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The cultural struggle and the British experience in Egypt as a turning point of Egypt’s transformation: A cosmopolitan study of the British perspective in Egypt 1882-1914 – By : Mina Gerges. Matta

December 9, 2012

The cultural struggle and the British experience in Egypt as a turning point of Egypt’s transformation:

A cosmopolitan study of the British perspective in Egypt 1882-1914

Article –  by – Mina Gerges. Matta


Author: Mina Gerges Fathalla Matta

Article – 

Table of Contents


Preface to the Dissertation

Chapter 1 – Introduction and literature review

Chapter 2 – Economic Development

Chapter 3 – Modernisation and Technical progress

Chapter 4 – Community relations and Cultural exchange

Chapter 5 – Conclusion



First of all, I would like to thank all who advised me in writing this paper. I am so grateful to Dr. James Moore my senior adviser and recommended for me significant books and articles, Dr. Michael Mulligan who encouraged me, and Mr. Ramy Rafla and my beloved family who situated for me the right atmosphere for writing my thesis. Thus the subject explores the British experience in Egypt 1882-1914.

Note that the interviews and some of the photos were carried and captured by Mina Matta, such as the interview with Mr. Wafik owner of the Windsor hotel. Photos such like the Anglican Church at Alexandria, Windsor hotel, barrel bar, and Old-Cairo.   The core idea of the project and its inspiration revolves around this period 1882-1914. Starting from chapter one which describe the main theme of the thesis and ends with chapter five which is the conclusion and bibliography. Some words could be found in Arabic, such like Feddan is an Egyptian measure-unit for land and it is about 1.038 acre or 0.42 hectare (Hill, 2008). Fallahin are the Egyptian peasants, Saied-Misr Upper-Egypt, and Misr-El Sofla is Lower-Egypt or the Delta.


The composition and exploration of Egypt, during the phase of 1882-1914 was a significant experience, with regard to the transformation of the state, and the British presence at that time. The period from 1882 to 1914, was acknowledged as a remarkable period in Egypt, because it introduced new developments such as maintenance programs, economic enhancement, and community interactions.

Popular scholars explored this experience in Egypt and gave different titles for this period, such like Vintage Alexandria or City of Memory by Michael Haag and the title of Cairo the City of glory given by Samir W. Rafaat. These scholars reached the core of that period and explored some of its significance.

The thesis, examines the different measures and developments that were attained during the phase of 1882-1914, regarding the British role and configuration in Egypt, before the First World War. It explores the compromises between the cultural sequence, Egypt’s progression and Cairo as the head of the management process.

Different communities were formed and integrated, in Cairo and Alexandria.       Suburbs such like Helwan, Maddi, Zamalek and Garden city, were built and constructed by foreign communities during that period. At the same time, the Britons experienced this fabulous period as they had an influential role and modern habitats within Egypt and, Upper-Egypt was an exploration and investment region.

On the other hand, Scottish engineers were brought by British managers and administrators in Egypt, to develop and reform the agriculture sector. Construct canals, barrages, and dams which increased the cotton production, and led to the economic and technical enhancement of Egypt during that fabulous period. British advisors were sent to adjust the finance as well (Sladen, 1908).

Chapter 1- Introduction

Egypt is obviously known by its strategic and attractive location.                          That scene was clearly clarified and enhanced during the period of 1882-1914, for various reasons such as the administrative, economical and political progressions. The strategic location of Egypt was at international significance and many other communities were attracted by its charming beauty and historical culture. On the other hand, the British-configuration and management in Egypt faced enormous challenges, during that period previous to the First World War.

The historical experience of 1882-1914, certainly that phase or period in Egypt, were years of enhancement and progression. Economic and culture diversification in different regions in Egypt took place and enhanced Egypt’s global status. The British association was updated with plans to develop Egypt’s agriculture and technological fields. In addition to the great presence of different foreign communities and trades during the British role, at that considerable period of 1882-1914, that benefited the state infrastructure (railways), and tourism. Beside these were various cultural exchanges, as a bridge between Egypt and Europe (Sladen, 1911).

The economic field was also enhanced, during that period, as cotton production escalated and Egypt was in competition at the global market. British engineers were responsible for technological reform and development of the irrigation system. English engineer Scott Moncrieff, was responsible for the adjustment and repair processes of the irrigation system. He wrote a general report for the restoration and maintenance of the needed repairs. Moncrieff was appointed on 22nd of January 1884 as an agent to the Ministry of Works, instead of the French-Russo Pasha (Daly, 1998).

The plans of Moncrieff for the maintenance-of the irrigation system, progressed under the supervision of senior English engineers. Such as Wilcox and Foster, who were appointed as irrigation supervisors in 1886, and Colonel Western was appointed as a manager for the irrigation works.

Therefore, it is clear that the agriculture sector was well enhanced and, flourished under the British administration and supervision. For instance, the hydraulic systems were reintroduced and repaired. Furthermore drains, barrages, and canals were established to sustain and organise the irrigation. On the other hand, spans were constructed in upper and lower Egypt. First the British started with the maintenance of “El-Qanater El-Khairia”, was fixed and repaired by English engineers; it is a complex system of canals that sustain the summer irrigation at the Delta region. Secondly, by cleansing the “Behira Canal” which was 15 meter deep, and 25 meter width, and it was absolutely full of soiled and muddy water, that dredgers were used to eliminate (Tignor, 1963).

For instance “Zifta Spans” (Qanater Zifta) were constructed, which utilized the use and division of the water in Lower-Egypt. The “Assiut Spans”, were constructed by English senior engineers, under the supervision of Moncrieff, and the “Abrahimia Canal” was widened and enlarged in order to facilitate and operate the summer irrigation. At the same time, “Qanater-Esna” (Esna Spans) was established in 1909 that was beneficial to Upper-Egypt mainly, (Qina and Gargara in Upper-Egypt). The whole work and mechanism were planned and managed by Moncrieff and Sir Wilcox (Tignor, 1963). In addition to, the construction of the Aswan tank that led most of the irrigation works at the Delta, (Aswan-Reservoir), in 1898-1912, and it was a great project that was planned by Moncrieff and supervised by Sir Wilcox.

Thus the British management was the reason for the so called the renovation period in Egypt of 1882-1914, as many technical, managerial, economical, and organisational enhancements were introduced during this specific period. By way or another, that period left behind it historical pages and technical approaches that still exist at the present time. However, this period had its negative aspects as well as its positive features, such as poor industrialisation and public education (Sabry, 1996).

Intensive efforts were conceded to maintain and create financial and political stability in Egypt. These began with the masterful Sir Evelyn Baring (Lord Cromer), agent and Consular-General in Egypt, from 1883 to 1907. His arrival in Egypt was concerned with restoration of the financial system and the establishment of financial constancy, to lessen the imminent bankruptcy of Egypt (Johnston, 1908).

The state conducts were certainly for the organization of the statehood system and to establish an administrative-body (political and legislative systems), such as the establishment of the “native and mixed courts”, in 1883 and 1889 (Hoyle, 1987). The “mixed courts” was first acknowledged in 1875, while in 1883 the “native courts” were established in Upper-Egypt and in 1889 the native courts took place and were established in Lower-Egypt. The Orabi-Revolution and the financial crisis that Egypt passed through during the Era of the Khedive Ismail’s debts and depositions, led-to the British occupation for the political, financial and legislative restoration of the country, under the British administration (Hoyle, 1986).

Sir Eldon Gorst replaced Sir Evelyn Baring as Consul General, and agent.       Gorst spoke the Arabic language, and he achieved good relations with the Khedive. However, Gorst’s policy was undesired by some British and, he resigned in 1911. Besides that, Gorst’s fiancée and the love of his life Hermione Baker died in Cairo, as a reason of a typhoid fever (Sladen, 1911).

