on February 12, 1949.

Despite brutal reprisals and the institutionalization of strict press censorship , the Egyptian government was severely destabilized by the unrest and largely lost control of the country. In March 1948, the Muslim Brotherhood murdered the judge Ahmed El-Khazindar Bey and on December 28, Prime Minister Mahmud an-Nukraschi Pasha. An assassination attempt on his successor Ibrahim Abdel Hadi Pascha failed. There were also repeated violent attacks against the police and strikes by workers and farmers. It marked the beginning of the kingdom's decline, culminating in the 1952 revolution .

Nationalism in transition

Protesters celebrate the Egyptian-British break in Cairo, 1951

The defeat in the Palestine War exhausted the ideology of Egyptian nationalism that had prevailed up to that point and briefly led to the loss of Egyptian hegemonic power in the Arab and Islamic world. The Arab nationalism and pan-Arabism , the part of the general of the colonial peoples emancipation had been created and aimed at a unification of the Arab countries, an acceptable alternative for many who are disillusioned with Egyptian nationalism, according to an ideological supplement were investigated. The ideological focus also began to shift, and the democratic element lost weight in favor of left-revolutionary and republican ideas. One example was the founding of the so-called " Free Officers Movement " in 1949 , a group of armed army officers led by Muhammad Nagib and Gamal Abdel Nasser . A momentous element of the new nationalism, however, was the subsequent oppression of ethnic minorities such as the Copts, Jews and Europeans. Religion also played an increasingly important role. For example, in what is now South Sudan's provinces, an increasingly ruthless aggressive Arabization and Islamization was carried out, which ultimately deprived the monarchy of the full support of the population in the black African areas.

When the Arab League was founded, the boycott of the Yishuv , the Jewish settlements in Palestine, was decided from January 1, 1946. Prominent Islamic clergymen such as the Grand Mufti al-Husseini campaigned aggressively for the expulsion of all Jews from Palestine and thus also fueled the nationalist mood of Arab character, which was directed against Israel as an enemy. Egypt played a pioneering role in the Arab League's boycott of Israel from 1948 to 1979.

Another sign of growing nationalism was the general drive to renegotiate the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty. The aim was to move the British forces completely, or at least to reduce their number. But the British were determined to station at least 80,000 soldiers around the Suez Canal zone.

The leaders of the Sudanese Unionist Monarchist White Flag League from left to right: Hussein Sherief, Ali Abdelateef, Salih Abdelgadir and Obeid Haj Elamin, around 1923/24

The Egyptian-British negotiations began in 1946. Faruq sent Prime Minister Ismail Sedki. When this one of the negotiations in London with a draft treaty that the nationalist groups had branded absolutely unacceptable, the pressure of the street led to the resignation of the government in December 1946, which already demonstrated the powerlessness of the monarchy. No agreement could be reached between the following governments either.

On October 8, 1951, the Egyptian parliament under Prime Minister Mustafa an-Nahhas Pascha unilaterally announced the 1936 treaty. This triggered mass demonstrations in support of Egyptian independence and was able to remedy the monarchy one last time. Egypt was able to free itself completely from the British sphere of influence , whereby the foreign policy nevertheless remained to a certain extent pro-western. In particular, the proximity to the former colonial powers Italy , France and Great Britain was sought.

In order to inspire nationalism even more and to strengthen the support of the monarchy in the population again, Faruq took the title of King of Egypt and offered him by the Egyptian parliament, the government of an-Nahhas Pasha and high Sudanese dignitaries on October 16, 1951 of Sudan, which until then was only the unofficial title of the Egyptian monarchs. At the same time he terminated the Anglo-Egyptian condominium and called on the British troops to withdraw from Sudan . Great Britain refused and the condominium was in fact able to continue until 1956. The coronation of Faruq proved to be advantageous domestically and brought the Egyptian monarchy back to life. In Sudan, the unionist forces could also be won over to the project and monarchism was strengthened there too . In terms of foreign policy, however, this step led Egypt even more to the side. Many countries protested against it or did not even recognize Faruq's new claim to power and demanded that Egypt grant the Sudanese the right to self-determination .

The defeat in the war also led to a decisive strengthening of Sudanese nationalism , which had already developed after the First World War and had its carrier base in the northern provinces of Sudan. The nationalists now strove to break away from Egyptian-British rule and advocated a centralized republican national government in Khartoum .

The first Sudanese nationalist movement was founded in 1921 by the Muslim Dinka Ali Abd al Latif. She fought for an independent Sudan in which power would be shared by tribal and religious leaders. In 1924 she organized large-scale demonstrations in Khartoum, presumably as a protest for Egypt's independence. Ali Abd al Latif was then arrested and then sent into exile in Egypt. A subsequent mutiny by a Sudanese army battalion was crushed and the movement was temporarily paralyzed by the brutal repression of the colonial rulers.

In the 1930s, as in Egypt, nationalism emerged more strongly in Sudan. The most popular demands were the limitation of the power of the British Governor General and a Sudanese participation in political life in Egypt, where in parliament almost exclusively purely Egyptian parties were represented. However, such a change required the approval of the British government and the King of Egypt. Neither Great Britain nor Egypt agreed to the change, as both countries feared a reduction in their influence over the other power. In addition, the British saw themselves as the protective power of the opponents of unification of the whole of Sudan with Egypt. The nationalists feared that as a possible consequence of the constant friction between condominium forces, Sudan could be divided and northern Sudan would be added to Egypt and southern Sudan to the Protectorate of Uganda or British Kenya . Although the 1936 treaty cleared most of the conflicts and set a timetable for the end of British military occupation, negotiations on the future status of Sudan failed. The treaty also increased tension between the unionists and their opponents. While the Sudanese clerics and Muhammad Ahmad's son Abd al-Rahman al-Mahdi spoke for independence under him as a self-proclaimed "King of the Sudan," the young leader of the Islamic Order, sat down in the early 1950s khatmiyya Ahmed al-Mirghani to the top advocates of an association. The two leaders and their political camps fought each other, especially after Faruq's proclamation in 1951, and were unofficially supported by Great Britain and Egypt respectively. However, the nationalist groups striving for independence turned out to be far more radical.

Beginning of the Cold War and decolonization

The Mogamma , built by Soviet architects from 1950–1952 and today the central administration building of Egypt

Among the countries that did not recognize the Egyptian claim to rule in Sudan was almost all of Western Europe and the United States and the Vatican . Thus, at the beginning of the Cold War , Egypt finally had the USA and Great Britain against it. Although King Faruq and the Egyptian government repeatedly asserted the saturation of the nation, the politics of Egypt seemed to these states to be unpredictable. In addition, the US government under its President Harry S. Truman considered Egypt an extremely corrupt and unstable country that could easily fall under Soviet influence. To prevent this from happening, the Central Intelligence Agency set up " Project FF (Fat Fucker) ", which aimed at the overthrow of King Faruq, whose authoritarian style of government was mainly disappointing, and the installation of a pro-western republican government under the leadership the Free Officers Movement, which was supported by both the Americans and the Soviets, developed. It was initiated by Kermit Roosevelt junior and Miles Copeland junior , but never implemented.

In September 1947, Egypt officially asked the US embassy in Cairo for help in training the Egyptian armed forces. However, the request was rejected.

Despite a relatively non-aligned foreign policy, there was a great fear of communism and Stalinism among the Egyptian elite . In particular, the rapid successive communist takeovers of power in Eastern Europe from 1944 and in China after the civil war in 1949 forced Egypt to practice its own containment policy , which was based on that of the USA and aimed at curbing communist expansion policy in the Arab and Islamic regions. In the Greek civil war between communist insurgents and the royalist government, the Egyptian authorities interned Communist-minded Greeks from the local minority and Greek prisoners of war deported from Greece . Allegedly, the Egyptian General Staff is said to have even offered the use of ground troops.

Prime Minister Mustafa an-Nahhas Pasha signed an Egyptian-Soviet non-aggression pact in 1951 together with Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov

As a result of the economic crisis of 1946, communism had also gained in popularity in the interior of Egypt. The urban workers and the younger generation of Egyptians in particular had communist sympathies. The government, still weakened by the Palestinian War, asked the Muslim Brotherhood for help and hoped to turn it into an anti-communist bulwark. For this, the brotherhood was rehabilitated in 1950 and most of the prisoners were released. The Young Egyptian Party was also supported and its supporters carried out armed “punitive expeditions” against “red” trade union houses, newspaper offices, workers' homes, cultural centers, cooperatives and individuals. After a while, the more than 20 different socialist and communist small parties and organizations were largely eliminated as a political factor. In addition, unions lost massive numbers of members and influence. The only big "red" party that withstood the unofficial state terror was the Democratic Movement of National Liberation ( الحركة الديمقراطية للتحرر الوطنى ), founded in 1947 , whose membership in 1952 was around 2,000-3,000, making it the largest communist organization in Egypt and the Arab world made. She also strove for a revolution to overthrow the monarchy and was therefore persecuted. Nevertheless, the party could never really develop into a real threat to the royal family.

Due to some reports from foreign Egyptian communists, the Soviet Union became aware of Egypt from 1950. Although she also railed against the possessing class in Egypt, she still sought political solidarity.

In 1950 the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin commissioned the construction of the Mogamma , today's Egyptian central administration building, and offered development cooperation. The motive could be seen to be able to exert considerable influence on Egypt and its region and to tie the kingdom to the Soviet system of rule. But Egypt refused, making it difficult for the Soviet Union to build long-term relationships and instead concluded a non-aggression pact with it. At the same time, however, the kingdom, although it had not recognized the overthrow of the Yugoslav monarchy, maintained good relations with the also non-aligned Yugoslavia under Josip Broz Tito , who was hated by Stalin. With this, Egypt had established itself as a non-aligned power in the beginning of the Cold War, a policy that has been maintained to this day.

At the same time as the Cold War, the decolonization of European possessions began. Egypt assumed a neutral position here too. On the one hand, the Egyptian government was very interested in a British withdrawal from Africa and the whole of the Middle East . On the other hand, there were fears about how the new states would feel about Egypt and fears of new conflicts in the region (e.g. the Palestinian War or the First Indo-Pakistani War ). Nor did they want to give up their good relations with France , which with its colony of French-Equatorial Africa bordered directly on Egypt.

On December 24, 1951, Egypt's western neighbor Libya gained independence. The Egyptian government and Faruq tried to influence the new kingdom . The aim of this campaign was to get Libya to accept the Egyptian claims to Sudan. Faruq even offered economic aid to the Libyan King Idris I. Although there was also economic improvement afterwards, economic development progressed only slowly and Libya, as a poor and underdeveloped country, remained dependent on foreign aid.

Coup in 1952 - "July 23rd Revolution"

Mass demonstration in front of the old Khedive - Opera House in Cairo, January 25, 1952

Due to increasing corruption and mismanagement , King Faruq's popularity fell again from 1952. The majority of the military now turned against the king and began to disregard his orders and instructions on their own initiative. As early as the winter of 1951–1952, the General Staff gave discreet instructions to support attacks on British positions in Cairo, Alexandria and around the Suez Canal . A particularly devastating attack by the irregulars took place in Ismailia . It resulted in the deaths of several British soldiers and hit British shipping to the heart. On January 25, 1952, another incident at a police station resulted in the deaths of 50 Egyptian auxiliary police officers. The inaction of the king or his court led to such a strong loss of support from the monarchy among the population that Faruq could no longer ignore it. When he visited districts of Cairo, he sometimes met with sheer hatred.

An Egyptian postage stamp from Revolution Day

In order to escalate the situation, the Free Officers (presumably the Muslim Brotherhood), who had headed the revolutionary movement in the military, had supposedly given the order to start fires all over Cairo. The local fire brigades were prevented from extinguishing work by passers-by. In the American and Soviet press the events were referred to as the " Cairo Fires " (حريق القاهرة) and gained international attention. In Egypt, this event, which resulted in the death of 26 people and the destruction or looting of over 750 buildings, is called "Black Saturday".

After the desired success was not achieved (Faruq had given Prime Minister an-Nahhas supreme command of the armed forces and had him proclaim martial law ), and neither the masses nor the military, which had succeeded in restoring order, rose against the government had, the revolutionaries, who saw the event as an ideal breeding ground, postponed the coup. There were plans to wait until 1954 or 1955.

To restore his authority, Faruq dismissed Mustafa an-Nahhas Pasha's government on January 27, 1952 after accusing them of failure to fight the fires. In the following months, the king largely bypassed parliament and appointed and dismissed three short-lived governments ( Ali Maher Pasha (January 27 - March 1), Ahmad Naguib Hilali Pasha (March 2 - June 29, again 22 - 23 March) July) and Hussein Sirri Pascha (July 2nd - 20th)). These governments were able to stop the downward spiral again. However, this could not hide the dissatisfaction of the younger Egyptians with the country's ancient and feudal class society , which was unique in the Arab world. Corruption also remained omnipresent.

On July 16, 1952, Faruq's planned parliamentary elections were canceled because he feared an anti-monarchist majority in parliament. This step also caused indignation among his last supporters and indignation in the democratic camp. Faruq was even accused abroad of wanting to establish a royal dictatorship , but this has been refuted.

