Egypt in Transition

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

I
Cairo -- City of Convulsions

It is impossible to form any idea of Egypt as a whole, or of its function or its difference from the rest of the world, without some view of the great city that battens on it. Wrapped in its perennial cloud of dust and ashes, surrounded by the three Cities of the Dead, harsh, sandy, waterless as the desert, Cairo is an incongruous capital for a nation of riverside farmers, a small-holding African peasantry whose feet are never out of the waters of the Nile. Twenty million paupers, bent double over the cotton-plants and mindlessly enslaved to the seasons, have as their capital an arrogant city in which the meanest beggar can gaze out across the roof-tops, holding himself erect and bowing his head only towards the East, in homage to an abstract God.

But Cairo evokes too many such images. No one can fail to notice the Turkish contours of the Mohamed Ali Mosque, in the Citadel. But somehow the Pyramids have lost nothing of their mystery. Loti long ago deplored the fact that they could be reached by tram or carriage, and today the city has crept up to their feet and the villas sprout like mushrooms in the shade of Cheops.

Between these two poles of ancient and modern stretches an immense city, all flat and dusty, grey and gold, rich and lice-ridden, living and dead, a town over which hundreds of kites weave an ominous net, where haughty skyscrapers are jostled by derelict hovels. It bears the name of Egypt itself, for in the vernacular there is only one word, Misr, for both country and capital: Cairo is Egypt yet the contrary of Egypt.

The centre of Cairo is astonishing, dazzling and disappointing. We hardly expect to find such spacious, well-kept avenues, such enormous blocks of buildings ten or fifteen stories high, these elegant shopfronts and long American cars the colour of strawberry ices or moonlight. But turning behind some marble and concrete building you will find a sordid alley, dirty children, overturned dustbins, the old Cairo in the very heart of a business centre full of banks and

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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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