Lord Kitchener replaced Gorst and became resident minister of Egypt; Kitchener inaugurated a legislative assembly in Cairo. That was the beginning of the new parliamentary life in Egypt, which was an imitation of England. He served as a Sirdar of the Egyptian army in 1892 and he was governor of the Red Sea territories. Kitchener led the forces that consisted of British and Egyptians, in 1896 up the Nile, to build a railway to supply and provide arms reinforcement. As well as he led the defeat of the Sudanese at the Battle of “Omdurman”, near Khartoum in 1896.                                                                                             At the same time, Kitchener reclaimed an enormous “charitable fund” that used to be diverted indirectly into the pockets of the Khedive of Egypt; however Kitchener put it to improve the lives of the ordinary Sudanese and Egyptians (Sinclair, 1954).

Lord Kitchener was a prominent figure during that time, as he was elegant in planning and organizing, the State and the army at the same time he added much efforts in his service in Egypt and Sudan. A small island on the Nile in Aswan was dedicated and given to him as a result and honor of his efforts and efficient service. The Kitchener’s Island is about 750 meter-long and located on the Nile in Aswan. He transformed the small island into, a delighted beautiful place of neat plants, exotic trees and organized neatly planned walkways, surrounded by exotic plants. Later on Kitchener’s Island became an Egyptian property and it is the “Island of Plants” at the present time, full of different exotic trees. It was used as a beneficiary station for research in different exotic kinds of plants and crops (Sladen, 1908).

On the other hand, one of the significant features of this period was cosmopolitanism. Whilst the British experience in Egypt during that time, has represented the presence of cosmopolitan communities, mixed cultures, European interactions and integrations. This aspect was the most important characteristic of this phase that reflected the foundation of cosmopolitan trades and affairs (Alm, 2003).

Eventually and by way or another, the period from 1882 to 1914 was considered as the magnificent period in Egypt’s modern history and, transformation after the Era of Muhammad Ali Pasha and during the British presence.                 Economical, technical, and organisational transformations, took place during that period. Egypt had a great experience during this significant stage, which is explored between the lines. Furthermore the presence of other foreign trades and communities, led to cultural exchange, and community interactions, illustrated in chapters 4.

The economical field was upgraded and sustained by the agriculture sector that has been taken care of and managed by Scottish engineers and ministers. Efficient and organised drains, barrages and canal system, were constructed and repaired.

The British led this transitional period of 1882 to 1914, and it was considered as a window for Egypt to explore the outside world or Europe, at the same time as a window for Europe to explore Egypt. On the other hand, it was the period when the British, clearly understood that the interests of the creditors and debtors are all one. Thus they have to finance, and develop the state for a substantial mutual prosperity (Gleichen, 1933), (Sladen, 1911).

For instance, the Egyptian Gazette Newspaper, the oldest English newspaper in the Middle East, was widely adding daily news, publishers, and commercials. News, posts, and articles were written by conventional English language, and there were some posts, that articulated and described the prosperity of Egypt.                Posts for racing notes, “Heliopolis races”, and sports such like cricket, opera concerts, and commercial trades were included. Hotel offers by Savoy hotel, Ghezireh Palace and Shepherd hotels in 1909. Also whisky shops could include commercials, such as “white horse whisky”. Therefore that fabulous period proved the openness and importance of Egypt during that time (G.G, 1909,1919), (Alderson, 1909).

Finally and in conclusion, the thesis is formulated in a qualitative method, consists of five chapters, that comprise the preface and introduction in chapter 1, chapter 2 the economic development (irrigation, agriculture, production, organisation and finance) chapter 3 the modernisation and technical progress (supervision, infrastructures, machineries, engineers, rural and urban biographies and foreign residences).

Chapter 4, community relations and cultural exchange, the chapter explores   the cultural interaction and progress in Egypt. There were different cultural exchanges and interactions during that period such as educations, languages, religions, arts, and lifestyles. There were different communities at that period, such as the Greek, Jewish, Italian, French and, Armenian communities. The chapter discovers the relations between the British community and these communities besides the Egyptian community, how did these different communities interacted together?

Different scholars have emphasised challenges of this period and the reflection of the British organisational occupation from 1882 to 1914 in Egypt. The tramways (Cairo and Alexandria), railroads, subways, drains, barrages and modern habitats, witnessed this fabulous period and remained up to the present time as witnesses of the British experience and perspective in Egypt. In between 1882-1914 there were three British consul generals and agents in Egypt; the first was Lord Cromer’s period    1883-1907, it was the period of financial adjustment, technical development and agricultural reform. Second consul general was Sir John Eldon Gorst 1907-1911; also it was a period of agricultural and administrational development. Gorst introduced his liberal policy, experience and administration. Lord Herbert Kitchener 1911-1914 it was a period of army adjustment and infrastructural development (Mansfield, 1973).       Eventually chapter 5 is the conclusion and it illustrates the thesis’s vital scheme and argumentation and it summarizes the main ideas of pervious chapters.

Literature review


Despite the fact that, popular scholars such like Michael Haag described these period in Vintage Alexandria as a “great cosmopolitan city”. On the other hand, in his book Cairo the Glory Years Samir W. Raafat the popular writer and journalist, explores Egypt’s society and architecture in Cairos belle poque. As in Maadi 1904-1962: Society and History in a Cairo Suburb, Raafat insights the formation of the British and European communities in different Suburbs in Egypt, such like Maddi, Zamalek, Nile valley, and Heliopolis (Raafat, 2004).

However, different scholars have emphasized different views, and arguments. For instance, Robert L. Tingnor suggests and illustrates that the Agriculture sector was in progress during the British presence in Egypt (British Engineers), in his article “British Agriculture and Hydraulic Policy in Egypt, 1882-1892”. Robert; Explains the technical assistance of the British to the Agricultures, irrigations and Canals system.

An opposing idea, was introduced by Roger Own, in his book Lord Cromer, argues that the British policies were far from the Egyptian interests in different aspects, such as “poor industrial affairs” and “intensive agricultural policy”.   However, Own also argues and agrees that the British period of 1882-1914 in Egypt led to technical and cultural progress, through the absorption of modern values, and that was the reason behind that fabulous period. At the same time, in an article of Alan Richards, “Technical and Social Change in Egyptian Agriculture 1890-1914”, Richards clearly crystallizes the technical transformation of the agricultural sector and land distribution.

Furthermore, Richard .A has approved through different statics in his article that shows escalations in the cotton production during the years of the British experience, and the growth of other crops such like wheat. Also Richard has stated that the British has transformed the irrigation system from traditional to perennial irrigation, and this was considered as a technical progress and one of the main reforms. While in one of the important articles “The Mixed Courts of Egypt 1906-1915” by Mark S. W. Hoyle, emphasizes the important role of the mixed courts and the administrational works of these courts in 1906-1915, at Upper and Lower Egypt.

However, it is clear that on one hand, there are some scholars who illustrate the British achievements and developments during that period. While on the other hand, some scholars contradict and deny the British rule in Egypt during that period of 1882-1914 and claim that it was against the interests of Egypt. At the same time, other scholars argue that Egypt was more opened to the West and this period could be described as the openness stage in Egypt, because of the “economical and organisational enhancements”.

In The British in Egypt, Peter Mansfield has emphasized the importance of the British mission in Egypt. Mansfield’s most important illustrations started from    “Lord Dufferein’s mission” and “Baring in Command”, to Lord Gorst’s “liberal experiment” until the Great War period. In England in Egypt Sir Alfred Milner, provided the reader with his experience in Egypt and he illustrates the British perspective of Egypt at that time.