In the early morning of July 23, 1952, the military finally began carrying out a bloodless military coup against Faruq. The leaders were the two free officers, Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser and General Muhammad Nagib . The coup was originally scheduled for August 5th but was betrayed to Faruq and the government. So the putschists decided to launch a preventive strike. With fewer than 100 officials, the Free Officers succeeded in arresting the royalist forces in the army and police and in securing the support of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Young Egyptian Party and the Communist Democratic Movement for National Liberation. At 7:30 a.m., General Naguib informed the Egyptian population of the events and declared the revolution. Revolts against the monarchy broke out across the country and a campaign against Faruq was launched in the press. Tens of thousands of demonstrators, mostly students, then expressed their displeasure in the big cities.

Faruq then fled from Cairo, which had been under the control of the revolutionaries since 6 a.m., to Alexandria. There he resided in the Montaza Palace and surprisingly asked the United States for help through representatives. These refused, although the US embassy and the local CIA office were informed about the coup in advance. On July 25, the Egyptian army also occupied Alexandria and the king became a prisoner of the new revolutionary government. On July 26, after losing all power, he was officially deposed and placed under house arrest in the Raʾs-at-Tīn Palace .

There were several debates among the free officers about the fate of the king. While some (including General Naguib and Nasser) saw exiled the monarch as the best solution, others argued that he should be tried and charged for alleged "crimes against the Egyptian people." Finally, Faruq was forced to abdicate in favor of his six-month-old son Fu'ad II and went into exile in Italy at 6 p.m. on the same day .

King Fu'ad II, 1952

The so-called "Revolution of June 23rd" ( ثورة 23 يوليو 1952 ), as it is called in Egypt and Sudan to this day, did not mean - as is often wrongly assumed - the end of the Egyptian-Sudanese monarchy. The original plan of the Free Officers, which was worked out in 1951 and consisted of six points, was not aimed at the abolition of the monarchy. Its points were initially:

Military dictatorship of the "Free Officers" under Fu'ad II. (1952–1953)

Members of the Egyptian Revolutionary Command Council (RCC)

After taking power, the Free Officers set up a military dictatorship with Fu'ad II , who was crowned the last king of Egypt and Sudan in parliament on July 26, 1952, de jure as head of state . A regency council took over the guardianship of the young king .

The first Prime Minister of the new regime became Ali Maher Pasha . The actual power lay with the newly formed " Egyptian Revolutionary Command Council " (RCC), whose chairman was Nagib. Faruq had also given him supreme command of the armed forces.

The Command Council immediately began removing royalist forces from political life and important positions in the state. The police were also infiltrated and became a tool of repression for the new regime. The so-called commissioners of the revolutionary leaders, who had replaced the old elite, lacked administrative experience.

Towards the end of August 1952, the Command Council decided to abolish the aristocracy and the privileges and titles of the Egyptian and Sudanese nobility. All old political parties (including the Wafd party ) that opposed the dictatorship were forcibly dissolved and numerous politicians and followers of the old regime were arrested. On the night of September 5-6, the regime arrested 64 politicians, including three former prime ministers, in a large-scale purge . After this event, Prime Minister Ali Maher resigned in protest. Nagib became the new head of government. With that he finally emerged as the real ruler of Egypt.

Police arrest pro-Soviet women activists outside a UK bank

The day after the change of prime ministerial office, the government announced on September 8 that a land reform would be implemented . As part of the reform, almost all the lands of the mostly aristocratic large landowners were expropriated without compensation. The reform allowed one person to own no more than 200 feddan (about 80 hectares) of land. In total, over 1,000,000 feddan, 15% of the agricultural land in Egypt at the time, were redistributed. The farmers also received seeds, plant and fertilizers free of charge from the state as compensation for earlier expropriations. As a result, agriculture experienced a small boom, but then fell into chaos due to disorganization.

Another reform was the change in the previous economic structures. The Kingdom of Egypt was to be converted into a central administration economy. The commanders implemented their program with numerous nationalizations . Numerous industrialists then lost their factories or companies. The Revolutionary Council decided to turn around in December 1952 and decided to strengthen control over the private sector. Large industrial programs were also set up, but they did not show the desired success and Egypt were in debt. The state also lowered tariffs on machines and raw materials and increased the export of goods. For this, the import of finished products was limited. The increasingly important role of the Egyptian state in economic life was thus consolidated.

In order to consolidate the power of the new regime even more, the Egyptian constitution of 1923 was repealed on December 10th and the abolition of the multiparty system resulted in the final abandonment of parliamentarism . On January 16, 1953, all political parties that still existed were forcibly dissolved. The newly founded “ National Union ” with Nasser as general secretary became the only legal party . On February 10, 1953, a transitional constitution was drawn up and it was announced that democracy would be restored after a three-year “transition period”.

The end of parliamentarism unleashed new, more radical forces. The 1952 coup sparked controversy among the various small communist parties, whose activities continued despite the ban. At the same time, however, communist activists imprisoned under the Wafd governments were released. Forces like the radical left movement of National Liberation could now develop freely and even participate politically. However, in August 1952, the military attacked a textile factory in what is now al-Buhaira Governorate , where they had to suppress a violent strike. The two insurgent leaders were sentenced to death by a military tribunal , despite protests from Moscow and the communist world .

The communists regularly criticized Nasser in public, accusing him of, among other things, torpedoing the 1951 non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union. The subsequent repression led to protests by sections of the military, especially young radicalized officers. The government then arrested 35 people and expelled the high-ranking left-liberal officer Youssef Seddik, who was one of the main organizers of the revolution, from the Revolutionary Council.

After the government had largely eliminated the communist opposition, from 1954 onwards it turned against the Association of the Muslim Brotherhood , which did not consider itself a political party, and ignored the ban. The organization initially maintained good relations with the new government. A representative of the Muslim Brotherhood was on the Regency Council for Fu'ad II, and the Muslim Brotherhood had even been assigned three ministerial posts. Here, however, there were the first misunderstandings between the Islamists and the military regime. The leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hasan al-Hudaibi, wanted to exert even more influence on the Free Officers' government, regardless of the differences. The organization declared its deviation from illegal activities and former terrorist tactics. Opponents of such a course were removed from the governing bodies of the association. The Free Officers agreed to this and in the last phase of the kingdom there was a strengthening of Islam . So the presence of Islam in the public space became stronger. Women were obliged to wear a headscarf and the new laws were only passed in compliance with Sharia law.

In terms of foreign policy, the new regime approached the Soviet Union and its satellite states . Especially because the Soviet Union was ready to support the fight against Israel ideologically and with arms. However, the new course was opposed to the rejection of the USA, which now increasingly turned against the Free Officers.

End of the monarchy

In June 1953 the dissolution of the Regency Council indicated the end of the Egyptian monarchy.

On June 18, the Revolutionary Command Council voted for the abolition of the Hereditary Monarchy and proclaimed the Republic of Egypt . This ended the rule of the Muhammad Ali dynasty , which had lasted since 1805 . King Fu'ad II was exiled to his family on the same day. The new head of state of the republic was President Nagib, who was also head of government. He handed over the Ministry of Defense and the post of Commander-in-Chief of the Army to Nasser, who was also Minister of the Interior. Nagib and Nasser soon became rivals, and two political camps emerged within the revolutionary movement. While the president supported the suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood and Communists, Nasser sought their proximity. Nagib also wanted to return to the parliamentary system, which Nasser opposed. The Revolutionary Council, under pressure from Nasser, forced the president to resign on February 23, 1954. Just four days later he had to withdraw his step because Nagib was still very popular in the army and among the people. On February 25, he became president again. As the new Prime Minister, Nasser had to accept that Nagib would remain president.

On March 5, 1954, the Revolutionary Command Council announced the restoration of democratic freedoms, the release of prisoners and the re-establishment of the parties. He also chose to convene a constituent assembly and pass a new constitution. These reforms were unsuccessful, however, as unrest broke out across the country on March 19, and Nagib had to finally resign on November 14, 1954 and was placed under house arrest by Nasser. On June 23, 1954, the second anniversary of the 1952 revolution, Nasser became the new president. The Sudanese unionists, especially the “National Unionist Party”, which sought to unify Sudan with Egypt under the monarchy, distanced themselves from the new republic in 1955. Egypt's hopes that the independent Sudan would then voluntarily unite with Egypt were not fulfilled. In 1952 Egypt had already granted Sudan the right to self-determination and renounced full sovereignty over Sudan in a British-Egyptian agreement. On January 1, 1956, the Republic of Sudan was proclaimed after a referendum . The new de facto head of state of the republic was the nationalist Ismail al-Azhari as prime minister . With that Egypt had to finally give up Sudan and two states had emerged from the hereditary estate of the kingdom.

Political system of the empire

The empire's political system was based on the balance of power between the three major forces in the country: the Egyptian monarchy, the Wafd party and Great Britain. This situation lasted until the great government crisis of 1942 . After that, the British were replaced by the Egyptian army with great political - and after the coup in 1952, also economic - influence.

Monarchy and court

Catherine Tobin : The Land of Inheritance (The land of inheritance)

The most important element of the state was the monarchy. The constitution guaranteed the king and the aristocracy considerable room for maneuver. She appointed the king of Egypt and Sudan (ملك مصر والسودان, DMG Malik Miṣr was-Sūdān ) as sovereign of the state (see monarchical principle ) and head of state. She granted him the authority over the armed forces of the country and free hand in the appointment of the prime minister, civil servant in the army and administration and the ʿUlama ' , the religious scholar of Islam .

Also, all laws had to be signed by the king after they were passed by parliament. The king was also responsible for opening and closing parliamentary sessions and was able to dissolve it and call new elections . Because of these far-reaching powers, however, the ruling monarch had to take an oath on the constitution.

The king increasingly became a symbol of the empire during the time of the kingdom. For decades it was believed that the various Khedives and sultans were vassals of foreign powers and that Egypt was dependent on a monarchy that did not appear to be Egyptian, the role of the dynasty that had ruled since 1805 changed increasingly from 1922. The reason for this was the successful attempts by Fu'ad I. and Faruq to slowly and peacefully break away from the British sphere of influence and to take an independent course without having to make major compromises (e.g. the claims to Sudan were not given up and enforced the demand to pursue its own foreign policy). In this way, anti- monarchist tendencies in the population could also be won over to the new state in the initial phase and Egypt developed into a strong monarchist nation by the beginning of the Second World War .

For the decisions of the monarchs, the court and some close personal confidants from the Egyptian aristocracy, which were very similar to the European nobility , played an important role. Already with Fu'ad I. the monarch exerted considerable influence on personnel policy without usually interfering in day-to-day business. Faruq personally exercised considerable influence on daily politics. Sometimes competing actors influenced the king and often made his decisions appear contradictory.

Bureaucracy and justice

The former Palace of
Justice of Alexandria was the seat of one of the mixed courts of justice in Egypt

The Egyptian king had a considerable bureaucratic apparatus at his disposal. He ensured continuity in most domestic political conflicts and was considered a guarantor of the stability of the empire. In the case of controversial decisions, the political decision-makers often had to reckon with the weight of the higher officials. In the constitution of 1923 they were guaranteed political freedom. However, when they were appointed, attention was paid to a secular, monarchist-patriotic sentiment. Left-liberal, Islamist and anti-monarchist politicians were almost never able to get into administrative offices.

Aristocrats were overrepresented in the higher positions of the civil service. Religion only played a role towards the end of the empire. During the liberal early phase of the kingdom, officials from other denominations were also represented. Numerous Jews and Copts took up important positions in the bureaucracy and in some cases played a decisive role in the development of the young state.

In addition to a well-organized bureaucratic apparatus, the Kingdom of Egypt also had a modern, European “permeated” legal system that was also responsible for the territory of Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. The British , Italian law and the code civil regarded as the main source of legislation. Islamic law, the Sharia , which has been Egypt's main source since 1980, hardly played a role. Most of the legal norms were designed voluntarily, taking into account Sunni Islamic law. There were also four mixed courts of justice up until 1949 , which were used to negotiate civil and commercial disputes between locals and foreigners as well as between foreigners of different nationalities. It was replaced in 1949 by an Egyptian offshoot of the civil code, which guaranteed all citizens, even if they were not citizens of the kingdom, the same rights and became the model for the legal systems of all other Arab monarchies.

Although the judiciary was officially independent, and extra clerical judges from the time of the sultanate were replaced by young, secular judges trained in Europe, the judiciary's political attitudes could be clearly recognized by its judgments . While left-wing offenders were sometimes treated with enormous severity, right-wing offenders faced milder charges or punishments . This also affected the law enforcement authorities. They felt increasingly committed to the state and, during the Cold War , to the fight against communism .


Title page of the 1953 constitution

During its 31-year existence , the empire had three constitutions , each of which was fully valid in both Egypt and Sudan:

The constitution of 1923 came into force after a referendum on April 19, 1923 and was drawn up by a constitutional commission made up of 30 representatives from all social classes and political parties. It was considered one of the most progressive of all in its time and was the first successful attempt to establish a parliamentary democracy in Egypt. It is considered the most liberal constitution in Egyptian history.

