THE preceding chapters sound like a far cry from the Egyptian social and political scene of today, but this is not the case. Contemporary Egypt takes many of her symbols from the pre-First World War years of preparation; and many heroes of that period who were more or less forgotten under the monarchical régime of Fuad and Faruq are now being resuscitated. Though no serious attempt has yet been made to give a new evaluation to the work of Nadim, Arabi, Kamil, Abdu, or Lutfi, the seemingly empirical basis for the actions of the present Egyptian leaders and their political vocabulary stem from Muhammad Abdu, Mustafa Kamil, and Ahmad Lutfi al-Sayyid. Modern intellectual life in Egypt is in many ways extending or resuming that of the preparatory period which is the subject of this book.
A quarter of a century of meandering makes it difficult for one to see the central role the pre-war years are now playing. Between the death of Saad Zaghlul in 1927 and the fall of the Turco-Egyptian monarchy in 1952 the ideas and the men of the period were pushed into obscurity, sometimes deliberately. They were the harbingers of fellah consciousness which neither Britain nor the Turco-Egyptian wished to encourage. In a slight volume of memoirs the valiant Fatima al-Yusuf, who played a leading part in shaping Egyptian thought through her Rose al-Yusuf publishing house, uses illuminating terms to describe these years of meandering. In the 1930's ' Egypt was going through a weird and aimless period in her history'; looking back on the 1940's she thinks of them as 'The Barren Years'. Politics and literature strayed into paths neither envisaged nor expected by the men who lived to see their ideas forgotten or ignored.
Only six months after the revolution of July 1952, however, the new tone was set by evoking the spirit of Arabi. The crowds assembled in Liberation Square in the heart of Cairo were reminded of a seventy-year old dictum of the first fellah leader, addressed to the Khedive in the famous encounter outside