While the exploration of Egypt’s rural life was emphasised in      reconstructing rural Egypt, by Amy J. Johnson. She explored the intellectuals of this period and provided census of literacy and illiteracy percentages in rural Egypt; by analyzing the progress of ideas of reformers and social reform (Johnson, 2004).

Whilst in “The Story of Egyptian Railroads: 2004” by Nasr El-D a scholar and researcher in modern Egypt at the American University in Cairo. El-Din emphasised another important stance within the reviews of this period, under the British supervision or management. The development and invention of the railroads networks in Egypt, connecting cities, suburbs, and towns together.

Other scholars emphasised the strategic consequences of the cotton production and agriculture enhancement. The British historian Edward Roger Owen clarified the strategic importance of the cotton to the Egyptian economy. In his book cotton and the Egyptian economy, 1820-1914: a study in trade and development. Owen R explored the impact of agriculture development on land cultivation and he examined these impacts on cotton production and the Egyptian economy as well (Owen R. , 1969). On the other hand, another book by Owen R is The Middle East in the world economy 1800-1914, as he states the developments that were achieved in Egypt as a strategic region in the Middle East. Also Owen reviews the impact of the economic development in Egypt, in three areas which are agriculture, industry, and finance. Agricultural development verses industries and financial adjustment (Owen R. , 1993). On the other hand, in “Lord Cromer and the development of Egyptian industry 1883-1907” Owen has clarified the impacts of agricultural development on the Egyptian industry during Lord Cromer’s reign.

 However, Gabriel Baer states that “Cromer’s policy was extremely unfavourable to industrial development”. On the other hand, Charles Issawi argues that “it is clear that the British administration did not desire the industrialisation of Egypt” (Owen R. , 1966). Marius Deeb argues that this period transformed the socioeconomic structure of the Egyptian society. He highlights the impact of foreign minorities in Egypt as agents of commercial and internal developments (Deeb, 1978).

Chapter2 – Economic Development


This chapter considers economical perspective regarding the financial, agricultural, and commercial development. These aspects were related to Egypt’s prosperous period under the British administration from 1882-1914. There were agricultural reform, irrigational projects, and financial transformation.

First aspect was the administrational and financial management, which mainly was under the supervision of British Consul General and agent, Sir Evelyn Baring Lord Cromer from 1883 to 1907. Cromer’s observation during his 24 years experience in Egypt was formative and his past experience in India reflected his policy in Egypt.  He wanted to facilitate the trade between the East and West, at the same time he was responsible for the financial stability of Egypt and his diplomatic negotiations with the ruling elites to carry on the British policy was effective and flourished the relations between England and Egypt (Cromer, 1916).

Lord Cromer’s first plan abolished the liquidation law, and transferred the surplus of the ascribed revenues to the Egyptian budget. Secondly he reduced payment on previous loans. Thirdly Britain provided a loan of £9,000,000 for Egypt at a 3 percent interest rate per-year. Fourthly he allowed the sale of the khedival estates. Fifthly was the right to tax foreign residents in Egypt (Lutsky, 1969).

The second plan was to enhance land cultivation and to reform agriculture, through new technology and irrigation techniques. Dams, barrages, and canals were essential theme, in addition to repairs and maintenance for the old system was also important for the reform process, in order to construct new dams, barrages, and deep canals (Crouchley, 1938).

In 1884 Lord Cromer employed highly profiled and experienced British-Scottish engineers such like Sir Wilcox, Major Hanburry Brown, Major Justin Ross, Foster, and John Fowler, led by Colin Scott Moncrieff who was director of irrigation. They started in reforming Egypt’s irrigation system, dividing and reorganizing Egypt into five irrigation circles, two in Upper-Egypt and three in the Delta. The hired engineers organized the division of water. They cleansed old canals, constructed new canals, and barrages, separated drainage from irrigation channels, and repaired the old barrages (Richards, 1978).

“It had been so long neglected that timbers were rotten, iron was rusted” said Moncrieff after he examined the Rosetta barrage. As a result of the first year’s efforts there was 30,000 tons increase in the cotton crop. “With the price at £35 a ton this meant an extra £1,050,000 which was not a bad return for the £26,000 we had spent’ as Sir Colin drily remarks.” (Mansfield, 1973)

The cultivated area in 1862 increased from 4,160,000 fiddans to4,743,000in1877and became 5,283,000 fiddans in1913. More crops were produced such as the long stable cotton, sugar cane, rice, corn, and wheat represented about 40% of the total volume of cereals in 1910 (Crouchley, 1938).

            From 1882 to 1902, the first twenty years of the British Occupation the total expenditures of the Public Works Department were about 8 percent of the total government expenses. Approximately £850,000 a year, specified for developing the agricultural reform, commercial growth, and state transformation (Tignor, 1963).

These Successful plans and mechanisms encouraged Scott Moncrieff, to entirely repair the two barrages of Damietta and Rosetta from their foundations. For the first time he established gates in the Damietta branch. With Cromer’s support and money was offered from the assured loan which was part of the financial settlement of 1885.

The work continued with a group of fellahin labour, in 1887 Moncrieff visualized the idea of working at night using electric lighting. He called Frank Albright Company in Chelmsford and within three hours he received an agreeable respond. The Damietta branch was completed in 1889 and The Rosetta in 1891. The project was accomplished successfully at a total cost of £460,000 approximately. However, the cotton crops increase was worth about more than £2,500,000 (Mansfield, 1973).

Work proceeded and the great canal on eastern Delta was dug and the one on the west was maintained. Moncrieff left Egypt in 1892 and he left behind him about one thousand miles of drains built. Canals were widened and deepened, River banks raised to ensure that the water reached the fields even in years of low flood.             The Assiut barrage in Upper Egypt and in the Delta the Zifta barrage on the Damietta branch of the Nile were built (Zain, 1995).

Sir Willcocks spent four years 1890-1894 examining the possibilities of building reservoir-dams across the Nile in Upper Egypt at Aswan. The work was begun in 1895 under the direction of Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice and by Sir William Wilcox plan and design. His plan was the construction of a new dam across the Nile, to regulate the water division and to adjust water-level in Saied-Missr. It was the first dam across the Nile at the region of Saied-Missr in Aswan, and was opened on 10 December 1902 (Milner, 1902).

“The reservoir business has been a remarkable success here. It is by far the most popular step we have ever taken, all the more so because we have done it ourselves, without French or other co-operation” said Cromer in a letter to Lord Salisbury (Mansfield, 1973).

As a result of irrigation projects and agricultural development, the Egyptian Cotton Mills Company was founded in 1899 with a fund of £160,000. It was registered in England; the bulk of the shares were placed at the Egyptian market and the interest they aroused was vast.

In 1900 work had begun on building a mill in the Bulak district in Cairo. It contained about 364 looms and 20,000 spindles. Regarding, technical employees and managers were employed in Lancashire, as a start in training Egyptian labours to operate the new machinery. Also in 1899 The Anglo-Egyptian Spinning and Weaving Company, was founded for the purpose of ascertaining cotton mill in Egypt, and offered the majority of its shares for trade in Alexandria and Cairo.

The Anglo-Egyptian mill was founded at Alexandria, on the banks of Mahmudiya- Canal. It was comparable in size to that of its competitor, containing 400 looms and 20,000 spindles. When entirely operative it employed 700 workers, majority Egyptian and Greek, and produced goods that worth about more than £50,000 a year (Owen E. R., 1966).

The conversion to perennial irrigation enabled more than one crop to be grown every year. Therefore, the cultivated area increased from 4,764,000 feddans to 5,658,000 feddans. The irrigation engineers left behind them an enormous constructive achievement (Milner, 1902). “Their work is not only successful, but it is appreciated”, wrote A. Milner in his book, England in Egypt.