The constitution of 1930 was drawn up by Prime Minister Ismail Sedki Pasha, who ruled dictatorially until 1933 . It transformed Egypt into an authoritarian monarchy, in which the powers of the king and the government were greatly expanded to the detriment of parliament. The work of political parties and the freedom of the press and freedom of expression were also severely restricted. In 1935 it was overridden after protests.

The constitution of 1923 emerged from the constitution of the Khedivate of Egypt drawn up in 1882 . It was largely shaped by Saad Zaghlul and Mustafa an-Nahhas Pascha . On the one hand, it was an organizational statute that delimited the competences of the state organs through which the Reich acted and of other institutions of the Reich. On the other hand, it established the jurisdiction of the empire vis-à-vis the provinces. The Reich was only allowed to act for those matters that were expressly assigned to the Reich as responsibility in the constitution. Incidentally, the partially sovereign provinces were responsible.

The constitution does have a clear section of fundamental rights. There was a ban on discrimination based on citizenship and minority protection . The relationship between the subject (citizen) and the monarchy was legally only roughly defined.

The constitution understood the Kingdom of Egypt as an amalgamation of partially sovereign provinces. This corresponded to the fact that the kingdom was de facto a federal state that relied on local tribal leaders, especially in Sudan. The constituent states of the empire had distinctive powers of their own, although they were not represented in parliament.

The Egyptian monarch carried the title of king of Egypt and Sudan. He was entitled to considerable competencies that went far beyond what the nationalist-democratic forces in the country had imagined. He appointed and dismissed the government, civil servants and from 1936/37 led the supreme command of the royal navy, air force and the Egyptian army. The constitution also provided that the king could, if necessary, restore internal security through the army. This concentration of command already existed before the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936, in which Great Britain finally granted supreme command of the armed forces to the Egyptian king, and was often used by Fu'ad I. as a leverage. However, the king's power was never absolute, but was in the tradition of Egyptian constitutionalism since Muhammad Ali Pasha came to power .

The Prime Minister was responsible to the King and Parliament alike. This fact meant that there were often conflicts or misunderstandings between the King and Parliament. Parliament also elected the head of government. The king then usually also appointed him, but could also have appointed a person of his choice.

The Egyptian parliament formed the counterweight to the government . It consisted of two chambers, the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. The king had the right to appoint 2/5 of the senators and the president of the senate.

The right to vote provided for a universal, equal and secret election for men. The legislative period lasted four years. The king could dissolve parliament at any time and call new elections. The core competencies of the parliament were the enactment of laws of all kinds and the passing of the budget. The government was thus definitively bound to parliament and parliamentary democracy was firmly anchored in the state.

The 1923 constitution, however, left one important point unmentioned. The claim to sovereignty over Sudan was not included in the constitutional text, although it was a central theme in Egyptian domestic and foreign policy.

The 1953 Constitution was enacted on February 10, 1953. It was supposed to organize the transition period from monarchy to republic.

Rulers and prime ministers

The Egyptian monarch ruled de facto in personal union as king of Egypt and Sudan. While the title was associated with real political power in Egypt, it was almost purely ceremonial in Sudan.

  • Fu'ad I. (1868-1936)
    • On March 15, 1922 proclamation as King of Egypt and sovereign of Nubia , Sudan, Kurdufan and Darfur
    • Died on April 28, 1936
The Egyptian and Sudanese royal crowns
  • Faruq (1920-1965)
    • On April 28, 1936, with the death of his predecessor, he was automatically king
    • On July 29, 1937, he was crowned King of Egypt and sovereign of Nubia, Sudan, Kurdufan and Darfur
    • On October 16, 1951, he was coronated as King of Egypt and Sudan
    • Resignation from the government and abdication on July 26, 1952
  • Fu'ad II. (1951–)
    • Coronation as King of Egypt and Sudan on July 26, 1952
    • Deposed on June 18, 1953

The Egyptian Prime Minister at the time of the kingdom was elected by parliament and appointed by the king. Most of the heads of government were representatives of the Wafd party . The officials changed very frequently; only a few politicians could gain formative influence. From 1926 to 1936 alone, Egypt had 16 different governments. The most politically or economically influential prime ministers were:

  • Abdel Khalek Sarwat Pascha , (first Prime Minister and one of the founders of the kingdom, served March 16, 1922 to November 30, 1922)
  • Saad Zaghlul (from 1919 until his death in 1927 party leader of the Wafd party, important independence fighter, social reformer and spiritual father of the constitution of 1923, served January 26, 1924 to November 24, 1924)
  • Mustafa an-Nahhas Pascha (from 1927 to 1952 party leader of the Wafd party, social reformer and important player in the drafting of the British and Soviet-Egyptian treaties and the establishment of the Arab League , served March 16, 1928 to June 27, 1928, 1. January 1930 to June 20, 1930, May 9, 1936 to December 29, 1937, February 5, 1942 to October 10, 1944, January 12, 1950 to January 27, 1952)
  • Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil (reached an Egyptian-British balance, served June 27, 1928 to October 4, 1929, December 29, 1937 to August 18, 1939)
  • Ismail Sedki Pascha (ruled largely dictatorially during his first term in office , oriented himself towards Benito Mussolini and restored political stability in Egypt through a new constitution, served from June 20, 1930 to September 22, 1933, February 17, 1946 to December 9, 1946 )
  • Ali Maher Pascha (important personality of the nationalist movement, campaigned for the permanent neutrality of Egypt and offered German Jews protection and a new home, served January 30, 1936 to May 9, 1936, August 18, 1939 to June 28, 1940, January 27, 1952 to March 2, 1952, July 23, 1952 to September 7, 1952)
  • Hussein Sirri Pascha (officiated at the height of the advance of the German-Italian troops into Egypt during the Africa campaign , served November 15, 1940 to February 5, 1942)
  • Mahmud an-Nukraschi Pasha (declared war on the German Reich and Japan on February 26, 1945 , decided to use Egyptian troops in the Palestine War in 1948 , was murdered by the Muslim Brotherhood after the defeat , served from February 26, 1945 to February 17, 1946, 9 December 1946 to December 28, 1948)
  • Muhammad Nagib (put himself to power together with Gamal Abdel Nasser on July 23, 1952 (see military coup in Egypt 1952 ) and established a military dictatorship . In 1953 he became the first President of the republic, served from September 7, 1952 to June 18, 1953)

Political parties and mass organizations

Most of the political parties in the kingdom originated from the time of the sultanate or the khedivate . However, there were numerous new foundations and spin-offs.

From 1923 to 1952/53, Egypt had a remarkable experience rich in political and democratic practice; during this period the Wafd party was almost continuously the strongest party in parliament. With the outbreak of the revolution of July 1952, the military dictatorship under Muhammad Nagib and Gamal Abdel Nasser tried to liquidate the opposition. A decree dissolving political parties and adopting a one-party system in January 1953 banned all political parties.

Egyptian revolutionaries of the Wafd party with a US flag, 1919
Flag of the Wafd Party

In the spectrum of parties at the time of the kingdom there were the following parties of importance:

Political party Expression founding
Wafd party Egyptian nationalism , royalism ,
economic liberalism ,
anti-colonialism , national liberalism
Umma party Ultra-nationalism 1907
Watani party Egyptian nationalism ,
anti-colonialism ,
Liberal Constitutional Party Left liberalism ,
constitutionalism ,
Ittihad party Egyptian nationalism ,
religious traditionalism ,
Saadian institutionalized party Liberalism ,
Egyptian People's Party Royalism ,
representation of rural areas
Egyptian Communist Party Communism ,
"Federal Party" Federalism ,

and a number of smaller Egyptian and Sudanese parties:

  • "Egyptian Socialist Party" (founded in 1921, anarchist and communist)
  • Young Egyptian Party (founded in 1933, Islamic fascist , National Socialist , radically anti-Semitic )
  • "National Unionist Party" (founded in 1952, unionist , supported the unification of Egypt with Sudan under the monarchy)
  • "Umma Party (Sudan)" (founded in 1945, separatist )
  • "Southern Party" (founded in 1951, separatist, campaigned for more rights for black Africans in what is now South Sudan)
  • "Anti-imperialist Front" (founded in 1952, separatist, anti-colonialist)

The Islamist Muslim Brotherhood did not consider itself a party . It saw itself as a mass organization. The brotherhood grew very rapidly after it was founded in 1928 and spread to neighboring countries. At the end of the 1930s still a group of a few hundred, in 1941 it had around 60,000, in 1948 around 500,000 members and hundreds of thousands of sympathizers. It was organized in a strictly hierarchical manner, had its own mosques, companies, factories, hospitals and schools, and occupied important positions in the army and trade unions. She attached great importance to education and training in line with her Islamic vision of society. So she managed to gain great influence in the Egyptian state. It was banned in 1948, but allowed again in 1950.

External relations

The foreign policy of Egypt during the kingdom was mainly shaped by the pursuit of hegemony in the Arab and Islamic world and a traditionally strong bond with Western Europe . Egypt maintained good relations with its immediate neighbors such as Greece , Turkey , Iran , France , Italy and Yugoslavia , but also with countries such as Japan and the United States .

The Queen of Romania Marie of Edinburgh with Howard Carter after the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb in Egypt
The Greek King George II in conversation with Prime Minister Mustafa an-Nahhas Pascha and the well-known Egyptian gynecologist Naguib Pascha Mahfouz , 1942. After the Balkan campaign from 1941 , Cairo was the seat of the Greek government in exile

In the early years after independence in 1922, the Egyptian government was not allowed to pursue an independent foreign policy. It was determined by the former colonial power Great Britain, which had regarded itself as the protective power of Egypt since 1882. After the British-Egyptian rift over the murder of the Sudanese Governor General Lee Stack on November 20, 1924 in Cairo, relations deteriorated noticeably. As a result, the Egyptian government sought recognition as a sovereign state by other great powers .

A metal factory built with foreign aid in the Afghan capital Kabul , around 1950

From the second half of the 1920s, Egypt tried to forge an alliance with some major European powers. The efforts proved successful. In 1936 the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty was signed with Great Britain , which made both countries equal allies. The treaty was preceded by the Italian conquest of Ethiopia , which also had no allies. There was a de facto alliance with France , which was mainly culturally present in Egypt, based on a border treaty of 1926. Egypt initially had very good relations with the Kingdom of Italy , but these deteriorated increasingly from 1932 onwards (see Reconquest of Libya ). On June 13, 1940, the Egyptian parliament decided to break off relations with Italy. Thereupon Italian troops (see Italian invasion of Egypt ) attacked the northwest of the country. After the defeat of the Axis Powers in North Africa in 1943, Egypt joined the Allies in the spring of 1945 and declared war on the German Empire and Japan. On September 10, 1946, Egypt and Italy signed a peace treaty .

On the eve of the Second World War , the foreign policy of the empire was mainly determined by Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil , who exerted considerable influence as Prime Minister. His policy, which was initially aimed at a successful compromise with Great Britain, led Egypt into isolation . Because the country opposed the aggressive expansion policies of Japan, Italy and the German Reich, but also did not want to support the appeasement policy of the western democracies. Only relations with the United States remained friendly.

After World War II, Egypt became a founding member of the Arab League and the United Nations . Tensions soon arose with the Western powers, for example because of the Egyptian claims to a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and sovereignty over Sudan. Egypt also allowed the Soviet Union to distance itself because it openly opposed their troop presence in Iran, their support for the communists in the civil war in Greece and the attempted influence in Turkey. There were also conflicts in the Arab region. The Kingdom of Iraq and Saudi Arabia rejected Egypt's plans for " unity of the Nile Valley ". Nevertheless, the three states fought together with Transjordan , Syria and Lebanon in the Palestine War against Israel from 1948 to 1949 .

After the Arab defeat in 1949, there was renewed friction with Saudi Arabia. In this way two camps emerged in the Arab League: a religious-conservative one under the leadership of the Saudis and a secular-secular one under the leadership of Egypt. Egypt and Saudi Arabia then engaged in an unprecedented arms race from 1949 onwards, which took up large parts of the budget of the two states. In Egyptian politics and in the military, the Saudis were increasingly viewed as “arch rivals” whose absolutist Islamic-conservative monarchy was the absolute counterpart to the modern, western-influenced Egyptian monarchy. The tensions finally culminated in the civil war in North Yemen from 1962–1970, which became a proxy war .

In the Islamic world, most states recognized the Egyptian claim to leadership. In East Africa and the Middle East , too, the claim seemed secure. Countries like Iran, Turkey, Israel or Abyssinia soon developed into serious competitors.

From the beginning of the 1950s, the Kingdom of Egypt also provided development aid in terms of foreign policy and was active in the training of security forces and in the construction of infrastructure that accompanied arms exports. This aid was mainly given to the monarchical states of Libya , Afghanistan , Northern Yemen, Iran and Abyssinia.

Parts of the empire and countries

The Kingdom of Egypt 1950

Map of the Kingdom of Egypt with Sudan before World War II

Kingdom of Egypt Anglo-Egyptian Sudan

Sarra triangle (ceded to Italy in 1934)

The Kingdom of Egypt saw itself as an amalgamation of 12 or from 1948 13 partially sovereign provinces. Although there was officially a centralized administration , in practice there was a federal state order .

