A Different Shade of Colonialism: Egypt, Great Britain, and the Mastery of the Sudan

A Different Shade of Colonialism: Egypt, Great Britain, and the Mastery of the Sudan

A Different Shade of Colonialism: Egypt, Great Britain, and the Mastery of the Sudan

A Different Shade of Colonialism: Egypt, Great Britain, and the Mastery of the Sudan

Synopsis

A history of the three-way colonial relationship among Britain, Egypt, and the Sudan in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Unlike most books on colonialism, this one deals explicitly with race and slavery.

Excerpt

In August 1894, a Bedouin slave dealer named Muhammad Shaghlūb led a small caravan to a stop in the village of Kerdessa, within sight of the Great Pyramids of Giza. The caravan consisted of six Sudanese women, purchased hundreds of miles to the south, who had walked slowly and barefoot with Shaghlūb and three other traders along the Forty Days' Road, the old and well-traveled trade route that ended in lower Egypt. All were exhausted upon reaching Kerdessa, but Shaghlūb persevered, acting quickly to find an accommodating friend who agreed to hide the women on the top floor of his house. While the six women waited in this room, under admonition to be silent in the hot, cramped quarters, Shaghlūb went on to Cairo to negotiate for buyers for the six women.

Shaghlūb and the other traders were only too aware that being caught with six African women by the authorities of the Slave Trade Bureau would mean imprisonment. Trade in African slaves had been abolished in Egypt in 1877, and the bureau had been created to search for unlawful caravans and to enforce the abolition. Nervously, Shaghlūb left Kerdessa to scout the streets of Cairo and, through inquiries whispered in a coffee shop, found a carriage driver who dealt with the servants of elite households, a man in a position to know which families were eager to buy a Sudanese slave woman or two. Within several days, Shaghlūb had found four wealthy buyers, and the six women were placed in new homes. The most prominent of these buyers was 'Alī Pasha Sharīf, the head of the Egyptian Legislative Assembly. Ironically, 'Alī Pasha had recently committed an act that would make this a cause célèbre: only weeks before, he had used the floor of the Legislative Assembly to petition the government to close down the many offices of the Slave Trade Bureau, saying that the practice had been discontinued for so long that Egyptians had forgotten the very meaning of the term slave trade.

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