Colonial Bridgehead: Government and Society in Alexandria, 1807-1882

By Michael J. Reimer | Go to book overview

1
Between Egypt and the Sea

The Geography of the Alexandria Region

Alexandria is located on a narrow isthmus separating Lake Maryut from the Mediterranean Sea. The narrowest part of this isthmus, which is the city's immediate hinterland, is scarcely a kilometer across, although the isthmus widens out as it joins in the southwest to the Libyan desert and in the northeast to the headlands of Abu Qir (see Map 1).1

Early in the Pleistocene epoch, this area was not connected to the Nile valley. What later became the Alexandria isthmus consisted of elevated ridges of oolitic limestone fronting the Mediterranean and extending from northwestern Egypt toward what is now Abu Qir. The mouth of the Nile in this period was far to the south and east, only some 33 kilometers north from the area of present-day Cairo. As the Nile brought down its annual discharge of mud and silt, alluvial deposits began to build up the Delta. This process was not, however, uniform or continuous, since there were substantial fluctuations in the level of the Mediterranean sea during the Pleistocene, causing major changes in the position and contours of the coastline. The general tendency, however, was for the level of the sea to fall relative to the land. By late Paleolithic times, the Mediterranean coast had advanced some 181 kilometers north of Cairo (from which it has receded to its present position, 170 kilometers north). As the Delta bulged northward, the great lakes of northern Egypt were formed. The northwestern coastal ridges became directly linked to the expanding Egyptian landmass on both sides of Lake Maryut. However, it is worth emphasizing that the Alexandria area, though joined to the Nile valley, remained geologically distinct from the Delta. The limestone substructure of Alexandria is quite different from the thick alluvial muds and fluvio-marine sands and gravels underlying the Delta. 2

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Colonial Bridgehead: Government and Society in Alexandria, 1807-1882
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • State, Culture, and Society In Arab North Africa iii
  • Title Page v
  • For My Mother and Father, and My Wife, Marty vii
  • Contents ix
  • Tables, Maps, and Illustrations xi
  • Preface xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part One The Geographical And Historical Inheritance 15
  • 1- Between Egypt and the Sea 17
  • 2- The Ottoman Town 25
  • Part Two Muhammad Ali's City, 1807-1848 51
  • 4- Restructuring Urban Administration 65
  • 5- A Demographic Profile At Mid-Century 89
  • Part Three Bridgehead of Colonialism, 1848-1882 105
  • 6- The Boom Years 107
  • 7- Property and Privilege 123
  • 8- Administration and Society After 1850 137
  • 9- Mediterranean Magnet 159
  • 10- The Crisis of 1882 171
  • 11- Conclusion 183
  • Appendix Census Documents 197
  • Notes 201
  • Bibliography 235
  • Index 245
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