The constituent states of the empire had distinct autonomy. They had their own official language , state symbols , a de facto constitution based on oral promises by the government, and a capital , but Cairo had a special status as a national capital. The provinces of Anglo-Egyptian Sudan had a number of special rights that the Egyptian government granted them under pressure from local Sudanese tribal leaders and clans. Thus Egypt tried to peacefully integrate the Sudanese people into the administration of the empire and to withdraw them from British influence. But all provinces were financially dependent on the tax system of the empire. The kingdom also retained strong administrative and legislative powers.

Across the provinces, Egypt consisted de facto of two (sub) states until 1953, which were ruled by the Egyptian king in personal union. To the Egyptian motherland came the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, which the Egyptian monarchy administered together with Great Britain. Egypt had never regained full control of the area since the condominium was built in 1899. However, it is controversial how great the Egyptian influence was. British officials controlled the higher administrative posts and the condominium was administered by a British governor general . Egyptian officials were over-represented in all offices from middle management level to the police. The only official language in the area was actually Arabic , the Egyptian pound was the only currency and the King of Egypt was the head of Sudan under international law.

Most of the - today Egyptian - provinces were dissolved in 1960/61 by Gamal Abdel Nasser or by his successor Anwar as-Sadat . They were replaced by smaller, distinctly centrally administered governorates , each headed by a governor with the rank of minister. The Sudanese provinces became today's Sudanese and South Sudanese states .

In February 1949, after the war in Palestine , Egypt was given what is now the Gaza Strip in a ceasefire agreement with Israel . It was only administered by the monarchy, not annexed. The residents of the strip also did not receive any civil rights from Egypt and thus remained stateless.

Provinces of the Kingdom of Egypt
Provinces Capital founding Today's state
alhudud alfayida none
(de facto Cairo )
1917 Egypt
muhafazat alqinal Port Said 1859 Egypt
muhafazat alssahra 'algharbia Mersa Matruh 1917 Egypt
muhafazat sayna ' al-Arish 1917 Egypt
almuhafazat alssuhrawiat aljunawbiat Kharga 1917 Egypt
A'li an-Nil Malacal 1919 South Sudan
al-Chartum Khartoum 1919 Sudan
an-Nil al-azraq Wad Madani 1919 Sudan
Equatoria Juba 1919 South Sudan
Bahr al-Ghazal Waw 1948 South Sudan
Darfur al-Fashir 1919 Sudan
Kassala Kassala 1919 Sudan
Kurdufan al-Ubayyid 1919 Sudan
Kingdom of Egypt Cairo 1922 Egypt,
South Sudan
(Part of) the Kingdom of Egypt ( de facto ) 1947
area Capital (inhabitants) Area in km² Residents
Egypt (including Hala'ib triangle ) Cairo (inner city 2,090,654) 1,010,407.87 19,090,447
Anglo-Egyptian Sudan Khartoum (approx. 90,000, suburbs 230,000) 2,505,800 8,783,000
Kingdom of Egypt as a whole Cairo 3,516,207.87 27,873,447

Economic history

The Egyptian economy changed significantly during the existence of the empire. The technical changes accelerated both industrialization and urbanization . Capitalism spread over the national territory of the empire. First of all, economic centers developed around the capital Cairo and the other large cities, before industrialization also found its way into Anglo-Egyptian Sudan after the Second World War . Although the economy had grown rapidly in almost the entire national territory by the end of the kingdom and the entire economic growth could well measure up to that of the European powers, due to the late onset of this development, the kingdom of Egypt continued to lag behind in international comparison. 1928/28 was one of Egypt with Sudan about 60 large industrial companies and was before the Great Depression for the first industrialized country risen Africa at all. The driving force behind the industrialization of Egypt was the cotton processing industry. Their rise began in the 1890s, when numerous new agriculturally usable areas were opened up and could be irrigated all year round. With the revolution of 1919, in which there was a brief economic rise, Egypt experienced a new, unprecedented, economic boom from 1922, which lasted until 1930. The Egyptian cotton industry grew continuously. Before the Great Depression, Egypt had risen to become the second largest cotton exporter in the world after the United States and held a monopoly on the world market. However, Egyptian production was only 1-fourth that of the US. Egypt had no influence on the price of cotton products. The Egyptian cotton industry was dominated by local ethnic minorities such as Jews, Greeks and British. There were only three large indigenous Egyptian industries trading in cotton. The focus of development was the coastal areas, from which the products were semi-processed and shipped to Europe.


Dutch postcard of the Nile , 1922

Although Egypt had become the most industrialized country in Africa, agriculture had remained an important basis of the economy. In addition to cotton, agricultural production was concentrated on the cultivation of sugar cane , corn , rice , millet , potatoes , fruit and vegetables , peanuts , sesame , sorghum and wheat . Before the Great Depression, the distribution of the harvest consisted of an average of 40–50% cotton, 25–30% wheat, corn and beans and 10–20% remaining products.

The agricultural area was limited to the Nile valley , the Nile delta and the Jazira plain in Sudan between the White and the Blue Nile and some oases. The farmers ( fellahs ) cultivate the land using cultivation and irrigation methods that are sometimes thousands of years old. Mechanized agriculture only began after the Second World War. However, the irrigation methods on the Nile were changed from flood basins to year-round irrigation through sewers from the end of the 19th century. In the process, agricultural cultivation has changed from subsistence to an export orientation , so that, relatively speaking, fewer typical foods such as broad beans and cabbage could be harvested and exported to the whole of the Middle East . But the most important product remained cotton. Their cultivation, which was intensified from the 1920s onwards, quickly led to over-exploitation and salinization of the soil, which led to major crop losses and the spread of plant diseases . Diseases like byssinosis , malaria, and pests like hookworms spread. In the province of alhudud alfayida alone , 90% of the population were affected. Parts of those affected could never be cured and remained weak for life.

The Egyptian government under Adli Yakan Pascha and his successor Muhammad Mahmoud Pascha tried to take rehabilitation measures from 1927 to bring the situation back under control. The high investments led to the construction of river bifurcations and the financing of awareness campaigns. The problem could never be completely resolved until the revolution of 1952, in which rehabilitation measures were intensified.

Banking and monetary system

5 Millièmes with the portrait of King Fu'ad I, 1935

The Kingdom of Egypt had a professionally structured banking and credit system . However, until it was founded in 1961, the country lacked a central bank that would have been a tax instrument for all monetary, credit and economic policy in general. Their place was taken over by the National Bank of Egypt , whose capital was mainly British owned. It had a monopoly on issuing notes and acted de facto as the government's “paymaster”. Several foreign financial institutions also existed in the banking sector, most of them from France, Great Britain or Italy. They primarily handled the import and export business of merchants in the country. Initially, the Egyptian state was unable to exert any influence on this development. It was not until the later 1920s that some Egyptian aristocrats and upper-class citizens succeeded in gaining influence over the foreign banks. At the local level in rural areas, the aristocracy could barely gain a foothold and the bourgeoisie controlled the availability of money and credit with local moneylenders and landlords. However, the farmers, who urgently needed money to pay taxes between harvest times, were mostly denied loans and justified this with their poor creditworthiness . Comprehensive loans were only granted to large landowners, as their property was large enough to guarantee the necessary security. In order to solve this social emergency and to prevent the increasing impoverishment of the lower strata of the population, the state intervened itself in 1927 and made state loans available to the farmers. It was also the state itself that financed the establishment of the Bank Banque du Crédit Agricole Egypte in 1931 . Foreign investment , which in 1929 was around £ 400 to 500 million, skyrocketed because of the social security created and the stability of the country. Despite the threat of war, foreigners invested £ 200 million in Egypt in 1939 alone. Even after the Second World War, the country continued to attract foreign investors.

The currency system was linked to the British pound sterling (£), so there was a fixed exchange rate between sterling and the Egyptian pound . The latter was not established as the nation's only official currency until 1916. The Egyptian currency was closely linked to the fate of the British currency and monetary policy of the former colonial power. The Egyptian pound was also backed by British Treasury bonds , which in turn reflected the kingdom's dependence on Great Britain.

Foreign trade and service sector

After 1922, Egypt was fully integrated into the world market . Egyptian foreign trade made up 0.8% of the world market in 1928. This put Egypt ahead of the non-European countries. The country's connection to the world market was based mainly on the export of agricultural goods , semi-processed cotton and high-quality textiles . However, Egypt had no influence on the pricing of its products. Costly imports to modernize the country made Egypt dependent on the world market. In times of crisis in particular, the economy reacted very sensitively to fluctuations in the world market.

Beach in Alexandria , 1950

The most important trading partner of the empire was Europe . Western Europe in particular, with Great Britain as the largest trading partner. The mere presence of numerous British troops in the country during the First World War had enabled the development of a comprehensive service sector . Especially urban bourgeois entrepreneurs founded numerous small businesses , which later became larger companies . They also succeeded in selling more products abroad at higher prices through overproduction , which sank the national debt of the empire, which had grown enormously before the World War, and provided the kingdom's economy with a solid foundation.

The service sector grew significantly during the monarchy due to three factors. The first was the establishment of a comprehensive bureaucratic apparatus , which the political leadership considered necessary to stabilize the young state. The second reason was the expansion of the infrastructure and industrialization. The public service became a major employer .

The third reason for the growth of the service sector was the emergence of tourism . It has a comparatively long tradition in Egypt. In addition to an abundance of historical sites, luxurious seaside resorts and numerous archaeological sites, the empire also offered political security and stability. That attracted many rich people from Europe and America . Most visited the archaeological sites such as the Valley of the Kings or the pyramids . In the south of the country, in black Africa, big game was hunted . In this early phase there were also celebrities such as Winston Churchill and numerous European monarchs. Big game hunting became increasingly popular in the 1920s and 1930s, but remained exclusive. The influx of tourists, which after the Second World War developed into mass tourism in the final phase of the empire (in 1950 Egypt counted 0.1 million tourists), led to the establishment of a network of luxurious hotels and shops. The aristocracy and the peasants with the workers were excluded from this development and only benefited a fraction from it. Most employees had to work for starvation wages, and the standard of living in the cities improved significantly.

Raw materials industry

With the possessions in what is now Sudan and South Sudan, the Kingdom of Egypt had considerable mineral resources and was among the world's top performers in some industries. The raw materials industry flourished in the final phase of the Egyptian-Sudanese monarchy. The distribution of the profits between Egypt, the British and local Sudanese tribal leaders caused conflicts. The extraction methods turned out to be partly out of date.

Lehmziegelfabrik from the period of the Kingdom in Desouk

The oil industry experienced an enormous boom in the kingdom. Egypt had considerable oil reserves in the Gulf of Suez , in the westernmost part of the Libyan desert , on the Sinai Peninsula and in the Upper Nile and Bahr al-Ghazal regions of Sudan. Oil was discovered in the Gulf of Suez in 1869 and production began in 1910. Most of the deposits, however, were only increasingly developed by mostly foreign companies at the end of the 1930s. Before the Second World War, Egypt had the largest known oil reserves in North and East Africa and in 1939 rose to become one of the world's largest oil producers. Nevertheless, until 1974 only a fraction of the oil there was produced in Sudan. The same was true of the natural gas reserves , which were only started to be extracted in Egypt in 1975.

Other raw materials in the empire, such as phosphates , gold and iron , coal , copper , uranium and white sand , like crude oil, were only partially developed extensively after the country gained independence in 1922. The products were then mostly semi-processed and exported to Europe or America.

The extraction of natural resources gave rise to an extensive mining sector that became one of the kingdom's main economic foundations.

The most important natural resources of Egypt at the time were iron, which was important in building up its own heavy and armaments industry , the gold reserves , which first covered the Egyptian pound , and iron ore for large construction projects. The iron was used in the production of cars and trains . This led to assembly line production and mass production of affordable automobiles. In Egypt's major cities, the automobile began to replace horse-drawn vehicles as an individual means of transport in 1930. In the countryside, animals such as horses and donkeys continued to be the most common means of transport .

Egyptian iron ore was the basis of the country's construction industry . Large reserves have been created. The deposits came mainly from the city of Aswan and made the Kingdom of Egypt one of the world's largest promoters. In 1974 production was stopped. Non-ferrous metals, such as copper and zinc, have been discovered on the Sinai Peninsula and on the Red Sea coast. Although high reserves were already suspected at that time, the output remained low during the time of the monarchy. Only precious metals such as silver , platinum and gold , which had been found in the Arabian desert , were sufficiently developed and used. Platinum was used to manufacture laboratory equipment and, from 1949, also as a cladding for our own rockets . Silver was used to make jewelry , coins and cutlery . However, the Egyptian economy paid special attention to gold and copper . The latter was needed in building an advanced electrical industry in the country. Many Egyptians and Sudanese lived without access to Storm at that time. Gold was again stored as a currency reserve and the Egyptian pound was covered by gold reserves . Egypt was among the world's leaders in terms of gold reserves and production. The kingdom had become the largest producer of gold on the African continent and in the Middle East.