However, intensive escalations in the perennial irrigation were the direct reason of spreading pest attacks, soil exhaustion and, above all, “the rise in the water table through inadequate drainage, which was one of the chief faults that the engineers had set out to remedy” (Mansfield, 1973).

The Egyptian Gazette-29 December 1907 pointedout; “However eminent the irrigation engineers may be in their own profession, they are not agriculturists, and are naturally pursuing their own policy without proper regard to agriculture considerations” (Gazette, 1907 ). However, in 1890 the Ministry of Public Works established an agricultural school and in 1910 it had about 196 students (Richards, 1978).

The Khedivial Agriculture Society found in 1898 through a group of Egyptian landowners, to encourage improved farming techniques. The significant achievement of the Agriculture Society was to appoint the British botanist William Lawrence Balls, in 1904 as a research botanist. He initiated the fundamentals of all Egyptian cotton research and he was a specialist in cotton technology. Balls and his associates succeeded in reversing the declining tendency in yields, after the First World War.

Lord Kitchener became consul-general after Lord Cromer and Sir Eldon Gorst. He took a special interest in agriculture. Kitchener led the negotiations to create a department of agriculture and the British agreed on the creation of the department in the government. In 1914 the department of agriculture became a “fully-fledged ministry”. Cotton yields were in progress, while the Cotton Research Board building in Giza was established. It introduced more agricultural techniques that protected the Egyptian cotton from the cotton warm (Mansfield, 1973).

            In 1894 the “Egyptian Cotton Manufacturing Company”, headed for construction of a cotton mill in Cairo. The core advocate was Wilks M., the company was registered in England and four of the six directors were Egyptians.                       In 1895 machines were provided to spin, bleach, and weave cotton. Totality of customs revenues amounted about £825,000 with £150,000 came from the duty on imported cotton products (Owen R. , 1969).

Trading was not inadequate to cotton and manufactured textiles. Also butter, margarine, and cheese were imported. Egypt started to import more goods from the British-Empire; imports were about 8.5% per year from 1897 to 1907. Exports to Great Britain rose; and imports from England appended manufactured goods to Egypt while Egypt supplied England with cotton and wheat (Miller, 1999).

Foreign communities (mainly Europeans) and businesses also interacted and played an active role in the market and streets of Cairo, Alexandria, and Port-Saied.   In fact, the “International Union of Tobacco Workers” was the first trade-union in Egypt found in 1899. Greeks were attracted to the beauty and strategic view of Alexandria, and they were active in the local markets, groceries, industry, and café shops. Armenians were also integrated within the society and played a role in the tobacco industries and gold trades. Italians were interested in food stuff and café shops and modern architecture as well.  British merchants had a role in commercial influx, while cotton companies were formed to compete internationally, such like the Egyptian Cotton Manufacturing Company (Kitroeff A. , 1989).

As Lord Cromer emphasized that, “Boot mending, as well as boot making, is almost entirely in the hands of Greeks and Armenians. The drapery trade is controlled by Jews, Syrians, and Europeans, the tailoring trade by Jews” (Issawi, 1961).          The percentage of industrial investment was inconsequential. It counted about 29 percent in 1883-1897.  In 1897-1907 the boom year’s industrial investment counted about 9.3 percent. Foreign investments were mainly invested in banks, commerce, land companies, mortgage banks and projects within the public utilities.             “Egypt and England soon found themselves very close trading partners.                  Both countries had a stake in the other’s economy. And both parties profited from the arrangement” (Miller, 1999).

In 1914, the sum of foreign capital investments was about £210,000,000. £166,300,000 counted through non productive investments such as mortgages, banks, and public debt. £26,500,000 was counted by trade and transport and £10,500,000 counted by industry (Lutsky, 1969).

Most of professions such as, pharmacists, engineers, and physicians were foreign residents, as were a large number of lawyers. The economy of other sectors such as finance, commerce, and transport, their function sustained the moving of the cotton crop. Most of the capital investment that did not directly supply cotton was used for providing facilities and services, such as gas, tramways, water, and electricity, according to the income level generated by the boost in cotton.

From 1892 to 1907 the bulky public investment were wholly financed from foreign capital and the current surplus’s interests in Egypt. In 1893-1897 the existing surplus increased to £1.2 million and to £2.2 million in 1898-1902 and in 1903-1907, reached a peak of £2.8 million (Issawi, 1961).

The intact projects were routinely under maintenance and not neglected.     Also the irrigation canals and the Nile were navigable the whole year round, through organised management and certain plans carried by Scottish engineers and technical advisers. The whole economic development and mechanism, was progressing for the next plan or step of modernisation and technical progress.

Further analysis and developments are explored in the coming chapter of (Modernisation and technical progress). It is comprehensible that the British had brought in modern values and techniques that cannot be denied, such as telecommunications, transportations, railways, infrastructure, and management.

Figure 1 British library (1900) construction of the Aswan dam, 1895-1900, massive mechanism and labour (htt4).

       Figure 2: Isla de Panay at Port-Saied 1898 and on the right picture shipments at Port de Alexandria (htt3).

                                                       Figure 3: Port Said panoramic view 1900 vast modern trade harbour, commercial-trade and modern building (htt5).

Chapter 3 – Modernisation and Technical progress


This chapter explores modernisation and technical progress in Egypt, under the British occupational period of 1882-1914. It starts from the introduction of British modern values and techniques. After an episode of an economicdevelopment which generated modernisation and technical progress.

The industrial revolution in Great Britain in the late 18th and 19th centuries has brought the bases of modernisation to the World. First it brought the ideas and inventions of the British inventor of the high pressure “locomotive steam engine” and miner engineer Richard Trevithick (Peacock, 2007). After years of British proposals to build railroad in Egypt met with Muhammad- Ali’s refusal of the proposals for political reasons. Finally, the first railroad plan in Egypt was progressed on November 1851; the representative of the project was Robert Stephenson, son of George Stephenson the railroads inventor (Goldfinch, 2003).

The plan was to build a line from Alexandria to Cairo and from Cairo to Suez. It sustained the developmental projects of the irrigation through carrying heavy equipments and hydraulics apparatus for the constructions of barrages and dams.    The first section was constructed on April 1853 and it was 105 kilometre long between Kafr Aleies on the western bank of the Nile and Alexandria. This was the beginning of the “Era of the Egyptian railroading”, which was considered as a great transition in transportation and modernisation in Egypt (El-din, 2004).

Despite the fact of the British development in agriculture and irrigation, there were other developments in state infrastructure and transportation as well.              The commercial trades between cities, from Isamilia to Port-Said and Suez and from Cairo to Alexandria, were connected through maritime and land transportations.

 These aspects encouraged foreign traders, tourisms, amenities and facilitated local and international communications. Regarding the internal communication, a system of telegraph lines, some 5,200 kilometres long network, covered the country. The railways in 1877 were about 1,519 kilometres of standard domestic railways.      In 1913 this form had doubled to 2,953 kilometres. Further railways were also established in 1914 about 1,376 kilometres of light-railways. Egypt whose total inhabited area was about 35,000 square kilometres had established an internal system of communication and transportation similar to that of many European states at a much advanced level of development (Issawi, 1961).

    Figure 4 Alexandria’s double deck tramways and Cairo transport networks. 

Ramel station - Alex 1930

In 1906 Eduard Empain a Belgium engineer and developer formed the Cairo Electric Railways and Heliopolis Oases Company. He procured a deserted land from the British administration, which was about 25 square kilometers. Whilst in 1908 Cairo’s suburb, Heliopolis was served by 30 kilometers network through six tramway lines.  In 1896 Cairo had approximately 24 kilometers of tramway lines across the city. While In 1860 Alexandria’s tramway was about 32 kilometers and in 1902 it was electrified and enlarged to reach the Kornieesh (shores district). It was the oldest developed tramway on the African continent (Steevens, 1898).

