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Focus for Reading - Egypt and the days of anger


Focus for Reading



In your notebooks create an organizer like the one below. As you read the following information on different periods in the history of Egypt, record key points in your organizer. You should be able to enter at least four or five points in each section of your chart. You will be using this information in the activities that follow the text material.

The Gift of the Nile

• Egypt is one of the world’s oldest civilizations, with many monuments and structures dating from ancient times (Sphinx, pyramids).

• The River Nile is Egypt’s lifeline, providing rich soil for agriculture.

• Egypt’s capital, Cairo, became a major urban and cultural centre during the period of Arab Islamic rule.

• The construction of the Suez Canal made Egypt an important strategic point for trade and military activities in the 19th century.

• An Egyptian nationalist movement led a military coup against the unpopular monarchy in 1952.

The Nasser and Sadat Eras





Mubarak and Beyond





The Gift of the Nile



Egypt is one of the oldest civilizations on the planet; its history dates back over 6 000 years. Ancient and impressive monuments from the eras of the pharaohs—such as the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Sphinx—are a lasting testament to Egypt’s past glories and continue to fuel the country’s tourist trade, one of the mainstays of its modern-day economy. The pharaohs held sway for an immense time span, from roughly 3 000 BCE to the beginning of Roman occupation in 31 BCE.

The ancient Greek historian Herodotus marvelled at the pyramids and other wonders of Egyptian civilization while visiting during the sixth century BCE. At this time, these monuments were already ancient, leading him to write that, “Everyone fears time, but even time fears the pyramids.” Herodotus was also the first to refer to Egypt as “the gift of the Nile,” underlining the importance of that river and the fertile plains surrounding both of its banks to Egypt’s economy and way of life. Egypt’s advanced civilization made many important contributions to later ancient societies like those of ancient Greece and Rome, in such areas as religion, philosophy, astronomy, medicine, and engineering. Today huge crowds flock to museums around the world whenever exhibits of priceless ancient Egyptian artifacts—such as those discovered in the tomb of “King Tut” in 1922—are put on display.

In 1517 Egypt was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire, whose capital was Istanbul. It remained under Ottoman rule until 1882, when it became part of the British Empire. One of the most important developments to occur in Egypt during the 19th century was the building of the Suez Canal in 1859-60. This dramatically shortened the sea route from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean and made Egypt an important global strategic centre for commerce and military activity, which it still is today. Britain and France, the two European powers that had financed the construction of the canal, jealously guarded their control over it, much to the resentment of a rising Egyptian nationalist movement that was agitating for its country’s freedom from foreign rule as the 20th century dawned.

In 1922, Egypt gained its independence under the rule of King Fuad I, who was succeeded by his son Farouk in 1936. But despite its nominal independence, Egypt remained under the domination of Britain and France. Farouk, whose nickname was “the playboy king,” was widely despised for his corrupt and inept style of governing, and his regime was discredited by its poor military performance during the 1948 war with the newly created state of Israel. On July 23, 1952, Farouk was forced to leave the country. The main figure in the opposition was Gamal Abdel Nasser, who became prime minister in 1954, and two years later, the first president of the Arab Republic of Egypt.

Did you know . . .



Cairo emerged as one of the most important urban and religious centres of the Muslim world and became Egypt’s capital in 969.

The Nasser and Sadat Eras



Nasser ruled from 1956 to his sudden death in 1970. One of Nasser’s first moves was to demand the total withdrawal of British troops from Egypt, which occurred shortly after he became president. Following this he took the dramatic step of nationalizing the Suez Canal, a move that prompted a joint Anglo-French and Israeli invasion in the autumn of 1956. But world opinion, and the opposition of the United States, forced the British and French forces to withdraw. The Suez Crisis resulted in a major foreign policy victory for Nasser, cementing his support among the Egyptian masses.

Nasser then turned to the Soviet Union for military and technical assistance and used the levies collected from the operation of the Suez Canal to finance his regime’s most ambitious construction project, the building of the Aswan High Dam. The dam was designed to promote agricultural and industrial development through irrigation and hydro-electric power. But its construction caused some opposition among archaeologists who were worried that priceless monuments from the time of the pharaohs would have to be relocated elsewhere, risking irreparable damage to them.

