Since the totally free elections, supervised
by Yahya Ibrahim Pasha, resulted with the Wafd Party candidates
obtaining ninety percent of the House Seats, King Fouad bowed
to the Nation’s will and called upon Saad Zaghloul Pasha, the Leader
of the Wafd, to form a new Cabinet.
Leader of the Wafd and Prime Minister. Born to a prosperous
peasant family in Ibyana (Gharbiya), he was educated in his village
Kottab and spent four years at the Al-Azhar where he became a disciple
of Gamal El-Dine Al Afghani and Sheikh Mohammad Abduh.
In 1881 he briefly edited Al Waqai’ Al Misryya. He
took part in the Urabi Revolution, following which he was arrested
for membership in a secret society but was cleared. He worked as
a Lawyer and served for a time as a Judge in the National Courts before
a wealthy patron financed his legal studies in Cairo and Paris. His
marriage to Safya, daughter of Prime Minister Mustafa Fahmi Pasha,
greatly advanced his career. In response to the nationalist upsurge
following the Dinshiway Incident, Saad was named Education
Minister. Soon after he clashed with the British Adviser to the
Ministry but won popular support for making Arabic the medium of instruction
in all the Government elementary schools. His house served as the
meeting place for the founders of the Egyptian University and, for a time,
as its administrative headquarter. His other reforms included setting
up agricultural and technical schools, extending the length of secondary
education from three years to four and of teachers training from one year
to two (later to three), and founding a girls secondary school at Kubri
Al-Qubbah, Cairo. He was also the first minister to visit the
schools himself. He served as Justice Minister in 1910-1912.
In 1913 he was elected to the new Legislative Assembly, where,
as the elected Vice-President, he became Leader of the Opposition.
When the Assembly was prorogued during World War 1, he withdrew
from politics. Considered for a Cabinet Post in 1917, he was
rejected as too anti-British.
After the Armistice, Saad
and two of his colleagues asked the British High Commissioner if they could
go to London to discuss Egypt’s postwar status, but the Foreign
Office refused to see them. Saad then proposed to lead an
Egyptian Delegation (Wafd) to the Paris Peace Conference
and circulated petitions throughout the Country to gain popular support,
but the British blocked that idea too. The Egyptian Ministers resigned
and riots broke out in Cairo and the Provinces on March 18, 1919.
three of his friends were arrested by the British and interned in Malta,
but the disturbances grew worse. A new High Commissioner,
Allenby, suppressed the riots but let the Wafd Leaders to go
to Paris, where they stayed for a year without gaining a hearing
at the Conference. Saad talked to Milner in 1920
the two failed to reach an agreement on Egypt’s future status.
His return to Egypt revived popular unrest and he was exiled to Aden, the
Seychelles, and Gibraltar. He did not return until the 1923 Constitution
had been written. He then converted his Delegation into the Wafd Party,
which in the Parliamentary Elections held late in that year, won a large
majority. In January 1924, King Fouad invited Saad
form a Wafdist Cabinet. His Cabinet hoped to reach an Agreement on
new status with
Britain’s new Labour Government.
He barely escaped an attempt on his life in June of that year.
His Wafdist Government fell after the assassination, in Cairo, of
the Commander of the Egyptian Army, Sir Lee Stack, in
November. Commissioner Allenby handed Saad an ultimatum
couched in terms the latter viewed as extreme and humiliating. He
resigned in protest, and the King named a caretaker Government from
which the Wafd was excluded. In new elections held in 1925,
the Wafd won a partial victory and Saad was elected Speaker
of the Chamber Of Deputies, but the King ordered the Parliament
closed. In the 1926 Elections Saad led the Wafd
another victory but declined to form a Government and was reelected Speaker.
His death in 1927 was mourned throughout Egypt. (2)
Hailed as the Father of Egypt’s political
independence, he was popular and patriotic, but often vain and stubborn.