From the initiation in 1906-1907 the company advanced with modern buildings of the new habitat of Heliopolis or Misr el Gedida, in the desert about 10 kilometers from the heart of Cairo. Known by the city of luxury and leisure, with extensive avenues and prepared with all necessary amenities, services, and infrastructure; drains, water facilities, and hotels such as the “Heliopolis Palace hotel”, and electricity facilities, as well as a horse racetrack, golf and cricket courses, and public parks (Raafat, 2004). On January 1910 the Cairo Electric Railways and Heliopolis Oases Company established Heliopolis sporting club and provided Cairo with a moderate life style and class.

Furthermore the external transportation and communication were improved and not neglected. The new ports of Suez and Port-Said were built on the Suez Canal. The canal served to strait an enormous flow of international traffic through the Suez and to increase the links binding Egypt to the external world. The port of Alexandria was frequently enhanced and enlarged, to become one of the two or three greatest in the Mediterranean. The corroboration of the financial links connecting Egypt with the international community was considered as a significant development. On the other hand, the Aswan dam that was constructed under the British rule, by Sir Wilcox was considered at the time the largest in the world (Issawi, 1961).

This moderate experience had transformed the British modernity and European style to Egypt’s streets and cities. In-between years of 1883-1914 there were miscellaneous communities of different nationalities, mostly Europeans who found their way and life in different regions and suburbs in Egypt. Different modern values were imported from abroad, those who came for visits, tourism, trade, supervision, advisors, and consuls, and rulers. These features shaped Egypt’s modernity during this period.

Cairo the largest city in Africa and the capital of Egypt was a motor-engine, and key aspect in moderating the other cities. El-Qahira (Cairo) has absorbed the British administration and role. Alexandria as well, witnessed major transformation in architecture and technical progress took place in domestic and international transportations and commercial trade. It was a trade harbour and a spot for modern architecture and communities as well. Thus maritime transports were developed and interlinked through the Suez Canal, to Port Saied, and Port Alexandria (Tignor, 1966).

Port Saied was an attraction to the international community and it was a gateway to the outside commercial world. Hotels were built in Aswan, Luxor, and Komombo, and tours were programmed and managed every day, introduced Egypt’s ancient history to the Western communities (Alderson, 1909). The down-town districts in Cairo and Alexandria witnessed major modern patterns of architecture, café shops, hotels, and restaurants. State planning was sufficient and well-organized.

Egypt was established as a modern arena and was considered the modernist state in Africa and one of the modernist countries in the Middle East. For different aspects, such as liberal ideas were introduced during Sir Eldon Gorst’s liberal experience, state urbanisation, modern mechanism, and infrastructural enhancement. The state distribution plan was brilliant and affirmative between rural areas, urban cities, and localities, which were administrated by the British configuration.

First aspect was “demographic change in rural Egypt”, according to earliest modern census in 1882, Egypt total population was approximately 6, 806, 38 million. However, this average was distributed on rural and urban regions, between Upper and Lower Egypt. Cairo, Alexandria, and Port Saied, these cities were considered as urbanised centres than those parts of Lower and Upper Egypt (Colvin, 1906).

 Hence agricultural reform took place that shaped and reconstructed different classes, regions, and institutions such as the department of public works and ministry of agriculture. However this agricultural reform discouraged urbanisation (Baer, 1969).

The town population rose during 1882-1897, there was about 2.40% annually growth rate, in major principal towns such as Alexandria, Cairo, Port Said, Ismaillia, Suez, Qana, Zaqaziq, Beni Suief, Minya, Aswan, and Tantta. However, the percentage was stable during the period of 1897-1917 as there was no drastic change in structure of the population in terms of urban and rural distribution (Tanada, 2007).

Egypt was divided into Muodiriya, mouhafaza, and Markaz, between the years of 1882-1917, there was 14 muodiriya (local administrative unit)or province while mouhafaza (governorate) or urban administrative units were such like Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, and Port Saied. Marrkaz regions were local administrative sub-units or counties and maadina wastheprincipal town of marrkaz (Colvin, 1906).

There were a number of villages that belonged to each marrkaz. The number of marrkaz in 1882 was 73, and became 81 marrkaz in 1897, 84 in 1907, and 94 marrkaz in-between 1911-1917. In 1907 there were 3,599 villages belonged to the 84 marrkaz.  Between the years of 1907-1917, there were about 3, 524 villages within 94 marrkaz. Hence each marrkaz was responsible of a number of villages (Tanada, 2007). Thus Egypt’s population in 1883 was 7 million and became 14 million in 1923 (Sabry, 1996). Table 1 shows inhabitants’ census according to major towns, within Upper, Lower, and Middle Egypt (Baer, 1969). Baer G emphasised that the rate of urbanisation was low during this period. Since agriculture and land cultivation were taking more place than urbanisation. However, in cities such like Port-Said, Alexandria, and Cairo were considered as urbanised cities and trade arenas.

Table 1

Important towns with over 20,000 inhabitants

1882    Census

1897 Census

1907 Census

Growth rate percentage 1882-1897

Growth rate percentage 1897-1907































Port Said
















































Shibin al-Kawm


















Bani Suwayyef










































Total Population




More than  42.7%

More than 15.2%

Modernisation was tied to urbanisation, led to an increase of inhabitants in major towns as shown in table1. This aspect led to an internal progress and reform, regarding the formation of more than 24 towns (Madina), besides Markaz, Mudiriya,and villages within Upper, Lower and Middle Egypt (Salem, 2003).

The aforesaid truth and specified data, shows that the episode from 1897 to 1907 has grown an urbanized population in some other major towns such as Damanhur, Ismailia, Port Said and Beni Suef, and some medium sized cities such as, Belbes, Rosetta, Disuoq, Mit-Gamar, Ashmuon, Talaa, Souhaj, Melawi, Esna, Luxor and Idfuo. These medium towns have grown rapidly during this period. By a high annual rate of about 1.42% of increase compared to that of the total population. Regarding the episode from 1907 to 1917, the majority of major and medium sized towns in Lower and Middle Egypt as well as “mudiriya” Fayoum, Beni Suef, Minya, and Asyut, show moderately high yearly rates about 1.29% increase compared to that of the total population (Tanada, 2007). Also the expansion of the medium sized and major principal cities in Lower and Middle Egypt during this period was remarkable. However this expansion followed a low level of urbanization in Upper Egypt towns during a high level of land cultivation and urban concentration in Cairo (Baer, 1969).

The aforementioned episode encouraged the British to think sincerely about forming swift land links to bond the two naval hubs in Suez and Alexandria.  Constructing a railroad was an idyllic solution, frequently as the Egyptian government gained from the project through increased revenues coming from the duties on transshipments. Light railways, were introduced in 1898, which operated in Lower Egypt at the rich agricultural delta (Goldfinch, 2003).

The prevalent of them was the “Egyptian Delta Light Railway”, with a total length of 1,000 kilometers and was a British company with its registered office in London. The Egyptian State Railway became one of the tied principal sources of revenue to the Government. The sum length of lines opened to traffic was 2,358 kilometers, of which 224 were narrow-gauge, and some local extensions were proceeding (Cunningham, 1912).

The central lines worked from Alexandria, Port Said, Suez, and Damietta to Cairo, with twigs throughout the Nile Delta, and from Cairo the line follows the western bank of the Nile to Luxor and Aswan in Upper Egypt, serving all the principal towns’ route. On June 1909 the Government took the “Khargeha Oasis Railway”, purchased the line from a British companyof the Corporation of Western Egypt, for E. 125,000, which was half of the amount spent on its construction by the corporation company (Colvin, 1906).