Despite the wealth of raw materials, one resource remained untouched. Phosphates, which were needed to set up a chemical industry and to produce urgently needed fertilizers for cotton , were hardly broken down. It was only after the revolution of 1952 that production began. Other raw materials in the vicinity of the phosphate deposits, such as ceramics , gemstones and precious stones , were mined for this because they were considered to be more useful. So jewelry was made from them, which was then sold to Europe at high prices. However, the chemical industry in Egypt began at the time of the kingdom. Sulfur was discovered in the Gulf of Suez and the entrance to the Red Sea . A modest sulfuric acid industry was established , which laid the foundation for the chemical industry and enabled the manufacture of explosives and chemical fertilizers, as well as pesticides for medicinal purposes and the bleaching of textiles. The latter turned out to be crucial for the industrialization of the country. The textile industry had been one of the main pillars of the industrial boom.

Also building materials , which were important for the manufacture of cement and mud bricks , and sandstone and limestone , which had also been the driving force behind industrialization. The empire had an enormous wealth of them. Limestone, for example, was used as a raw material in the cement, iron and steel industries from the quarries in the Siwa or El Alamein oases . But building materials were also important materials in the paint , plastic , rubber and paper industries , without which the economic upswing in the 1920s and 30s would probably not have existed.

The uranium deposits in Sudanese marble , gypsum and the Nuba Mountains were of great importance to the military . The deposits were first mined by the British and from 1951 onwards by Egypt for its nuclear program.

Economic crises

Egypt experienced two economic crises between 1922 and 1953 . The first was part of the Great Depression and lasted from 1929 to around 1935/36. The second took place after the British forces withdrew in 1946.

The world economic crisis reached the Egyptian monarchy as early as 1929. In contrast to other countries, it was not triggered equally by internal and external factors. Rather, three components of the crisis affected the country: the global agricultural crisis , the global financial crisis and the British currency crisis . The decisive prerequisites for the country's sensitivity were its great dependence on the cotton industry and its close ties to the British Empire . The country's cotton industry was exposed to the steadily falling cotton prices from 1925 onwards. The crisis accelerated the fall in prices. The total value of Egyptian cotton sank in the worst crisis years from 1932 to 1933 below the time before the First World War. The industrial production in general has been drastically reduced, falling by 60%. The second cause was the country's dependence on foreign capital markets . The increase in cotton production and the expansion of Egyptian foreign trade were financed by it. Also, since the country's financial system was linked to that of the British, fluctuations in the value of the pound sterling had a direct effect on the Egyptian currency.

The crisis in Egypt began parallel to Black Thursday 1929. First the financial crisis began in the country, whereupon numerous bankruptcies of Egyptian companies followed in connection with the events on Wall Street in New York . The damage was limited, however, as the stock market activity in Egypt was still a relatively new and unknown company. On the other hand, the population's trust in political and economic institutions was permanently undermined. However, the financial crisis was exacerbated by falling cotton prices and measures that Britain was taking in its own country. It did so on September 21, 1931 when Britain left the gold standard and the discount rate in London rose to six percent. The Egyptian trading exchanges then all had to be closed for a short time and the Egyptian pound had to go off the gold standard. It is true that this step proved to be an advantage compared to the main trading partner Great Britain. This was also beneficial for Egyptian industry, which was now protected against foreign imports. However, purchasing power decreased , the value of the Egyptian pound decreased and Egyptian commodity prices increased by 10% to 30%. Leaving the gold standard created another problem that had to be negotiated over several years. It concerned the repayment of the Egyptian national debt. Italian and French representatives demanded repayment in gold . However, Egypt was only willing to repay the debt in paper currency. The dispute was settled in favor of Egypt in 1936.

The Egyptian economy passed the low point of the crisis in 1932/33. During these years the price of cotton and Egyptian exports were at their lowest levels. The following year again saw a record cotton harvest. At the same time, cotton prices rose 15% in 1934. The government's rehabilitation measures also had an impact. She strove for a balanced trade balance and a healthy budget. In its efforts to curb imports and increase exports, it was decisively supported by the Egyptian banking system, which tried to finance the exports. In 1936 the monarchy was able to overcome the crisis.

Harbor scene in Port Said during the Great Depression , early 1930s
Decline in Egyptian industrial production in an international comparison at the height of the crisis
country decline
Egypt - 60%
United States - 46.8%
Poland - 46.6%
Canada - 42.4%
German Empire - 41.8%
Czechoslovakia - 40.4%
Netherlands - 37.4%
Italy - 33.0%
France - 31.3%
Belgium - 30.6%
Argentina - 17.0%
Denmark - 16.5%
Great Britain - 16.2%
Sweden - 10.3%
Japan - 8.5%

The second economic crisis of 1946 was an indirect consequence of World War II. The north-west of the country was completely destroyed by the fighting between the Italians and the British from 1940 to 1943. By 1945 cotton prices had fallen back to the level of the early 1920s. As a result, the money for a fundamental modernization of the economy could not be raised. The majority of the population did not feel any of this. It was only with the withdrawal of the British troops that the general public felt the effects of the crisis.

The presence of British troops since the occupation of the country in 1940 and the production of numerous war goods for the British in Egypt gave rise to new employers, in whose jobs tens of thousands of Egyptians and Sudanese worked. However, the hasty British withdrawal barely gave the Egyptian government time to take effective job creation measures . So the renewed lasted integration of the unemployed into the labor market often about the time of the Kingdom of addition and was next to the Palestine War , the main reason for the continuous decline of the prestige of the monarchy after the war.


Egypt had taken over 4500 km of railway network and a comparatively well-developed road network from the legacy of the Ottoman Empire . The most important mode of transport was the railroad , the network of the Egyptian State Railways , whose route length was around 6500 km around 1950, was the first in all of Africa . The railway transport and the tram service in the Kingdom of Egypt expanded rapidly. In the previous state, the Khedivat and Sultanate of Egypt , the Ottomans and the British colonial power had given massive financial support for the development of rail traffic for strategic reasons

Electric tram in Cairo, 1925

The rail and road network was concentrated in the Nile Valley and the Nile Delta . The Egyptian government considered investment in a new, improved transport system to be necessary in order to accelerate the industrialization of the country and the transport of the harvested cotton resources. Another reason for this was that the military leadership had recognized the great potential of rail transport for military purposes. The government had Egypt's rail network expanded, particularly in the 1930s. It tried to integrate important centers such as the capital Cairo , Alexandria , Khartoum , Port Said , Port Sudan , Omdurman , Kassala , Luxor , Gizeh , Suez , Juba and Wau into the network. For this purpose, British, Belgian , Italian and American companies in particular built the first test tracks. On the Sinai Peninsula , the British Palestine Railways company, separated from the Egyptian state railways, operated the Sinai Railway , which was connected to the British Mandate Palestine and which was part of a continuous rail link from Europe to Egypt between 1920 and 1939 - apart from the Bosporus - and Suez Canal crossing - was. For the now low volume of traffic, one track was initially completely sufficient. A second track was dismantled in 1923/24. The route led through Istanbul , Ankara , Aleppo , Damascus , Dera'a , Haifa and El Qantara . A connection to the Israeli rail network and the European one has not existed since the Palestine War , in which the Egyptian army dismantled the railways. The Egyptian state clearly improved the infrastructure of the empire , despite clear regional differences . Sand drifts in the Sahara and Sinai turned out to be problematic. The sand migrated both over the tracks and under the tracks, which led to some traffic accidents . Many announced large development projects and large projects could not be implemented. The exception was the expansion of the railway network in Sudan, which was operated with British aid. From 1923 to 1924, a 347 km long line was built between the small town of Hayya and Kassala. Between 1928 and 1929 a 237 km long route followed from al-Qadarif to Sannar and in 1953 a 227 km long connection from Sannar to ad-Damazin . A metro in Cairo, which was seen as a solution due to the city's population growth and worsening traffic problems, was also not built. To this end, the expansion of the trams in the big cities was pushed ahead. The most important example is the Alexandria tram , which began operating in 1863 and is one of the oldest in the world and the oldest in Africa. Most of the time, no costs were spared in expanding their routes and in acquiring the latest railcars. The same was true for the Cairo tram , which in this area became the fulcrum of the African continent and a lucrative source of income.

The road network of the empire remained rather modest compared to the railroad traffic system. Comprehensive road networks were only found in and around the large cities. Until 1970, there was only one paved road between Khartoum and Wad Madani in Sudan . Throughout the empire were next to some highways only rural roads and paths widespread.

The Egyptian sea and ship traffic played an important role in the economic rise of the country. The 162 km long Suez Canal between the Mediterranean port of Port Said and Port Taufiq near Suez on the Red Sea played a key role. Several smaller dams and new irrigation systems were also built in the Nile for agricultural reasons . There was no interest in the construction of the Aswan Dam , which was presented to the Egyptian government and King Faruq as a project by the Greek-Egyptian agricultural engineer Adrian Daninos in 1948 .

A British Avro York transport and passenger aircraft at Almaza Airport in Cairo, 1946

Due to the possessions in Sudan and on its own coasts , Egypt had several port cities with good seaports . The most important on Egyptian soil were Suez, Port Said and Alexandria, from whose port 60% of Egyptian foreign trade is now handled. For this purpose, the royal Egyptian navy had numerous ships built and anchored there. The upswing was preceded by the cotton boom that began in the early 1920s and required a better infrastructure to ship the products. Contrary to the original expectations of the country's political leadership, the Egyptian merchant fleet was only able to occupy an important regional position at the beginning of the empire. After the global economic crisis, therefore, the expansion of the most important port cities and the construction of a larger, improved merchant fleet began, which could gain a certain importance internationally. At the same time, the royal navy was upgraded and modernized, which began Egypt's rise to a sea ​​power in the Red and Mediterranean.

The main port for Anglo-Egyptian Sudan was Port Sudan , from where both Egyptian and British shipping companies operated. It was also expanded after the Second World War.

The air traffic in Egypt was during the time of existence of the kingdom still in its infancy. Most of the airfields were used for military purposes. On June 7, 1932, the Egyptian aviation pioneer Alan Muntz founded the private airline Misr Airwork . It was the first Egyptian airline ever. In July 1933, she set up the first daily scheduled flights from Cairo via Alexandria to Marsa Matruh . Due to the great demand, the route network was constantly expanded. Because of the increasing tourism, flights from Cairo- Asyut- Luxor- Aswan were organized twice a week from December 1933 along the Nile southwards . With the cities of Lod and Haifa in Palestine , the first international destinations were added to the route network in 1934 and, two years later, in 1936, the Cypriot Nicosia and Baghdad in the Kingdom of Iraq . The increasing number of flights caused Misr Airwork to flee more aircraft from 1935 and hire more staff. In 1935, 6,990 passengers and 21,830 kg of cargo were carried. With the outbreak of the Second World War, the Egyptian state took control of the airline in September 1939 and renamed it Misr Airlines . At that time, the airline had a pure de Havilland fleet with 18 types. In 1949 the company was renamed MisrAir . Between 1949 and 1952, the route network doubled with new destinations in Ethiopia , Greece , Iran , Yemen , Kuwait , Switzerland , Syria and Turkey . The number of employees also rose to over 1000. The fleet also grew with the aircraft that were modern at the time. In 1971 the airline adopted the name Egypt Air . Its hub is Cairo International Airport , which was founded in 1942 by the US Air Force as a military airport and, like all other British or US airfields up to then, was placed under Egyptian national control by ordinance on December 15, 1946. The sudden interest in air traffic that followed led to the renovation or construction of airports in the cities of Alexandria, Khartoum, Marsa Alam and Luxor.

Military affairs

The armed forces of Egypt , reestablished under Muhammad Ali Pascha in 1820, became the strongest military power on the African continent and in the Middle East from 1922 and justified the status of a regional great power . Her area of ​​responsibility was to be Egypt's territorial integrity , to protect the monarchy and to support Egyptian claims to the area through a permanent and strong presence in Sudan.

The army , the royal navy and the air force (founded in 1928) remained largely under the control of the Egyptian king or the government, apart from the approval of the necessary financial resources by parliament. The limits of the “power of command” of the king were hardly defined. It therefore remained one of the central pillars of the monarchy until the revolution of 1952.

Military parade of the army in Luxor , 1926
Flag of the Egyptian Armed Forces until 1952

The army was hardly directed against external enemies, since almost all of Africa was in European hands at the time, but rather, according to the will of the military leadership inside, it was supposed to be deployed during strikes and create security. In practice, however, the army was rarely used in major strikes or protests and only proceeded with full force against the Muslim Brotherhood and Communists . Nonetheless, as a potential threat, the army constituted a domestic political power factor that should not be underestimated.

The close ties to the Egyptian monarchy and elite were initially reflected in the heavily aristocratic Albanian and Turkish officers' corps , which the king had put back into service after being dismissed by the British colonial rulers. Even later, the aristocracy retained a strong position among the leadership ranks, although the middle class penetrated more strongly in the middle area with the expansion of the army and air force. The appropriate selection and internal socialization in the military ensured that the self-image of this group hardly differed from that of its aristocratic comrades. Loyalty to the monarchy was lower among the lower ranks and, after the Palestinian War in 1949, led to the founding of the revolutionary movement of the Free Officers , which was ultimately responsible for the coup d'état against the monarchy in 1952 .