He did more to rouse the masses than to expel the British. His memoirs
are being published by the Center for the Study and Documentation of Egypt’s
contemporary History. By 1998 eight volumes covering up to
1918 had appeared. His Cairo house, BAYT AL-UMMA, is a
national museum; he is buried in a special mausoleum nearby. (1)
Saad Zaghloul Pasha’s
first Cabinet was, to say the least, quite unusual. It included two
Coptic Ministers, Morcos Hanna Bey for the Public Works Ministry
Boutros Ghali for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Needless
to say that the appointment of two Coptic Ministers was very controversial,
since, by tradition, each Cabinet included only one Coptic Minister. Saad
Pasha insisted on his choice claiming that there was absolutely no
difference between Moslems and Copts; they were all good Egyptians equal
in rights and obligations. The new Prime Minister kept for
himself the very important Interior portfolio. Included in
the new Cabinet were Mustafa El-Nahas Bey, as Minister of Communications
Al-Gharably Effendi, a young lawyer from Tanta, as Minister of Justice.
The appointment of those two was considered then as a slap on the Establishment
‘s face, the position of Cabinet Posts being strictly confined to the Pashas
The new Premier ignored
the King’s objection to some of the new Cabinet members and insisted
that his choice was the right one. It was obvious from day one that
Pasha was embarking on a new policy to heal the nation and to lead
it towards complete independence. Such a new direction led to several
conflicts between the King and his Prime minister
the new Government policy contradicted that of the occupying power, that
critical period of the history of modern Egypt witnessed an alliance
of King and British High Commissioner against the Wafdist Cabinet
(the enemy of my enemy is my friend)!!
All in all the Cabinet
held fifty meetings only ten of them attended and chaired by the King.
It is interesting to note that during those meetings held in the King’s
presence, the subjects discussed were not included in the meetings’ agenda!!
On February 26,
the Cabinet, in a session chaired by the King, approved a decree
calling for the inauguration of the recently elected Parliament on March
15, 1924. During that same meeting it was decided to allocate
a yearly salary of six hundred pounds to the newly elected Deputies, with
the understanding that the Cabinet Members, who were also elected Deputies,
would not qualify for that compensation. In another Cabinet meeting,
not attended by the King, a new elections law was decreed amending the
existing law by making the election of the Candidates for the House Of
Deputies directly and on one level instead of two, while making the election
of the Senate on two levels instead of three.
The Cabinet approved
the 1924 – 1925 budget, the Country receipts being thirty-four millions
and four hundred thousand pounds while the expenditures did not exceed
thirty-four millions and one hundred and eighty pounds, thus achieving
a surplus of two hundreds and twenty thousand pounds. A project of
law changing the one millieme metal from nickel to bronze and authorizing
the issuing of ten milliemes, five milliemes and two milliemes coins in
nickel. A half a millieme coins were to be issued and the portrait
of King Fouad was to grace all the coins. A three millions
pounds budget was voted to upgrade the railway system over a period of
three years, the system having been dilapidated during the four years of
the First World War. The Cabinet reviewed the working hours of the
Government employees and adopted the following schedules: A – from
to 14 hours during the period from November first to April 30 and
B – from 07.30 to 13.30 hours for the period from May first
to October thirty first. It was also decided that those Government
Administrations that delt directly with the public would maintain their
existing hours on the basis of two shifts a day (one in the morning and
one in the afternoon). The Cabinet forbade the Public Service employees
to have a private job on the side unless they obtain a specific authorization
from their respective Cabinet Minister; those who contravene this order
would be sent to disciplinary courts.
In its efforts to
cut off all public spending waste, the Cabinet abolished the forty pounds
a month, transportation expenditures, that was accorded to the Cabinet
Ministers and forbade their use of Government cars!! The Cabinet
also voted to allocate the yearly amount of five hundred pounds to cover
the expenses of the Minister of Foreign Affairs’ banquets given
on the occasion of Foreign Dignitaries’ visits.
To top it all, the
Cabinet intervened for the release of the 147 political prisoners
who were condemned to jail sentences by British Military Courts.
A very important event
happened during the tenure of Saad Pasha’s Cabinet, that of the
discovery of the King Tut’s tomb at the Valley of the Kings.
Previous Cabinets have granted Lord Carnarvon the license to dig
in the Valley of the Kings; the discovery of King Tut tomb
by Mr. Carter, an archeologist at the service of the Lord, led to
a serious confrontation between the Egyptian and British Government (3).
