Egypt in Transition

By Jean Lacouture; Simonne Lacouture et al. | Go to book overview

XII
The Burning of Cairo

The 26th of January 1952 was the first day of the Egyptian Revolution. The tragic, smoking ruins were all that was left that evening of the centre of Cairo, all that was left of a régime and a society, all that was left of the relationship between the people and authority. The fire was the perverted result of a long-felt revolutionary tension. The last days of January were spent in an atmosphere of anger and anguish, in which mob-rule had supplanted legal power.

On the 8th of October 1951, Mustafa Nahas, with his colleagues' approval, submitted to the House a project for abrogating the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty which he himself had signed and had approved by a plebiscite fifteen years earlier. However demagogical and imprudent this gesture might appear, public opinion was excitedly waiting for it. It was enough to bring back to the Wafd government's support the masses of people who had been disappointed by its handling of public affairs, and to raise feeling an over the country to a fever-pitch, whether out of patriotism or xenophobia. Even when it took the stupid form of hatred we must not forget the deep-rooted nature of Egyptian demands. The national question existed for all, like some collective suffering. However restricted it was, the occupation of territory by a foreign force was humiliating and a permanent source of indignation.

In the closing months of 1951, feeling thus gave a dramatic character to the three-cornered struggle that had been going on between the king, the English and the Wafd. It had become clear that the first two of these, who had each in turn tried to win the support of the third, had brutally joined forces against it. The stakes were now high. Since the Treaty's abrogation Britain considered the Wafd unacceptable as a go-between and had made up its mind to destroy it at any cost. In Faruk's eyes, Nahas and his friends appeared, wrongly or rightly, to be threatening his throne. Most observers were now asking the same question, what means Britain

-105-

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Egypt in Transition
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 5
  • Contents 7
  • Illustrations 8
  • Introduction - Egyptian Continuity And Revolutions 11
  • Part One - The Awakening of Egypt 37
  • I - The Advent of Bonaparte 39
  • II - Mohamed Ali Creates a State 50
  • III - The Cotton Boom 56
  • IV - A Revolution in Irrigation 60
  • V - The Adventurous Khedive 63
  • VI - The Arabi Revolt 69
  • VII - The Reformers 74
  • VIII - British Technocracy 78
  • IX - The 1919 Revolution 82
  • X - The Wafd 86
  • XI - Making the Best of War -- 1939 97
  • XII - The Burning of Cairo 105
  • Part Two - The Officers' Republic 123
  • I - A Short History of the 'Free Officers' Movement 125
  • II - Power -- to What Purpose? 160
  • III - Neguib's Fall 179
  • IV - The Structure of Nasser's State 192
  • V - The 'Diplomacy' of Small Nations 196
  • VI - The Political Parties 240
  • VII - Revolutionary Tendencies, 1952-57 275
  • VIII - Not a Real Revolution. 292
  • Part Three - Working Life in The Valley 307
  • I - The Land and Its Men 309
  • II - The Agrarian Reform 340
  • III - The Problem of Over-Population 357
  • IV - Economic Growing-Pains 362
  • V - Industrialization and Social Problems 367
  • VI - The Aswan Dam Problem 388
  • Part Four - Forging a Society 397
  • I - Cairo -- City of Convulsions 399
  • II - In Search of a National Culture 413
  • III - Egypt, Islam and the Modern World 430
  • Part Five - The Great Test 451
  • I - Nasser as He Really Is 453
  • II - The Suez Crisis 467
  • III - The Franco-British Invasion 481
  • IV - Egypt Carries On 493
  • V - The 'United Arab State' 505
  • A Chronology of Modern Egypt 515
  • Reading List 519
  • Index 523
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