Egyptian military planes in a parade over the Abdeen Palace in Cairo to celebrate the marriage of King Faruq to Queen Farida of Egypt , January 20, 1938

Under British rule , when the army was under the command of a British sirdar , society viewed the military with rather suspicion. This changed fundamentally after independence in 1922, when the army unofficially supported the insurgents. The military became a central element of emerging patriotism and rising nationalism. Criticism of the military was considered unpatriotic. However, the parties did not support an expansion of the army indefinitely. During the general mobilization in September 1939 , the military , with a strength of around 100,000 men, reached the strength prescribed by the constitution in times of crisis.

The Egyptian armed forces found themselves in a phase of modernization parallel to the industrialization of the country in the following years. In 1928 the parliament decided to establish an Egyptian air force of its own. On November 2, 1930, King Fu'ad I announced the establishment of the Egyptian Army Air Force (EAAF). On May 27, 1931, the Egyptian government bought the first five aircraft and decided to build the Almaza military airfield in northeastern Cairo . The plant was inaugurated in May 1932. In 1934 the British government of Egypt sold ten Avro 626 aircraft, which were the first real Egyptian military aircraft. In 1937 the Egyptian Army Air Force was separated from the joint army command and became a separate armed force as the Royal Egyptian Air Force (REAF). As a result, new stations were built in the Suez Canal Zone and in Lower Egypt .

The royal Egyptian navy was also constantly expanded. Due to the lack of fuel, aircraft carriers or adequate protection by the air force and because of the information superiority of other fleets ( radar , ultra ) , the possibilities of action of the prestigious fleet were limited to combat missions with good visibility and to operations in the central Mediterranean. Due to a poorly organized command structure, the fleet was in fact unable to act. This was shown in the sinking of twelve sailing ships of the Egyptian merchant fleet , which had no anti-skid protection , and the steamer Said by the three German submarines U 81 , U 77 and U 83 . The Egyptian Navy had not been able to protect their ships adequately during the entire Second World War. The resulting material damage was enormous due to the sinking of numerous important raw materials. As a result, there was a lack of raw materials to replace lost ships. And contrary to the original assumptions, the new Egyptian Air Force was not able to adequately protect the fleet on the high seas, on the one hand because the reaction times were too long despite strategically located airfields, on the other hand because the rivalries between the two armed forces and the structures created as a result were not smooth Allowed cooperation.

The most important and most powerful armed force was the Egyptian army, which gained a very strong social impact during the kingdom. The officer corps was considered by large parts of the population to be the “first estate in the state.” Its worldview was shaped by loyalty to the monarchy and the defense of royal rights; it was conservative, anti-socialist, secular and fundamentally anti-democratic. In 1946, the Egyptian government dismissed all British officers.

The military was undoubtedly also of importance for the internal formation of nations. The common service between Egyptians and Sudanese promoted the integration of the Sudanese people in an empire dominated by Egypt. Even the black African population, who viewed the Muslim-Arab-dominated state with suspicion, did not remain immune to the radiance of the military. Up until the Second World War, all men between the ages of 19 and 27 had to do military service. However, because of the oversupply of conscripts in Egypt and an army of only 23,000 men in peacetime, only a fraction of the age group followed the draft order and did active military service.

The militarism in Egyptian society had since the accession to power of the Muhammad Ali dynasty firmly anchored. Everywhere in the empire the new war clubs became carriers of a militaristic worldview. With a few thousand members, however, their impact and influence remain small. Nevertheless, the armed forces had a reputation among the population for being invincible and the actual military strength was overestimated. This was shown in the Egyptian-Arab war of aggression in Palestine , which the government decided at short notice without taking into account the state of the armed forces and the capacities required for the war. Economic, geostrategic and topographical factors as well as the lack of public support for the war were also ignored. Inadequate preparation, leadership, motivation and outdated equipment led, especially in the field of the Egyptian land and air forces, after minor initial successes in southern Israel, to devastating military disasters, which both internationally and in Egypt itself solidified a picture of military inability and the previously undisputed role as the most powerful questioned Islamic land.

The defeat in the Palestinian War, in which the Egyptian army was driven back to the area of ​​today's Gaza Strip with heavy human losses despite military and financial aid granted from Saudi Arabia and other Arab states , damaged the reputation of the Egyptian military and that Officers' confidence in the country's political leadership is substantial. Nevertheless, compared to the monarchy's loss of trust among the people, this remained small and the army soon became popular again. One reason for this was certainly the renewed modernization that began in leaps and bounds. As early as March 1949, Egypt began developing its own missile program and experimenting with new biological weapons . In 1951, with Soviet help, they even started a nuclear program to develop their own Egyptian atomic bomb . However, the efforts to achieve this were insufficient. It was not until 1958 that serious steps towards the bomb were taken with the construction of the Soviet nuclear reactor ETRR-1 near the city of Bilbeis .

Former Wehrmacht officers and members of the SS played a decisive role in the reconstruction of the Egyptian armed forces after 1948 . For example, the former General Wilhelm Fahrmbacher took over the training of the armed forces. A former German captain worked as an instructor in the Egyptian Navy . In total, around 50 people from Germany were employed in the military in Egypt at the beginning of the 1950s. Wilhelm Voss , general director of the Reichswerke “Hermann Göring” during the time of National Socialism , built up a new armaments industry of rather low capacity in Egypt . In addition to factories for small arms and ammunition, there were also “first missile designs”. Rolf Engel , a German rocket -Ingenieur and former SS - Hauptsturmführer , tried his hand at developing smaller rockets, but all but not proved functional.

The armed forces were administratively divided into several military districts , which in their boundaries corresponded exactly to the provinces of the empire.

Demographics and society

Fundamental demographic, societal and social changes occurred in the time of the kingdom, which also influenced culture and politics to a considerable extent. A sign of this was the enormous population growth (an average of 1.2% per year). In 1927 there were 21.224 million inhabitants in the Reich, in 1937 there were over 23.259 million and in 1947 27.873 million inhabitants. Not least because of internal migration - initially from the surrounding area, later also through long-distance migration , for example from the agricultural areas to Cairo or to the coastal cities - the urban population, especially the urban population, grew strongly. Cairo grew from around 1 million inhabitants to 1.3 million between 1927 and 1937, Alexandria from 580,000 to 682,000, Port Said to over 100,000 and Khartoum to 70,000 inhabitants. In 1937, 25% of the Egyptian and Sudanese population lived in cities with over 20,000 inhabitants. Migration to the cities took on the proportions of rural exodus during World War II .

The Nile Valley with the Egyptian cities
The major Sudanese cities

In the remaining rural areas in Egypt there was an immigration of Sudanese. Since the population settled on a long, narrow cultivable strip of land along the Nile and in the delta, the population density increased by leaps and bounds. In 1927 the population density in Upper Egypt was 474 people per kilometer and in Lower Egypt 474 people / km². This led to enormous population pressure.

The ten largest Egyptian and Sudanese cities in 1937
city Residents
Cairo 1,312,091
Alexandria 682,000
Giza 300,000
Shubra al-Khaimah 200,000
Port Said 100,000
Sue 80,000
Khartoum 70,000
Luxor 60,000
al-Mansura 40,000
al-Mahalla al-Kubra 30,000

In terms of social history , the empire was primarily shaped by the rise of the working class. In the process, the different groups of origin of unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled workers tended to develop a specific self-image of the working population due to the common experiences at work and in the remote residential areas of the cities, despite all the remaining differences. With the emergence of large enterprises, new state services and the increase in trade and transport, the number of white-collar workers and small and medium-sized civil servants also increased. They kept a social distance from the workers, even if their economic situation differed little from that of the industrial workers.

The old urban middle class was one of the stagnant parts of society. Craftsmen and small businesses often felt that their very existence was threatened by industry. The reality was different, however: there were overstaffed traditional craft trades; on the other hand, the building and food trades benefited from the growing population and urban development. Many professions adapted to developments.

After independence, the aspiring upper bourgeoisie largely succeeded in enforcing its cultural norms, with the economic bourgeoisie (including the great industrialists ) leading the way in economic terms. Nonetheless, the political influence of the bourgeoisie remained limited, for example by the characteristics of the political system and the rise of the workers and the new middle classes.

Economically, the existence of the landed nobility was threatened by the increasing international interdependence of the agricultural market. Demand from the nobility and agricultural pressure groups for state aid became a feature of domestic politics during the kingdom. At the same time, the Egyptian constitution ensured that the nobility retained numerous special rights. The aristocracy was also able to maintain its influence in the military, diplomacy and bureaucracy.

A broad modernist movement also formed in Egypt at this time, including intellectuals such as Tāhā Husain , Salāma Mūsā and the Islamic scholar ʿAlī ʿAbd ar-Rāziq . There was also a strong women's rights movement that fought for more equality and women's suffrage . Independence also gave the secular forces more impetus. In the 1920s, almost all Egyptian governments were secular or in some cases even anti-religious and reforms such as the separation of state and church were implemented.

National minorities

The Kingdom of Egypt saw itself as a unified nation-state . Nevertheless, in 1937 there was a large non-Arabic-speaking minority among the then almost 23 million inhabitants. Including a European minority, the approx. 100,000 Circassians , 100,000 Turks (other estimates assume over a million Circassians and Turks each), 60,000 Greeks , 52,462 Italians , 30,000 Armenians , 20,000 French , 20,000 British , 20,000 Maltese , 10,000 Albanians and one a few thousand Germans and Swiss and a smaller Asian community. These two minorities lived mostly in Cairo, Alexandria and Khartoum. Another minority was the black African population in the south of Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. The black African peoples of the Nilots (especially the Dinka) with their Nilosaharan languages . From 1922 onwards, the Egyptian government increasingly pursued a fundamental policy of cultural Arabization . The replacement of the mother tongue by Arabic-language lessons played a central role in newly established schools. In this context, mostly secular teachers were sent in order not to bring about an Islamization of the region in which the Egyptian leadership had shown no interest. Although it improved the education system and provided more people in South Sudan with access to education, this policy had limited success or, as critics noted, was counterproductive, as it did well the black Africans , who were previously tolerant of the Egyptian state could live against the new authorities. There was increasing alienation between black Africans and Arabs in mixed-populated areas. The minority tried to preserve their own identity and was able to isolate themselves successfully through the British Southern Policy . The resulting aggravated conflict later led to the civil war in South Sudan.

The European minority remained unaffected by the government's Arabization measures. Their languages ​​have been admitted as a second school language in school lessons. The French language played a special role. It was used in communications, on official Egyptian documents, and in diplomacy. In fact, alongside English, it was an official and judicial language of the state. This development did not occur in the case of the Italian or Greek languages. In addition to the Albanian and Armenian minorities, they were only spoken by a small, isolated population group. The Turkish-Ottoman language lost its importance enormously during the kingdom, as it lost its status as an official language in 1922. Nevertheless, the European minority had a comparatively large cultural, economic and sometimes political influence in the state.


The Europeans had been present in Egypt since the French Egyptian expedition . Immigration increased after independence through industrialization .

The Italian minority, who mostly lived in Alexandria and in the so-called Venetian Quarter in Cairo, held important positions in the administration and in the military and had a great influence on the cultural and economic life in the big cities. Italian architects were important actors in the design of cities like Cairo, Alexandria or Khartoum. Italian officials, on the other hand, helped decide in 1922 to build a modern, independent Egyptian state. In 1937 there were 52,462 Italians in Egypt, and in 1940 there were over 60,000.

The Italian-Egyptian relations were untroubled until the Second World War. In particular, the good relations between the ruling Muhammad Ali dynasty and the Italian royal house of Savoy enabled the Italian minority to flourish in terms of culture. Many Italians worked as traders, artisans, or ran some of the largest foreign industries in the country. From the 1930s onwards, the majority of the minority organized themselves politically in a separate Egyptian branch of the Italian National Fascist Party . As a result, after the occupation of the country in 1940, British authorities interned around 8,000 Italians who were accused of sympathy with the enemy. In the areas of Egypt that were temporarily conquered by the Kingdom of Italy in 1940, however, the British minority was interned. In fact, however, numerous Egyptian nationalist organizations and the majority of public opinion, including the young officers Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar al-Sadat , showed sympathy for the Italian fascist ideals against the influence of the British Empire in Egypt and the Mediterranean . Nasser and Sadat were even ready to organize an uprising in Cairo in the summer of 1942, when Rommel was on the verge of a possible conquest of Alexandria.

During the fascist era there were eight public and six Italian church schools. The state schools were personally supervised by the Italian consulate in Alexandria and had a total enrollment of about 1,500. Other schools had student bodies, and in 1940 Alexandria had 22 philanthropic societies.

In addition to the Italian minority, there was also a large Greek minority, which in 1940 numbered around 25,000 people. Most of the Greek community lived in Alexandria. There she had an inn for Greek travelers, a hospital founded in 1938 and later a Greek school.

There were also smaller communities in Cairo (founded 1856), al-Mansura (founded 1860), Port Said (founded 1870), Tanta (founded 1880), Zagazig (founded 1870) and al-Minya (founded 1862).