One of Nasser’s main goals was the promotion of pan-Arab unity—that is, the union of all Arabic-speaking countries into one super-state. During Nasser’s time in power, many steps were taken to achieve this unity. The first was the union of Egypt with Syria in 1958 to form the United Arab Republic. That same year, the pro-Western monarchy in Iraq was toppled in a military coup that Nasser supported. In the autumn of 1970, Nasser suddenly died of a heart attack, removing from office the most powerful Egyptian leader since the time of the pharaohs. Millions of Egyptians took to the streets to mourn his passing.

Nasser was succeeded by his vice-president, Anwar al-Sadat, who had also been a general in the Egyptian army. One year later, the Aswan High Dam was finally opened, to great acclaim. During the early years of Sadat’s regime, Egypt continued its close relationship with the Soviet Union, which provided it with much-needed military aid. But by the mid-1970s Sadat was reformulating his country’s foreign policy by reducing its dependence on the Soviet Union and improving relations with the United States. In 1975, he reopened the Suez Canal to foreign shipping and in late 1977 made a dramatic and unexpected visit to Jerusalem to talk peace with his former Israeli enemies.

One year later, the Camp David Accords were signed, resulting in Egypt becoming the first Arab nation to negotiate a peace treaty with Israel. As a result, Israeli forces withdrew from the Sinai, and Israeli tourists began to visit Egypt. But Sadat’s peace deal with Israel was extremely unpopular throughout the Arab world and inside Egypt itself. Many believed that in pursuit of peace with Israel, and increased military and foreign aid from the United States, he had betrayed the cause of the Palestinian people who continued to suffer at the hands of the Israeli occupation. As a result, in 1979, Egypt was expelled from the Arab League, and on October 6, 1981, while viewing a military parade from his VIP platform, Anwar Sadat was assassinated. His killers, believed to be members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, claimed they had acted out of opposition to Sadat’s pro-U.S. and pro-Israeli policies and his regime’s secular and anti-Islamic tendencies.

Further Research



To read and view more about the assassination of Anwar Sadat, visit the BBC Web page “On this day” for October 6, 1981, at http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/october/6/newsid_2515000/2515841.stm.

Mubarak and Beyond



In the stunned aftermath to Sadat’s assassination, Egypt’s new president, Hosni Mubarak, also a military man, moved quickly to restore order and track down those responsible for the act. An emergency law was introduced, basically placing the country under a state of martial law, which remained in force until the revolution of January 2011 that drove Mubarak from power. Heavy repression was brought to bear against the Muslim Brotherhood, many of whose leaders were executed or imprisoned for lengthy terms. On the foreign policy front, Mubarak continued his predecessor’s basically pro-U.S. and pro-Israel stance while at the same time trying to mend fences with Egypt’s Arab neighbours still angry over Sadat’s peace treaty with Israel. In 1989, Egypt rejoined the Arab League and tried to use its influence with Israel to broker a settlement with the Palestinians, but without success.

Under Mubarak, Egypt seemed to enjoy a lengthy period of political stability and economic growth. The ruling National Democratic Party did allow elections to be held for the Egyptian parliament, but the rights of opposition parties to nominate candidates and campaign freely were severely limited. Many foreign observers believed the elections held by the Mubarak regime were flawed, if not totally fraudulent. The mass media were almost entirely under government control, and journalists exercised a form of self-censorship in their reporting for fear of running afoul of Mubarak’s security force, the mukhabarat. Trade unions and other non-governmental organizations of civil society were also very restricted, while the Muslim Brotherhood, its support rising, remained an outlawed organization throughout Mubarak’s tenure in office.