The accessible services on the Egyptian lines were fairly good, the journey from Port Said to Cairo, about 145 miles, were done in four and a half hours. The run from Alexandria to Cairo, on a double-track, was better, for the distance was 130 miles, while the journey took precisely three hours. The fares were also cheap; the first-class fare was 18 cents, and second-class 9 cents. Traffic has shown a considerable influx and thus justified the achievement of the Government under the British rule (El-din, 2004).

In 1883 the net income was £692, 916. The number increased to £1, 283,000 in 1909 and in 1910 to £1, 446,000, versus £l, 612,000 in l907, and £1, 353,000 in 1908. Capital expenditure on state railway system during 1910 counted about £386,322, versus £362,000 in 1909. As well as bridges and stations construction with £74,000 spent on improving the signaling system on main lines (Cunningham, 1912).

Thus the intertwining of all stations between Cairo and Alexandria was successfully complete. On December 31, 1909, the stock amount of engines was 589, and 44 brand new engines arrived in 1908. The consumption of coal in 1909 was 11.8 kilograms per kilometer, as compared with 11.2 kilograms per kilometer in 1907.    The regular verve of a locomotive motor on the State Railways was thirteen years. In 1909 the total of coal consumed was 229,070,420 kilograms, for 19,688,406, kilometers run. In the same year the Railway carried about 25,306,178 passengers, 5,180,830 tons of commodities, and 498,568 of live-stock. The revenues in 1909 from June to December were £3,279. By 1910 there was a total of 1,228 kilometers of light railways, distributed into four lines (Cunningham, 1912).

Table.2 shows the progressions of some of the light railways companies in Egypt.


Egyptian Delta light Railways limited

La Societe Anonyme des Chemins de fer de la Basse-Egypte

Fayoum Light Railway company
































Table 2

Modernity in Egypt was not limited to land and maritime transports, but also it spread around the state. Such as hotels, bars, and restaurants were found at the downtown districts in Cairo, Alexandria, and Upper-Egypt. “One of the significant hotels which were built in down-town, Weest el Balad in Cairo, was the Shepherds Hotel that witnessed great tribunals” said Mr. Wafik, owner of Windsor Hotel. Another trivial hotel was the Windsor Hotel; served for many years since it was built in 1899 on an Italian design and its famous old Barrel Bar. Windsor was a grand British officers club being purchased by a swizz hotelier (Mr.Wafik, 2011). The downtown Weest el Balad district, in Cairo was known by its fabulous modernity. As there were various leisure and entertainment places, such as restaurants, café shops, bars, theatre, and Opera House, Cinema and various hotels and modern buildings, designed by Italian and British engineers (Myntti, 1999). Such like Walter Smart, Sir Alexander Keown Boyd, Eugene Nucci,and Francesco Mancini. Mancini have explored the vestiges of the ancient city of Alexandria and discovered the remnants of a Roman stadium (Pallini, 2004).

In 1883, Mr. Clifford Lloyd, under secretary of the ministry of interior has established two departments, one of Prisons and police system, and one of            Public Health. Sir John Eldon Gorst came after Lord Cromer and became consul general. He introduced a liberal experience during his reign from 1907 to 1911 as a consul-general in Egypt. In 1907 three parties were formed and further administrational organisation in 1909 formed a new system of elected provincial councils which introduced the power of the legislative council (Colvin, 1906).      Steps were taken to reduce number of British officials, and replace them by highly educated and skilled Egyptian officials. The organic law was formed in 1913, expanded powers of the legislative assembly, increased number of elected members, and allowed more effectual authority to the Egyptian institutions (Sabry, 1996). Whilst considerable progress was shown in 1910 in six technical schools and workshops, such as the schools of engineering and agriculture, the Boulak technical school, and the Mansourah trades school (Cunningham, 1912).

The British administration was a milestone, in Egypt’s modern history. Thus, state transformation was not constant, to moderate administration, agriculture, and infrastructural modernisation. Egypt constantly was a modern international transport arena, a meeting point between Africa, Asia, and Europe and the modest state in Africa and the Middle East. Reform and modernisation processes, facilitated individuals mobility, and generated a cosmopolitan community (Robert Ilbert, 1997).

Abu el Ala bridge found in Alexandria 1912, this modern technical bridge links the two sides of the “Kournish”.

However, Gabriel Baer argued that “Cromer’s policy was unfavourable to industrial development;” while Issawi argued that “it is clear that the British administration did not desire the industrialisation of Egypt” (Owen R. , 1966).   Cromer argued that; public justice, security, public transport, the public instruction and public health, must always claim priority among civil needs. These are crucial organic needs in society and should be satisfactorily provided for (Cromer, 1916).

          Figure 6-The Windsor Hotel’s restaurant and old-barrel bar

 Figure7: old barrel bar


These photos were captured after an interview with Mr. Wafik the owner of Windsor hotel. He stated that the hotel was considered as a “meeting point” for Britons, Europeans, and Egyptian elites as well.

Chapter 4 – Community relations and Cultural exchange

This chapter comes after an episode of economic development, and modernisation and technical progress.


The period of 1882-1914 sustained the presence of a cosmopolitan community in Egypt, followed by a cultural progress for several reasons. First of all the British occupation sustained these foreign communities as they felt much safer under the British rule during that period. Secondly and the most important was the commercial trades and businesses, which sustained the economic development, and generated foreign residences and communities for economic reasons.

There were also the British community, advisors, engineers and garrison.                 As there were economic, political, and some social reasons that shaped the structure of a cosmopolitan community in Egypt. By 1882 there were about 50,000 foreign inhabitants in Alexandria and by 1917 their number had became 85,000, shaping about 24 percent of the city’s population. About half of them were Greeks, counting about 20,000 in 1882 and became 35,000 by 1917 (Kitroeff A. , 1983).

Gathering these communities in one point has generated cultural interactions and progress, as Egypt was exploring other cultures, such as an “Anglophile” culture. At the same time Egypt was explored by other cultures and communities. These interactions and communities had different aspects, interests, relations, motives and cultures. Anglophile communities were composed in down-town districts in Cairo and Alexandria, Luxor and Aswan. Even some of the hotels carried British names such as the Windsor Hotel in Weest el Balad, Cairo.  Thus people were seen wearing straw-hats at the streets, and a British style and fashion shops were boosting. The combination of the society shaped the dynamics of communities relations (Robert Ilbert, 1997).

In community life various nationalities were formed. This aspect led to diversified interests, in maintaining the national institutions and customs they have brought with them. Thus Each European race and community was represented by its own noticeable evidences of religion such as (Roman Catholic, Protestant, Greek Orthodox, Eastern and Coptic orthodox Christians), in churches, institutions, schools, and clergy. There were also frequent national generous societies and hospitals for the poor and afflicted, and others for the benefit of poor natives. However, all these communities, races, and nationalities during this period in Egypt have participated in and generated cultural exchange, by introducing new values and noble mores.

In 1906 the literacy rate of the Egyptian population of Egypt was about 85 per 1,000 males and 3 per 1,000 females, while this rate has technically increased in 1909-1910. Whilst regarding religion about 10,000,000 millions of the people were Moslems and 700,000 were Christians and members of the Coptic Christian Church. The literacy average of the Moslems was 78 per 1,000 males and 2 per 1,000 females, whilst among the Copts it was 188 per 1,000 males and 16 per 1,000 females (Cunningham, 1912).

The British started a curriculum of providing schools in 1898, which gathered different nationalities and sustained certain standards, with financial support.           To receive the funds, the school had to provide efficient learning, writing, mathematics, and readings, in addition to religious instructions. In Cromer’s own words, he wanted to “equip the pupils with sufficient knowledge to care for their own station of life.”, however, education has boosted during the period of 1898-1911.   Thus the English language and sciences were introduced in schools, beside other schools and languages such like Greek, Italian, and French (Russell, 2001).