Armenian Refugees making Fly-nets, work by James McBey , 1917

The first banks in Egypt were created by the Greeks and the banking system was expanded at the time of the kingdom. It was also Greek farmers and farmers who cultivated cotton and tobacco cultivation through systematic and scientific planning . They improved the quantity and quality of production and dominated cotton and tobacco exports. Notable families in the tobacco trade were the Salvagos, Benakis, Rodochanakis, and Zervoudachis. As a result, trade flourished between Egypt and the Kingdom of Greece , where a small Egyptian minority also lived. Other economic areas of interest to the Greeks were the food industry, wine and soap production, and wood crafts.

Culturally, the minority organized itself in numerous Greek theaters, cinemas and newspapers. The main Greek newspapers were Ta grammata, Tahidromos and Nea Zoi. The Greek community also produced numerous artists, writers, diplomats and politicians, the most famous of whom were the poet Konstantinos Kavafis and the painter Konstantinos Parthenis .

During the Second World War, more than 7,000 Greeks fought for the Allies in the Middle East and Egypt took in numerous Greek refugees after the Balkan campaign . The minority's financial contribution to the war reached 2,500 million Egyptian pounds.

The emergence of a Greek aristocracy of rich industrialists, big landowners and bankers led to the rise of the minority in the country's political elite. After independence, the Greeks donated large amounts for the building of schools, academies , hospitals and administrative facilities in Egypt.

One of the oldest minorities was the Albanian community in the country . Albanian immigration to Egypt had already started at the beginning of the 19th century. At the time of the kingdom, the massive economic development and prosperity attracted many emigrants from the kingdom of Albania , especially from Korça and Kolonja County . With a few exceptions, most of the residents were members of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania . Many of them held high positions in administration and in the military, where the numerically well-represented aristocratic Albanian officer corps set the tone.

After independence, the Albanian minority experienced another boom. From 1925 to 1926, the weekly newspaper Bisedimet was published with a total of 60 issues, which was the last newspaper in Albanian in Egypt. In 1922 the publishing company Shtëpia botonjëse shqiptare / Société albanaise d'édition was founded. This was combined with other associations and publishers in 1924 to form the Lidhja e Shqiptarve te Egjiptit ("League of the Albanians of Egypt"). Other such companies followed. In 1926 the Shoqerija Mireberse and Shoqeria e Miqeve in 1927.

The Swiss café and former chocolate factory Groppi in Cairo opened in 1920

The only purely Albanian school in Egypt was operated from 1934 to 1939. But had to close again.

During the Second World War, the Albanian minority organized itself politically in favor of the Allies . In 1940, the monarchist Evangjel Avramushi founded the first Albanian cinema in Egypt, called AHRAM. The Albanian community grew due to the influx of Albanians who had fled Albania after the communist takeover by Enver Hoxha . In 1946, the former King Zogu I and the Albanian royal family moved to Egypt and were received by King Faruq. This led to tension with the People's Socialist Republic of Albania .

There has also been a large Turkish and Armenian minority since the time of the Ottoman Empire . Turkish immigration began to increase after 1922, when the Omani Empire ended. Numerous nobles and aristocrats fled to Egypt with their wealth. Around 1930 the Turkish minority comprised between one hundred and three hundred thousand inhabitants. A large number of them lived in Cairo, the others mostly in Alexandria. The Turks held the highest state offices and were over-represented in both the military and civil life of the monarchy and held the dominant position in the higher social groups, especially in the big cities.

The Armenians had settled in Egypt after the genocide that began in 1915 . The total number of Armenians in Egypt in 1917 was 12,854. It peaked in 1927 to over 17,000 residents, mostly concentrated in Cairo and Alexandria. At the beginning of 1952 there were around 40,000 Armenians in the Kingdom of Egypt. They ran large companies in all economic areas and politically organized themselves predominantly for social democracy . In 1950 the minority owned six schools of their own. The last one was founded in Cairo in 1925.

The British and French minorities, in contrast to the rest, hardly took part in political life in the country. The British instead dominated the cotton trade and the French tried to modernize agriculture in Sudan . The French were also among the leading designers of Khartoum and were mainly culturally present throughout the empire. The French-speaking minority still included about 20,000 Maltese who had settled in Egypt largely during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Most spoke French, Italian or English. Favored by the proximity of the two countries and the similarity between the Maltese and Arabic languages, from 1922 many Maltese people came to Egypt, especially Alexandria.

In 1926 there were around 20,000 Maltese in Egypt. Most belonged to the middle class and lived mostly in Alexandria and Cairo.

The politically most influential minority, besides the Turks, were the Circassians in Egypt. They were deeply rooted in Egyptian society and the country's history. For centuries, the Circassians were part of the Egyptian aristocracy and held high military, political and social positions. Circassians were also represented by members of the royal family and at the royal court. The queens Nazli and Farida and Princess Fawzia, who later became the wife of the Emperor of Iran, had ancestors of Circassian origin.

The Circassian role in Egyptian cultural and intellectual life in the kingdom was described by the minority as the golden era. Egyptian cinema at that time was dominated by mostly popular actors and actresses such as Hind Rostom , Leila Fawzy , Mariam Fakhr Eddine , Rushdy Abaza , all of whom came from Circassian families. These families , mostly from the Ottoman Empire , had assimilated over time. However, the population of Egypt still fluctuated between 100,000 and over a million Circassians in 1930. Most of them had mixed with the Arab population and belonged to the Adyghe or Abaza families , the largest extended family in the country with more than 50,000 members. It was also one of the richest families in Egypt and played an important role in Egyptian business life for many years.

All nationalities were represented relatively stable in the Egyptian parliament and, despite their comparatively small number, held overly important political offices in the state. Yet most Europeans stuck to their origins.

The era of the European minority in Egypt ended with the revolution of 1952 and the abolition of the monarchy in 1953. The new military regime tried to expel or assimilate the minorities through nationalist, socialist and anti-colonialist policies. The Italian minority reduced to a few thousand members and most of the Italian Egyptians returned to Italy in the 1950s and 1960s . The exodus of the Greeks began with the nationalization of many Greek businesses in 1957, with many of them emigrating to Australia , the United States , Canada , South Africa , Western Europe, and Greece . Many Greek schools, churches, small communities and other institutions were subsequently closed. The same was true of the Egyptian Armenians and Maltese, who had to leave the country after the Suez crisis in 1956.

Black Africans and Britain's Southern Policy

Azande soldiers

In addition to the Europeans, there was also a large black African minority, which represented the second largest population group and lived predominantly in the south. In 1950 there were 2,575,000 people living in what is now South Sudan ; in 1960 there were already over three million. They were spread across over 60 different ethnic groups with over 80 languages. The main population groups were the Dinka , Luo , Nuer , Schilluk , Toposa , Lotuko , Acholi , Azande , Bari and Baggara . These peoples settled in different regions and were sometimes enemies with one another. Therefore, South Sudan remained a conflict-ridden region and posed a threat to the stability of the empire. Egypt also failed to make the large agricultural areas usable for itself.

After independence, Egypt tried to industrialize South Sudan by using new European-Egyptian technology and to bring the underdeveloped economy to the level of the north of the empire. An attempt was also made to involve the South Sudanese in political life by replacing the authoritarian form of social organization of the tribes with the liberal parliamentary Egyptian traditions and thereby "outdo" the British. To resolve the ethnic conflicts , the Egyptians and British rearranged the South Sudanese provinces according to ethnic boundaries.

The British colonial administration in Sudan was the first to support Egypt's plans. However, the crisis of 1924 led to a rethink and the isolation of the south from the north. Great Britain feared that the Arabization of the South would bring the entire country back into Egyptian hands. The official justification was that the south was not ready for modernization due to constant tribal wars and the slave trade . So that the so-called Southern Policy could be implemented, the south was effectively separated from the north along the indigenous lines . On paper, however, Sudan remained as a unit.

Historical map of South Sudan according to Emin Pasha

The Kingdom of Egypt tried to keep at least the economy of the area under its control through some Arab merchants who were sent into the country . However, the merchants had only limited control over commercial activities in the region, while Arab bureaucrats administered the region independently of the laws of the motherland. Britain tried to counter this by sending Christian missionaries , building new schools and clinics, and providing limited social services. Missionaries came from all over the world, each trying to enforce their direction of Christianity . The British colonial government eventually subsidized the mission schools. Since missionized persons in the public service were often preferred by the Birts, the Egyptians viewed this as a tool of "British imperialism ". The division was also tightened by sending the few inhabitants of the south who received higher education to schools in British East Africa ( Kenya , Uganda and Tanzania ).

The British authorities consolidated the division in the 1930s and after the end of World War II . London also stepped up its separate development policy , replacing the Egyptian-Arab administrators with British and driving out all Arab merchants, thus severing the South's last economic contacts with the monarchy. The colonial administration also curbed the spread of Islam , which was already present through Arab customs and the wearing of Arab clothing. At the same time, efforts were being made to revive African customs and tribal life that had been disrupted by the slave trade and Egyptian reforms. Ultimately, in 1930, all black African peoples in the southern provinces were declared to be a people that had to be regarded as independent from the north, and was intended to form a preliminary stage for the eventual absorption of South Sudan into British East Africa. However, this policy turned out to be fatal and led to the intensification of the previous black African-Arab conflict in the kingdom and resulted in the independence of South Sudan in 2011. The economic development of the south is still suffering due to the increasing isolation of the region. Added to this were the internal rivalries of the British colonial administration in the country, which had split into a pro-Egyptian-Sudanese camp in the north and an anti-Arab camp in the south.


Bedouins wander through Cairo, historic photograph

In addition to the European and large black African minority, there was a steadily growing, relatively young African-Asian community in the Kingdom of Egypt, whose members mostly came from Algeria , Italian Libya , Lebanon , Syria , British India , the Japanese Empire and the Republic of China . However, with the Bedouins and Berbers, there were two nomadic desert peoples who had lived there for thousands of years.

The most important ethnic group was the Syrian-Lebanese minority ( Levantines ), which played an important role in Egypt's economy and culture. She also had a pioneering role in modernizing Egyptian society. For example, when founding their own Egyptian newspaper and printing industry and a modern banking system.

In the cultural field, Syrian-Lebanese families had an enormous influence. For example the popular magazine Rose al-Yūsuf and the material culture of Cairo, which was decisively shaped by Lebanese-Syrian architects . In 1930 the community numbered more than 100,000 members and provided civil servants, hairdressers, shoemakers, drivers, engineers, dentists, doctors, merchants and painters. Their total wealth comprised 10% of the Egyptian gross domestic product . Those who had invested in the capital ran small businesses in oil, soaps, tobacco and pastries . Others established important factories for the production of salt, sodium, textiles, perfume, wood and silk outside the big cities. This economic success led to the establishment of own schools, associations and non-profit organizations that were closely connected to the Egyptian monarchy.

Al-Mansura was an important center of the community , where the Levantines employed many lawyers, doctors, pharmacists, bankers and financial agents and owned large cotton companies, real estate, hotels and banks. Most of the families belonged to the aristocracy and carried the title Count , Pascha , Bak or even Emir . Most of the Levantines left Egypt with the abolition of the aristocracy in 1953 and moved back to their home countries Lebanon (especially Beirut ) and Syria.

A smaller, newer congregation was the Chinese congregation, which had existed constantly in Egypt since the end of the 19th century. Most of the immigrants were Chinese Muslims who wanted to graduate from Azhar University . The earliest government sponsored Chinese students were sent to Egypt in 1931. They were the first Chinese students in the Middle East . The Republic of China (1912–1949) sent mostly Muslim Hui Chinese to the Azhar in Egypt. 1931 opened graduates in Beijing a library after King Fu'ad I was named. At that time, Sino-Egyptian relations were at their peak. However, relations cooled off considerably after the Second World War. The communist takeover of Mao Zedong in October 1949 led to the breakup and expulsion of most of the minority.

Since the late 1920s, several Japanese railway engineers and experts lived in Egypt, who were made available to Egypt for industrialization by the Japanese Empire. They came into British captivity from 1941 during the Second World War and the minority lost importance after the war.

In addition to the Southeast Asian and the long-established Lebanese-Syrian minority, Roma , Muslim Indians and Pakistani from British India moved to Egypt after independence . Although a Roma minority had existed for centuries, it was only of regional importance. Independence and the associated cultural and political freedoms enabled the Roma to advance in musical entertainment, such as at weddings and other celebrations, where they soon played an important role. The other immigrants from India often worked as guest workers in industrial plants, but remained socially marginalized . The same was true of the Algerians and other Arabs who increasingly moved to Egypt after the Second World War.

For the Berbers and Bedouins who had long lived in Egypt , the period of the kingdom was not a special time. The royal Egyptian government tried to modernize their way of life more or less gently and to make the peoples settled, but ultimately respected their customs and traditions. The number of Berbers ranged from 100,000 to 200,000 in 1922, but fell sharply through the loss of Egyptian territories to Italy until 1934.


The denominational differences also changed for the economy and society during this time of the kingdom. They shape Egypt to this day. While the Muslim majority increased enormously due to the population growth and Judaism temporarily gained importance due to the immigration of refugees from Europe, the proportion of Christian Copts in the total population fell. However, all three religions were affected by a radical process of secularization, with which the Wafd party in particular wanted to modernize Egyptian society.