Economically Egypt saw its economy grow dramatically during the Mubarak years. His regime encouraged tourism and foreign investment and practised a policy of economic liberalism that was basically business-friendly. As a result, a prosperous new middle class began to appear in Egypt, concentrated in Cairo and Alexandria, the country’s two major cities. As well, a small but influential group of super-rich Egyptians also flaunted their newfound wealth, much of it the direct result of close contacts with senior figures in the Mubarak regime. But for the ordinary Egyptian worker, whether living in the city or on the farm, life remained a constant struggle. Prices, especially for basic foodstuffs, were rising to record levels by the mid 2000s, placing severe pressure on many Egyptians to make ends meet. Almost half the country’s population was living on less than USD$2 per day.

Unemployment and underemployment, especially for young Egyptians, was increasing rapidly, even more so after the global economic recession of 2008 put a damper on Egypt’s crucial tourist business and the jobs it generated. Cairo’s sprawling slums continued to spread and fester, lacking facilities such as schools and medical clinics, or even basic hygienic infrastructure like sewers or running water. Many homeless Cairo residents set up living quarters in the famous “City of the Dead,” an ancient cemetery whose mouldering tombs provided shelter for thousands. A growing number of Egyptians, especially the young, were becoming restive, demanding greater economic opportunities, a more equitable sharing of the nation’s wealth, and an end to the gross corruption and brutal repression that had become the twin hallmarks of the Mubarak regime. Beneath the outward appearance of political stability and economic growth, deep currents of unrest were running under the surface of Egyptian society. It would take only the spark ignited in the neighbouring North African nation of Tunisia in January 2011 to set the whole country ablaze and topple the Mubarak regime once and for all.

Follow-up



1. With a partner, compare the information in your summary chart. Help each other to complete any missing information.

2. Why does ancient Egypt hold such a fascination for people today around the world?

3. Why was Gamal Abdel Nasser such a dynamic and influential figure in the modern history of Egypt?

4. What were the consequences of the important foreign-policy decisions Egypt made under the leadership of Anwar Sadat?

5. Why did the surface appearance of political stability and economic prosperity in Egypt under Hosni Mubarak’s regime prove so deceptive in early 2011?

EGYPT AND THE DAYS OF ANGER



Main Players



Focus for Reading



As you read this section, prepare brief notes on each of the figures or group profiled in it. Summarize what you consider to be their major strengths and weaknesses as potential leaders for Egypt after the downfall of the Mubarak regime. You should be able to identify at least two strengths and weaknesses for each one.

Create an organizer like the following to summarize your points:

Individual or Group



Strengths



Weaknesses



Mohamed El Baradei

• Distinguished diplomatic career

• Civilian background

• Highly educated

• Has lived abroad for a long time

• No base of support

• May be out of touch with average Egyptians

Muslim Brotherhood





Wael Ghonim





Mohamad Hussain Tantawi






Mohamed El Baradei



One of the most respected Egyptians to grace the international stage, Mohamed El Baradei is a Nobel Peace Prize winner who once headed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a United Nations body responsible for monitoring the spread of atomic weapons around the world. In the run-up to the 2003 Iraq war, El Baradei made headlines when he questioned the allegations of then U.S. president George W. Bush that Iraq was in possession of weapons of mass destruction. Since then, he has also been involved in diplomatic efforts to persuade countries such as Iran and North Korea to abandon any plans they might have for developing nuclear weapons and instead devote their nuclear programs to peaceful purposes only. In recognition of his work to curb the proliferation of nuclear weapons, El Baradei was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

Because of his involvement in international diplomacy, El Baradei has spent most of his adult life abroad and only returned to his native Egypt in early 2010 after completing his term as head of the IAEA. Thousands of admirers defied government orders and gave El Baradei a hero’s welcome when he landed at Cairo Airport. After the wave of popular demonstrations against Mubarak began to swell in January 2011, El Baradei quickly identified with the protestors in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and expressed his readiness to play a key role in any new government that might be formed after Mubarak left office.

One of El Baradei’s greatest strengths is that he is a civilian with no military background. He is highly educated, holding a doctorate in international law from the New York University Law School and counts as his personal friends a number of key figures on the international stage. However, some protestors regard him as out of touch with the concerns of the average Egyptian, such as the problem of rising food prices. He also lacks a solid base of support among any of the various opposition groups that have been agitating against the Mubarak regime inside Egypt for many years.
2014-07-19 18:44
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