In 1909 the estimated expenditure on education in Egypt was £477,500. Although in 1910 the anticipated expenditure increased by £27,500 and became £505,000. While 1911 showed a further increase by £19,287, and became £524,287 total expenditure on education in Egypt. Also about £10,392 was expended on the central administration, and £8,895 was fixed for agricultural and technical education. Table3 shows the educational influx from 1890 to 1910 (Colvin, 1906).

Table 3: educational institutions from 1890-1910, (Cunningham, To-day in Egypt , 1912)










In Government Kuttabs










Institutions for training teachers for Kuttabs










Higher primary schools and classes










Technical schools and classes










Secondary schools










Professional colleges










Studying abroad (Egyptian educational mission)










One of the professional colleges was the Cairo University; it was officially established on December 21, 1908. Opened with a great tribunal and ceremony apprehended at the hall of the legislative council and was attended by Khedive Abaas the second and foreign heads of state, such as Sir Eldon Gorst (SCC-CU, 2009), (Faksh, 1976).

                There were about 445 scholars in the Government’s female primary schools.  In the female Kuttab schools, which give a very elementary education, there were 21,034 scholars in 1909 and about 22,094 scholars in 1910. Whilst at the Boulaq normal school for women teachers in kuttabs there were 60 students undergoing training in 1906. 13 of the kuttabs institutions have been specially set apart for girls, which were attended by 2,080 pupils and were staffed by 42 Egyptian women teachers were trained in the Boulaq College. One of the most motivating and important features of the Government educational work was the training of teachers. The number of students in attendance at the training institutions rose from 958 in 1908 to 1,042 in 1909 and 1,128 in 1910. Of these students 80 were women, marked moderately pleasing graduation from the Egyptian education (Cunningham, 1912).

Table 4 shows institutions according to nationality, (Cunningham, To-day in Egypt , 1912)

Nationality of institutions

Number of institutions 1909-1910

Number of attendance






















According to table 4 there were a total of 393 private-high educational institutions, with a total of 38,601 in attendance in between 1909-1910. The “Ministry of Education” had under its direct administration 145 language schools were called kuttabs, which were characterized by a very elementary education. 6 normal schools for training teachers for kuttabs included one for women. 32 higher primary schools for boys and two for girls, 6 technical and trades schools, including one for girls. Also it had three professional colleges of law, medicine, and engineering; three training colleges for teachers and the school with a total of 207 institutions (Cunningham, 1912).

There were resettlement offices for every community or nationality, as there were hospitals, schools, retirement funds, musical groups and sport teams.             Even employment came along community lines. Thus, Greeks dominated the grocery and tobacco trades, Jews ran two-third of the “bureaux de change”; while Italians were architects and construction specialists. The resettlement offices were such as the “Franz-Josef refuge”, “the Hellenic Home and the International Society of Alexandria” which took care of each new residence and arrival. Also this mixture of communities and races had established, churches, synagogues, community centers and schools and institutions, funded by private contributions or by contributions from their respective governments (Robert Ilbert, 1997), (Sabry, 1996).

                Furthermore, monuments exploration and discovery at Alexandria had begun with beginning of the British occupation and the new museum was opened in Alexandria on 26 September 1895. Entertainment Theater and opera houses in Cairo and Alexandria, the Zizinia Theater was established in 1908, by an Italian architect in Alexandria (Robert Ilbert, 1997).

In 1896 it was the first time for the Egyptians to see animation pictures.                     As at the same year on 6 January, La Reforme newspaper de Alexandria, and the Egyptian Gazette; underlined the announcement of the first cinematic and magical animations concert. Was held in café shop of Khawaja (Foreigner) Zawni, at Rushdie Street in Alexandria for the first time a concert was the first of its kind in the country of Egypt, on the art of cinema and photographic animations (Alm, 2003),          (Salem, 2003).

            One of the Italian residents at Alexandria, have rented Zawni’s café shop, and started to view tapes, that he imported from France and Italy, as each tape duration was not longer than 2 or 3 minutes. While the entry fee to watch the video at Khawaja Zawni’s café shop were 5 cents for the first row, and 3 cents for the back row. Furthermore in 1912, an Italian man called Lugarno has imported a camera, which he used to capture some secnes such like “After the Liturgy in St. Catharina’s Church” and “The traffic scene at Sidi-Gaber station”. Lugarno was viewing these scenes at café shops in Alexandria, under the name of “In Alexandria’s streets” (Alm, 2003).

In Queer things about Egypt 1911, Douglas has emphasised the surprising narratives, of the different classes and various lives of foreign communities in Cairo, and in a simple way Douglas. S emphasised personal experiences of the Britons, in Lower and Upper Egypt (Cairo, Asyut, and Fayoum). He argues about the development and establishment of the railway system and contemporary hotels.

On the other hand, Douglas illustrates the relations between the Egyptians and the English community, in doing business and life aspects. He agrees and approves that there were interrelations and prosperity in the economy, agricultural production (cotton and other crops), and management. That reflects the absorption of modern values during that phase (Sladen, 1911).

One of the main themes that were linked to this period is “cosmopolitanism” in terms of modernisation and technical progress, mixed communities and foreign businesses, suburbs, and population. Thus cosmopolitanism has transfigured and developed the modern idea and values within Egypt. At this point and period of the British experience from 1882 to 1914, there were a mixture of cultures and communities within one society, sharing modern, new, and prosperous values. The different ideas and inventions coming from Europe to Egypt helped in transforming the Egyptian land, labour, techniques, culture and economy as well. These aspects were leading a cosmopolitan community sharing frequent values approached from different regions mainly Europe. Thus under the British supervision and administration during this period, the Europeans and other communities were sustained and felt much safer in Egypt than before (Kitroeff A. , 1983), (Alm, 2003).

Regarding the education at this level of transformation, every community was establishing its own identity, through schools, languages, religion, and culture.      Thus there were French, Italian, English, Greek, and American schools. Such like     “Le Collège italien d’Alexandrie” found in 1903 and Victoria College found in 1902. Every community took advantage to create learning institutions based on different nationalities, which could benefit the coming generations. Also new churches were built such like the Catholic; Evangelical and Protestant churches were introduced and built in Alexandria and Cairo (Milner, 1902), (Robert Ilbert, 1997).

Furthermore, sport clubs and public gardens such like the Giza Zoo found in 1891, sustained community relations and interactions in different life spheres. Such as the Gezira club was found in 1909 and Heliopolis club found in 1910. As a reason communities were able to share their knowledge and exchange cultural backgrounds. Thus different sports, art shows, and cultures were introduced in Egypt (Salem, 2003).

Figure 8 Victoria College and Victoria Tram Station -found in 1902, at Lord Cromer’s reign (htt11)

Sir Eldon Gorst, have installed the school’s new basis, built and designed by Henry Gorra Bey. However the honor went to Queen Victoria’s son Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught. In his extended voyage to Egypt, the royal guest of honor Prince Arthur, traveled by unique train from Cairo to Alexandria on 27 March with Princess Patricia, as the royal cortege drove from Sidi-Gaber to Domaine de Siouf. The first coalition of Old Victorians “The Old Victorian Association” was created on May 1912. It consisted of thirty former students. Integrated Kamal Abaza, Albert Nimr, G. Valassopulo, L. Ovadia, H.W. Hanna, A. Nahas, J. Barda, George Antonious, and A. Messiqua. On March 1912 the Bishop of London visited Victoria College, he was pleased to note that the sect of the public school had entrenched itself in Egypt, and elaborated how the public school position was one of the best traditions of the English nation (Sahar Hamouda, 2004).

