Egypt in Transition

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

I
The Land and Its Men

The village stretches out alongside the canal, as grey as the soil in the fields. From a distance there is no sign of it but the minaret of its mosque or sometimes the bell-tower of its church.

Water and problems arising from water make up the whole of Egypt. For the fellahs the Nile is 'the sea' and the fields are 'the banks' or shores. The whole of life is concentrated round the river, canals and drainage. For six or seven hundred miles at a stretch the villages of Upper Egypt and the Delta are all alike, their similarity being conditioned by the unchanging landscape, with its endless plain, together with the Nile, the silt deposited by the river and which is no different in appearance or composition from north to south. The monotonous countryside is grey and sun-baked.

The canal and its banks swarm with activity of every kind. Little naked boys harry and beat the water-buffalo, that sad-eyed creature which spends all its time in the water when it is not at the plough. With their skirts tucked up a group of women will be seen cleaning their kitchen-ware, usually pans of tin or copper. Nearby young girls in gaudy dresses will be washing clothes on the flat stones. A long procession of women in black come to draw the family's drinking- water in beautiful jugs or petrol-tins, no matter if some fellah has relieved himself in the river a little farther along, or if a corpse has floated by. The water is sacred.

The village is humming busily. Between the tall houses winds a narrow alleyway, or just a path, dusty and littered with rubbish, dirty children, lots of children. Through the half-open doors you can see women who squat there, passing flour through a sieve. The men will be in the village square: no sign of a woman here. Round the tiny café-tables they sit listening to the wireless, noisily sipping a glass of sugary black tea which they wash down with great draughts of water. The air itself is grey, full of dust, full of the famous, fertile dust of the Nile which is bad for the eyes and lungs.

There is a heavy smell of frying: the restaurant, as it calls itself,

-309-

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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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