When Rushdy Pasha presented the resignation of his Cabinet to Sultan Husein Kamel, the newly appointed  Sultan (by the British), he was requested to form a Cabinet, which was to last until the death of the Sultan on October 9, 1917.

The Protectorate which was imposed by England upon Egypt and which was to last until 1922 was one of the most shameful pages of the history of Modern Egypt.  The Sultan was nothing but a puppet that did not even had a say in the choice of his Prime Minister. Great Britain, as the protector power, canceled the position of Egyptian Foreign Affairs position claiming that it was its duty to run the foreign policy of the country.  As a result of that decision, all the foreign representatives representing the interests of their respective Countries in Egypt were ordered to stop all diplomatic contacts with the Egyptian Government and to deal directly with the office of the British High Commissioner in Cairo, Sir Henry McMahon who replaced Lord Kitchener (Lord Kitchener was called back to London to assume his new position as Minister Of War).  It is indeed quite surprising that neither Rushdi Pasha nor any member of his Cabinet or high Egyptian Officials thought of resigning in protest of that shameful turn of events.  But, to give them all the benefit of the doubt, they might have been encouraged to think that the Protectorate imposed upon Egypt was only a temporary situation that would end once Great Britain and its allies would emerge victorious from that World Conflict.

Born in Simla, India, to a military family, McMahon graduated from The Royal Military College at Sandhurst, where he was the top graduate of the class of 1882 (the same year of the British invasion of Egypt).  He served on the Punjab Frontier Force then in the Indian Political Department, from 1890 to 1914, rising to the post of Foreign Secretary in 1911.  He was responsible for demarcating the boundaries between Baluchistan and Persia and between India and China.  At the start of the World War I, when Kitchener took charge of the British War Office and Britain proclaimed a Protectorate over Egypt and the Sudan, McMahon was named the first High Commissioner.  His main objective was to enforce order in a troubled time, as two attempts were made to kill Husein Kamel, the newly appointed Sultan of Egypt, and the reservists rioted and Egypt was overcrowded with troops from all parts of the British Empire.  He entered history as the author of the famous McMahon / Cherif Husein Correspondence, his exchange of letters (five of them) with Cherif Husein of Mecca in which he is thought to have guaranteed that the Cherif‘s Family, the Hashimites, would rule Palestine, Syria and Iraq once they had overthrown the Ottoman Rule there in World War I. McMahon later denied that Palestine had been included.  He was recalled suddenly to England, at the end of 1916. McMahon knew little about Egypt, its people, its needs and aspiration.  Cherif Husein of Mecca was the father of Abdullah the first Emir of Transjordan, later to become King of Jordan and Faysal the first king of Syria, to be dethroned by the French, the first King of Iraq. (1)

The British direct rule, the short reign of Sultan Husein Kamel and the second Cabinet of Rushdy Pasha was a period of unrest.  To pacify the country, the Sultan and his Prime Minister decided to give a Cabinet Post to Saad Zaghloul Pasha who was a very popular figure amongst the Egyptians in general and the Nationalists in particular.  The request was submitted to the British Cabinet, which was adamant in its refusal.  To enhance his popularity, the Sultan became very generous in granting Pashaliks right and left.  Honorific titles were given to the Cabinet Members, the Prime Minister had the title of “SAHEB AL DAWLAH” preceding his name and each Minister received the title of “SAHEB AL MA’ALI”.  All these gestures did not increase the popularity of the Sultan and the Cabinet.

The Sultan was the target of two assassination attempts; the first was in Cairo, on Thursday April 8, 1915, when a young merchant from the town of Mansourah, called Mohammad Khalil, shot and missed the Sultan.  He was condemned to death and executed.  The second attempt was in Alexandria, on Friday July 9, 1915, when an unexploded bomb was thrown at the Sultan cortege, on its way to the Mosque for the Friday Prayers.   The investigation of this second incident dragged for a long time and ended with the arrest and trial of Mohammad Naguib El-Helbawy and Mohammad Shams-El-Dine.  Both were condemned to death but the Sultan commuted their sentence to life in jail with hard work.  As a result of these two attempts, the Cabinet increased the Sultan‘s security budgets by three thousands and six hundreds pounds.

On September 4, 1915Ibrahim Fathi Pasha, the Minister of Religious Affairs (WAZIR AL AWQAF” was stabbed and seriously wounded while awaiting for a train at the Cairo Main Railway Station.  The perpetrator, Saleh Abdel-Latif was arrested, condemned to death by a British Military Court and executed on October 3, 1915. Abdel-Latif was an employee of the Ministry of Finances.

The world being at war, most of the activity of the second Rushdy Cabinet aimed at facing that situation that was imposed upon Egypt.  All the requests of the Ministry of War, either to call the reserves (RADEEF), to build new military camps or to modernize the Egyptian Army by buying modern equipments, were granted.  About twelve thousands reservists were called back during that period.

The Cabinet agreed to stop the export of eggs for the purpose of satisfying the local consumption and that of the British Empire troops which consumed about four hundreds thousands eggs daily!!!  In the period from November 1916 to April 1917, the Cabinet authorized the export of two hundred millions eggs.

To support the war effort, the Government gathered about one hundred and seventy thousands physical fit men and sent them to work in the Sinai, Palestine, Iraq and even France.  They were considered as non-combatant at the service of the combat troops.  Many of them never came back and the Egyptian government had the cheek to call those unfortunate citizens “Volunteers”.

A law was promulgated in 1916 limiting the gold coins to the one pound and to the fifty piasters categories.  The silver coins were limited to the twenty, ten and five piasters categories while the nickel was used in the ten, five, two and one MALLEEM” categories.  The name of Sultan Husein Kamel was to be incrusted on all those coins.

An Administration of Supplies was constituted and annexed to the Ministry of Interior.  The duty of that Administration was to control the prices, particularly those of food products, and to make sure that no shortages, black markets and monopolies would occur.

The Cabinet agreed to increase the budget of the Ministry of Public Works by twelve thousands pounds to fight unemployment by hiring thousands of workers to clean up the “ABBASYA” desert, with a daily salary of three piasters.

At that same Cabinet meeting, it was decided to allocate the amount of one hundred and fifty thousands pounds to cover the salaries of the Sultan‘s Office!!!

The Cabinet decided to buy a part of the cotton crop at the international price set by the American and Lancashire markets, plus a little extra for the higher quality of the Egyptian cotton.

It is interesting to note that the Ministry of Education submitted a report to the Cabinet claiming that the number of students who succeeded in obtaining their secondary school certificate jumped from forty two graduates in 1887 to five hundreds and fifty in 1914!

At the beginning of October 1917, the health of Sultan Husein Kamel suddenly deteriorated and he died on October 9.  Thus ended the second Rushdy Cabinet. (2)

(To be continued) 

Kamal K. Katba



© Kamal Katba 2006


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