A Jewish wedding in Alexandria , 1936
King Faruq with the Coptic Pope Yohannes XIX. and the then general secretary of the Wafd party Makram Ebeid in Alexandria, 1940
King Faruq with high-ranking politicians and the military at a banquet on Ramadan

As today, the largest religious community was Sunni Islam . Despite formal privileges for Islam ( state religion ), the Kingdom of Egypt saw itself as neutral in matters of faith and abolished its laws with the constitution of 1923. In return for the repeal of all still discriminatory regulations from the Ottoman era for the non-Muslim minorities, it was expected that they should integrate and assimilate in the long term. The Egyptian state also tried to bring under its own control the religious institutions that had existed since the Ottoman rule . Until then, the Egyptian education and health system, the public service and the legal system were in the hands of the high Islamic clergy. The ʿUlamā ' (religious scholars) were therefore massively displaced from their role in public from 1925 and some were banished to remote regions of the empire. This was one of the main reasons why the Muslim Brotherhood , which called for the restoration of the privileges of the clergy, was formed in 1928 .

Under the kingdom, the Egyptian state was largely friendly to its Jewish population, although between 86% and 94% of the Jews in Egypt were non-Egyptian. The majority of them belonged to the European minority and played an important role in building up the economy and administration. The subsequent increasing prosperity and the Nazis' takeover of power in 1933 caused the number of Egyptian Jews to rise to between 80,000 and 120,000 due to the immigration of refugees. Many Jewish communities maintained extensive economic relationships with non-Jewish Egyptians. The large significant Jewish bourgeois families such as the Qattawi, Adès, Aghion, Goar, Mosseri, Nachman, Pinto, Rolo and Tilche also maintained political relations with the Egyptian aristocracy and financed the election campaigns of the major parties. Other bourgeois Jewish families, especially members of the Karaite community , operated a purely “ethnic economy” in which their business partners and customers were mostly other Jews.

Most of the Jewish community in Egypt lived in Alexandria and Cairo (around 55,000 to 60,000 Jews). In the capital, they were mostly settled in the two neighboring quarters harat al-yahud al-qara'in or harat al-yahud .

In Egyptian nationalism, which rose rapidly after 1922, individual Jews occupied important positions. René Qattawi , head of the Sephardic community in Cairo, coined the slogan in 1935: "Egypt is our homeland, Arabic is our language." The Egyptian-Jewish nationalist movement, which rejected Zionism , which sought to establish a national home for the Jews in Palestine , organized itself into several influential associations. At the session of the World Jewish Congress in 1943, Qattawi proposed the economically more attractive Egypt as an alternative to Palestine, which he considered to be unable to accept the large mass of Jewish refugees from Europe.

Although Zionism was rejected by the vast majority of Egyptian Jews, the Zionist movement also had important representatives in Egypt. The Jewish scholar Murad Beh Farag (1866–1956) was both a loyal Egyptian nationalist, who was one of the co-authors of the constitution in 1923, and a passionate Zionist. His poem "My homeland Egypt, place of my birth", which expressed his loyalty to royal Egypt, met with a great response from the population. His book al-Qudsiyyat ("Jerusalemica"), published in 1923, defended the right of Jews to a state.

Other famous Jewish-Egyptian personalities such as Yaqub Sanu or Henri Curiel, who represented a radical anti- monarchist and anti-British, rather communist- oriented direction of Egyptian nationalism, were marginalized and found hardly any supporters even among Muslim Egyptians.

A turning point for Egyptian Jews came in 1937 when the government of Mustafa an-Nahhas Pascha and his successor Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil lifted the tax exemption for foreigners from Syria, Greece, Italy and Armenia. This also affected the majority of Jews, many of whom were citizens of these countries and then became partially impoverished. The exemptions from taxation for foreign nationals had given Jews very positive economic benefits in trade within Egypt. Many European Jews after 1933 used Egyptian banks as a common destination for transferring money, jewelry, and gold from Central Europe. In addition, the Egyptian Jews had often served as a bridge between the communities of their home countries, which had made it easier for Egypt to develop extensive economic relations with European countries. Some members of the Qattawi family, such as Aslan Qattawi 'Yusuf, sat on the board of directors of Banque Misr or were diplomats. This showed the close ties between the Jewish, Christian and Muslim populations in the country's political elite, in business and in cultural life.

The effects of the escalating Arab-Jewish conflict in Palestine from 1936–1939, along with the rise of Nazi Germany, began to affect Jewish relations with Egyptian society, even though the number of active Zionists in their ranks was small. With the rise of local militant nationalist-Islamist organizations such as the Young Egyptian Party or the Muslim Brotherhood , which showed understanding for German racial politics , anti-Semitism was able to gain a social and political footing in Egypt from 1933 onwards. The Muslim Brotherhood went so far as to circulate falsified reports in its factories and mosques that Jews and British destroyed the holy places in Jerusalem and killed hundreds of Arab women and children. Anti-Semitism came to a head with the territorial expansion of the German Empire and the fascist Kingdom of Italy in Europe in Egypt. Although the Italians and Rommel were not considered anti-Semites, anti-imperialist, ultra-nationalist and Islamist Arab associations, which rejected either the Egyptian monarchy, the democratic state system or the increasing secularization of society, gained popularity through their foray into Egypt. During the war, the Muslim Brotherhood distributed thousands of anti-Semitic hate speech and propaganda papers, which massively damaged the relationship between Jews and Arabs in Egypt.

In the second half of the 1940s, the situation worsened. In 1945 the Jewish quarter of Cairo was badly damaged in a pogrom . As the partition of Palestine and the establishment of Israel drew nearer, hostilities intensified. Both the liberal press and parts of the previously tolerant Egyptian elite launched smear campaigns against all foreigners, Jews, Christians and communists. The increasing ethnocentric nationalism also led to the Jews being disadvantaged when acquiring Egyptian citizenship, where bureaucratic hurdles were usually placed in their way.

The Egyptian government and the royal family were initially neutral on the question of Palestine. However, the increasing pressure from the streets led to a clear positioning of the Kingdom of Egypt on the side of the opponents of a new Jewish state. On November 24, 1947, the head of the Egyptian delegation to the United Nations General Assembly, Muhammad Hussein Heykal Pasha , declared that the creation of a Jewish state would put the lives of 1,000,000 Jews in Muslim countries in question. On the same day he added:

"If the United Nations chooses to amputate part of Palestine to create a Jewish state ... inevitably, Jewish blood will be shed elsewhere, putting Jews in grave danger in the Arab world."

The Egyptian Prime Minister Nuqrashi again told the British Ambassador in Cairo Ronald Ian Campbell in 1948 that all Jews were potential Zionists

"[And] ... all Zionists are communists anyway."

The establishment of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent Arab-Israeli war effectively meant the end of the Jewish community in Egypt. 5,000 Jews emigrated during the war. Later, until 1950, bomb attacks and bloody riots, in which several thousand people died, led to the emigration of almost 40% of the Jewish population. As a result, the Jewish community lost its importance in all areas of the state and became a small, insignificant fringe group.

After independence, the Christian Coptic community fared similarly to the Jewish community. After 1922, King Fu'ad I appointed many Copts as judges in Egyptian courts and gave them representation in the government. He also made the minority more involved in business matters. Yet the Copts, who made up 25% of the total Egyptian and Sudanese population in 1922, lived largely in poverty. Only a few held really influential positions in the state. Some prominent Coptic thinkers from this period were Salama Moussa , Louis Awad and the general secretary of the Wafd party Makram Ebeid .

Powerful aristocracy in Egypt and tribal leader in Sudan

The constitution of 1923 cemented the prerogatives of the Egyptian-Sudanese nobility and aristocracy that had existed since Ottoman rule and even expanded their power. As before independence, the nobility remained the “representative” of the nation and shaped the nation with their European lifestyle. The political supremacy of this small class, which consisted of around 10,000 members and was expanded by the influx of Ottoman aristocrats , who fled to Egypt after the proclamation of the republic in Turkey in 1922, was also secured. It dominated the parliament until 1952, the new enlarged civil servants and bureaucracy, held the leadership positions in all major political parties, made out the majority of all government members and prime ministers and dominated the military. The land and property holdings of this class were also not affected after independence, although a popular slogan of the revolution was the demand for more social justice .

The royal house, the Wafd Party and the Liberal Constitutional Party were considered to be the mouthpiece or representative of the nobility, which was politically very liberal . The latter split off from the Wafd party in 1921 and, unlike the Wafd, only represented aristocratic interests. But the rising middle class was a serious competitive factor for them.

The ruling elite in Sudan did not change as much. When the area was relatively calm and stable after the crisis of 1924 in the 1920s and 1930s, the Egyptian government in Cairo and the British colonial government increasingly favored and largely based their rule on indirect rule by local tribal leaders . The traditional Sudanese tribal leaders, sheikhs and tribes were granted autonomy depending on their degree of authority . The Egyptians hardly interfered in local disputes and allowed largely independent local governments under the supervision of the British district commissioners. In exchange for these new privileges, both Egyptians and British expected the tribal leaders to be loyal to their system of government, with the tribes splitting into three warring camps. Some wanted extensive integration into Egypt under a federal system of government, others an independent Arab-dominated Sudan and the black African tribes an independent South Sudan. In contrast to this development stood the newly emerging Khartoum bourgeoisie, which received its secular and European education mostly in Egypt, British East Africa or Great Britain and saw indirect rule as an obstacle to the country's complete absorption in Egypt or its independence from Great Britain. Since many of the Sudanese bourgeoisie had made careers in the country's central administration, they viewed the eventual transfer of their power to the tribal leaders as an attack on their power. Although this was in contrast to the (partially) federalist Egypt, their ideas of the complete unification of both countries were financially and ideologically supported by this.

Emergence of the bourgeoisie and workers

Starting in the 1920s, a new, mostly bourgeois industrial, commercial and urban bourgeoisie, consisting of civil servants, lawyers, companies, industrialists and intellectuals, who increasingly came into conflict with the nobility and the rural aristocracy and had a strong influence on them, recruited from the local population the social and economic development of Egypt took with Sudan. Their nationalistic , secular and European way of thinking strongly shaped the new Egypt. Their representation for this was the Wafd party.

The new bourgeoisie was grouped into three organizations: the Banque Misr , founded in 1920 , the Association des Industries, in which mainly members of the European minority came together, and the Egyptian Chamber of Commerce, an association of Egyptian merchants. All three groups strove for a national economic policy, the development of a domestic industry and the abolition of the foreign trade monopoly of foreigners. With these positions, the Egyptian bourgeoisie was in conflict with the foreign bourgeoisie, which was supported by the former colonial power Great Britain and represented their interests in Egypt. Until independence, the foreign bourgeoisie almost completely controlled foreign trade, all banking, credit and real estate companies and the newly emerging industrial sector. The Egyptian bourgeoisie therefore had a great interest in the withdrawal of the British and the full state independence of Egypt.

The rapid industrialization that took place in the 1920s and 30s made the bourgeoisie a broader and more powerful class of society. In 1936/37 it forced the then Prime Minister Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil to abolish the foreign trade monopoly and pushed the foreign share in Egyptian industry back from 90% (1914) to 40% (1939). In 1949, under pressure from the bourgeoisie, a new code was issued. In the rapidly growing cities, the bourgeoisie managed to enforce new cultural and social norms. Economically, the shift created a large number of jobs with new industrial plants and service companies.

King Fu'ad I on a visit to the Misr spinning and weaving mill

Parallel to the rise of the bourgeoisie, a new working class emerged which, like the Egyptian small farmers, belonged to the lower class of society and made up a large part of Egyptian society. With the exception of the Wafd party, their political demands for more social justice, democracy and participation were hardly heeded or only taken seriously late. The constitution of 1923, in which all men were guaranteed the right to vote, the approval of trade unions and the legalization of the right to strike , made important political concessions to the working class, but did not improve their social situation.

The workers organized themselves into several moderate trade unions before the war, which sought a compromise between the class and the bourgeois state, but became increasingly radical after the Second World War. For many of them, groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood , radical communist unions or parties such as Wafd became an acceptable alternative to the Wafd party , which after initial attempts to improve the social situation of the workers, resorted to repressive means and made itself unpopular with parts of this class. The reputation of the monarchy also increasingly suffered as a result. Eventually the workers became one of the main contributors to the 1952 revolution.

See also


  • Alfred Bonné: The Economic Development of the Middle East: An Outline of Planned Reconstruction after the War. In: The International Library of Sociology. Routledge, London 2003, ISBN 0-415-17525-9 , p. 24. (online)
  • Rainer Büren: The Arab Socialist Union. Unity party and constitutional system of the United Arab Republic taking into account the constitutional history of 1840–1968. Leske, Opladen 1970, OCLC 912032244 .
  • Patrick Richard Carstens: The Encyclopaedia of Egypt During the Reign of the Mehemet Ali Dynasty 1798–1952 - The People, Places and Events That Shaped Nineteenth Century Egypt (Hardback). FriesenPress, 2014, ISBN 978-1-4602-4898-0 .
  • David Nailo N. Mayo: The British Southern Policy in Sudan: An Inquiry into the Closed District Ordinances (1914-1946). In: Northeast African Studies. Vol. 1, No. 2/3, Michigan State University Press 1994, pp. 165-185.

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