The Egyptian Minister of Public Works
forbade Carter to open the King’s sarcophagus except during
the presence of one of his officials, to prevent the disappearance of the
historical artifacts, like it happened so many times before!! The
British Press, in London, supported, by the local Foreign Press,
was very vocal in attacking the Egyptian Government, which did not budge.
If not for that wise decision, the invaluable treasures of the King
Tut ‘s tomb would have been by now the property of the British Museum!!
March 15, 1924
was a day to remember in the modern history of Egypt. For
the first time since the British occupation, in 1882, a freely elected
Parliament was to be inaugurated. Many Egyptians remembered with
emotion that other Parliament voted by the People, as a result of the Orabi
Revolution, and canceled by the occupying power after its invasion.
On that inauguration day, Saad Pasha received a missive from Mr.
the then British Prime Minister, expressing his Government’s willingness
to discuss with the Egyptian Government the future status of Egypt.
An Egyptian Delegation headed by Saad
Pasha proceeded to London and held exactly three sessions before
returning empty handed to Egypt. The Egyptians submitted to
their British counterparts their non-negotiable demands, which were:
the evacuation of British troops, the withdrawal of the British Financial
and Judicial Advisors, the right of Egypt to run its Foreign Policy
according to its interests and its right to be the sole protector of the
foreign subjects living within its boundaries; any other problems between
the two Countries could be negotiable. The British refusal to agree
to Egypt’s demand worsened the already touchy relation between the
two Countries, which encouraged King Fouad to plot, with the help
of the Brits, for the fall of Saad Pasha’s Cabinet and the disbanding
of the newly elected Parliament with its Wafdist majority.
The King did
not have to wait for long. On November 19, 1924, five persons
in a car ambushed the vehicle of Sir Lee Stack Pasha, the Sirdar
of the Egyptian Army and Governor General of the Sudan. The
gravely wounded, as a result of the shooting, along with his driver and
adjutant; he died of his wounds the following day. Lord Allenby,
the British High Commissioner, surrounded the
Office with five hundred British soldiers and personally presented Saad
Pasha with a humiliating ultimatum according to which the Egyptian
Government would have to pay an indemnity of half a million Pounds, it
will have to crack down on any popular demonstrations or unrest, it will
have to completely withdraw the Egyptian troops from the Sudan and
abstain from claiming the right to protect the foreigners living in
To add insult to injury Allenby gave Saad Pasha twenty four
hours to fulfill these demands or else…
After abiding by the
ultimatum, Saad Pasha presented the resignation of his Cabinet to
the King, on November 23, 1924. On November 24
the King accepted the Cabinet’s resignation with no regret.
(to be continued)
Kamal Karim Katba
Jr., is Professor Emeritus of Middle East History at Pennsylvania State
University. He is (with Lawrence Davidson) the author of A Concise History
of the Middle East, Eighth Edition, and is the author as well of Modern
Egypt: Foundation of a Nation-State, Second Edition. He is the recipient
of the Amoco Foundation Award for Outstanding Teaching and the 2000 Middle
East Studies Association Mentoring Award. Goldschmidt has been known during
his years at Penn State for having created a series of courses that stimulated
undergraduate interest in Middle Eastern history and culture. Educated
at Colby College and Harvard University, Goldschmidt has held fellowships
from the Social Science Research Council and the Fulbright Faculty Research
fund, among others. He is author of numerous books and many articles and
essays on Middle Eastern history. He was an elected faculty senator, chaired
its committee on student affairs and served as secretary. He chaired the
Middle East Studies committee for 25 years. He also was instrumental in
helping to devise courses in non-western history and in developing the
successor to those courses for the general education curriculum.