Figure 9the English Anglican Protestant of ST. Mark Church in Alexandria The church served the Anglican Christian community in Alexandria, and it gathered names of British advisors who served during this period such like C. Foster and Privates J. Cook, J. Kelly, J. Stephenson, and Private W. Boyton.

Figure 10 the entrance door of the English Anglican Church. Above the door is signed by British personals who served in 1904 in Alexandria

Figure 11  from inside the English Anglican Protestant of ST. Mark Church in Alexandria, the written words says, “In memory of the following British soldiers who died in Alexandria 1882-1883”.


                Figure 12 “Interior of the English Anglican church in Upper Egypt-Aswan.” L.L., circa 1911 (htt10).

Figure 13 skating ring at Gezira Club 1909 (htt9)

Skating sports were introduced in Egypt, other sports such like cricket and golf as well. This aspect helped in building a prestigious community that carried number of middlemen, middle class, and elites and labors as well (Kitroeff A. , 1989). On the other hand regarding the cotton businesses, the fact that European cotton exporters in Egypt relied on Greek middlemen in the provinces, but so did other Greek exporters. The motive behind this was that there were more Greeks than other Europeans in the provinces, while the Greeks were considered more dependable than Egyptians (Kitroeff A. , 1983).

Furthermore, Greeks worked for non-Greek export companies that were in competition with Greek exporters. Furthermore, Greeks attained superior positions in the “German-Swiss firm of R.O. Lindeman & Co.”, which was the third major cotton exporter after the Greek-owned “Choremi-Benachi Company” and the British firm of “Carver Brothers” (Gazette, 1907 ). Thus it was clear that the Greeks were integrated within the community and had mutual businesses with British companies and exporters as well (Kitroeff A. , 1983). The knowledgeable interaction, between these communities introduced moderate life style and diversified knowledge in Egypt.

Chapter 5 – Conclusion

Eventually in between 1882-1914 there were three British consuls general and agents in Egypt. The first was Lord Cromer’s period 1883-1907 and it was the period of economic and financial adjustment, and agricultural progress. Sir John Eldon Gorst (1907-1911) it was the period of the administrational organisation and moderate liberal experience and commercial growth. Finally Lord Herbert Kitchener 1911-1914, it was the period of adjustment in army affairs.

Egypt was kindly in a transformation period during the British experience from 1882-1914. Moderate administrations and institutions were established. Such as the department of prisons and police, and the department of public health, established by Mr. Clifford Lloyd in 1883. The mixed and native courts and the department of railways were established to serve different nationalities and communities.

The British presence and rule in modernising the state favoured different communities and generated a cosmopolitan community. It was a crucial period of change that transformed Egypt’s global status and preference, attracted by modernity and contemporary history. The British experience in Egypt 1882-1914, had brought different cultural interactions which were advancing culturally, socially, politically, and economically in Egypt (Robert Ilbert, 1997).

During that period the search for an Egyptian national identity was in-progress. A growing population of urbanised educated Egyptian elites and professionals wanted to achieve correspondence of international status for their country with the European nations. The populations of Cairo and Alexandria in 1900 were basically a mixture of diverse cultures, nationalities, and modern prestigious life.

On the other hand, under the British supervision and administration, the Europeans and other communities were sustained. They felt much safer, after the chaos and disorder reigned in the cities of Cairo and Alexandria, culminating in the massacre of various Europeans. This Led to the tragedy of the British bombardment of Alexandria headed by General Sir Gamet Wolseley, the rise of the Orabi revolution, and the British occupation of Egypt in 1882. However European communities became integrated in the Egyptian community and society, administration, and economy as well. This generated harmony and cosmopolitan communities, mixed families and mixed businesses, affairs and relations.

One of the impressive statements that was said by the Belgian, Emile de Laveleye, that “If England now retire completely, she will deliver Egypt over to bloodsuckers, native and foreign, with unlimited right of pillage.” (Donal Scott Buchanan, 1997). This statement intended to insure the importance of the British supervision and advisers in Egypt during that time. However, such ideas and statements were opposed, by the rise of nationalists, nationalistic demands and slogans such like “Egypt for the Egyptians”. Therefore on the long run this period also encouraged the sense of nationalism in the Egyptian community.

Despite the fact, of the developments that were made during this period, such like agricultural reform, technical, and managerial development. There were no strong industrial base and lack in urbanization as a reason of intensive land cultivation and agricultural developments. However, the agricultural reform was considered the most important theme of this period, as it was the period of fruitful lands and which intensively sustained Egypt’s economy. Furthermore, the agricultural reform was important for the finical adjustment and plans that were carried by Lord Cromer, to rouse Egypt from economic depression and instability.

However, Cromer’s negligence of industry and his attention for technical and mechanical agricultural developments was considered as a strategic opinion. It was to keep Egypt in the cotton span, to adjust the economy and lessen the competition of any rising cotton industries in Egypt. While Greek cotton exporters were active and cotton mills were built in Alexandria and Cairo, to sustain the establishment of cotton industry in Egypt, cooperated with British and other Europeans companies.

On the other hand, this period was the glamorous period were the British and the Egyptians understood that there interests are one. By which that, British advisors and planning for transition and reform, at the same time to adjust the debts of Egypt through exporting cotton to England, which benefits Britain’s economy as well.

            During years of British sphere of influences in the Middle East. Egypt was considered the most important and strategic country for Britain, more than for other European states. The occupation in 1882 was a milestone in Egypt’s modern history. It was the beginning of the end of the Ottoman influences. While in between 1882-1914, Egypt was in transition such like agricultural, administrational, commercial, rural and urban transitions. However, Gabriel Baer argues that there was a low level of urbanization. Because of the agricultural reform and land prosperity which made the land so precious to keep and costly to depart.

 Thus urban concentrations were in Cairo, Port Said, and Alexandria, for they were with great importance during that time. Cairo was the capital and management point, while Alexandria was a major port and cosmopolitan city that connect Egypt with the shores of Greece, Italy (Europe). Also Port Said was a large trade harbor, a cosmopolitan city, and strategic meeting point with the Suez Canal and shipments. The British experience explored modern Egypt and introduced European values which led to Egypt’s socioeconomic and cultural transformations. However, one of the main critics of this period was the agricultural interests which impeded the industrial sector.

Eventually the period from 1882 to 1914 in Egypt were illustrated in three points. First point was Economic development, secondly was modernisation and technical progress, finally community relations and cultural exchange. These three aspects were considered as the British milestones in Egypt. Some of the features that were illustrated in these three points were trade expansion, cosmopolitanism, agricultural reform, and economic and financial adjustment.

Marius Deeb argued that foreign minorities were considered as agents of change influenced the internal development of Egypt’s economic and social history. These foreign communities felt much safer under and during the years of the British occupation, mainly from 1882 to 1914 (Deeb, 1978). There were three dimensions for this significant period. First it was the period of financial readjustment and agricultural reform and maintenance. Second dimension was the regained trust between Europeans and Egyptians after a disastrous chaos which occurred in 1882. Third dimension and the most important was the significant status that Egypt gained during this period, as the land of prosperity that attracted almost half of the world. Economic development, social and cosmopolitan construction, infrastructural development and maintenance, were behind this modern phase.

Furthermore the mixed communities and suburbs encouraged foreign trades and construction projects, sustained the economy and the state infrastructure as well.      Cotton production was deeply influenced by the agricultural development, and land cultivation which was the major part of Cromer and his successor’s plans. Thus cotton production increased annually and exports increased as well. Also an educational approach was taken by Victoria College and Cairo University which introduced modern education, science, and sport. Furthermore, state infrastructures were enhanced and modern transportation networks were established and developed. Eventually this period was regarded as Egypt’s fabulous transitional experience.


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 Author and writer :  Mina Gerges. Matta


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