In addition, he is
one of the most respected authorities on Egypt's Modern history. Prof.
is a frequent contributor on the Internet, including the
prestigious and oldest forum: Egypt Net.
meaningful and serious discussions about the History of Modern Egypt,
join Egypt Net group (The oldest & continuous Egyptian forum on the
internet since 1985.)
|The Egyptian people
displayed an overwhelming mass outpouring of grief following the death
of three national leaders: Mustafa Kamel, who died on 10 February 1908
at the age of 34; Saad Zaghlul, who was approaching 70 when he died on
23 August 1927; and Gamal Abdel-Nasser, who died at the age of 53 on 28
September 1970. Although history does not repeat itself and national circumstances
at the time of each of these leaders' deaths were very different, the individuals
themselves had much in common. Kamel was the guiding spirit of the nascent
national independence movement; Zaghlul was the symbol of Egypt's first
truly populist revolution; and Abdel-Nasser, though he attained power in
a coup, succeeded in winning unprecedented popularity as head of state
in Egyptian history.
Among the many epithets
Egyptians and non-Egyptians conferred on Zaghlul upon his death, one of
the most eloquent was that cited by the famous writer May Ziada -- "Colossus
of the Nile Valley." But perhaps the more eloquent was that chosen by Wolfgang
Michel who, in the Viennese Frie Presse, extolled Zaghlul as "the uncrowned
king of the peasants." In his obituary on Zaghlul, the Austrian journalist
wrote: "Today, the mighty lion died. Gone from his hands forever are the
reins of Egypt's various parties, which he led for years with wisdom, resolve
and cunning. With his death Egypt has not only lost a speaker of parliament.
It has lost much more, for his death carried to the grave his great intelligence,
great steadfastness, patriotic selflessness and capacity to read the souls
of men, traits that rallied around him the hearts of the people of the
nation and formed them into a powerful bloc belonging to the Wafd."
Although much has
been written about Zaghlul's personal life and political career, there
are many rumours about his death. For example, it is still widely believed
that his dying words were, "It's no use." This was not true. Because of
the cataclysmic nature of this event, it will be useful to turn to Al-Ahram
for a more accurate account. The Wafd Party newspapers were naturally given
to hyperbole, if not an almost mystical adulation on this occasion, and
the pro-palace press, such as Al-Ittihad, betrayed subtle glee. This undoubtedly
makes Al-Ahram the most credible contemporary newspaper to consult for
As befitting the
momentous moment, four successive editions of Al-Ahram, from 24 to 27 August
1927, had their front pages wreathed in black with but one word -- Saad
-- printed in large font. The issues recounted the smallest details of
the failing health of "the glorious leader," his death, the public mourning
and the funeral, all of which contributed to portraying a people bereft.
The papers also featured numerous articles on the "uncrowned king of the
peasants," the foreign coverage of the event and a perspective on the future
of Egypt following his death.
Zaghlul's final hours
tell a heartrending story of a man who conquered life and was defeated
by death. His health had been failing for some time. On 15 August, a severe
ear infection quickly got out of hand and spread to other parts of his
leading to vomiting, pulmonary inflammation, a 41.7 degree fever and septicemia.
For eight days his
condition fluctuated between hope and despair. Finally, at 7.40am on Tuesday,
23 August, Safiya Zaghlul entered his room to ask how he was feeling. Eyes
closed, he answered, "I'm finished."
"But you're getting
better," his wife insisted. "No, I'm finished," he repeated faintly, after
which he lapsed into a coma. He died two hours later.
of Al-Ahram was present at the "House of the Nation," as Zaghlul's home
was popularly referred to, on that final morning. When the sounds of wailing
started to be heard from inside the house, "We all bowed our heads and
realised that God's will was done, that the nation was bereft of its leader,
Saad, who had just breathed his last in the presence of his wife, her sister
and her daughter. Tears were shed by all present, who included many religious
figures, parliamentary representatives and government officials, as the
cabinet announced to the nation the passing of its glorious leader."
Al-Ahram had been
prepared for that day. Twelve hours later, the first black-wreathed edition
hit the stands, paying homage to the revered nationalist symbol. The entire
front page and part of the second featured a biography of Zaghlul, written
by Editor-in- Chief Daoud Barakat. The rest of the page carried further
details of the death of "the uncrowned king of the peasants."
Although much of
the information in the biography would have been familiar to Egyptian readers,
Barakat's treatment had a powerful ring. He writes, for example, "Saad
arose from the heart of the people, as did Washington, Lincoln, Napoleon,
Garibaldi, Cromwell and other legendary figures, alongside whom Saad will
henceforth be remembered. It has long been held that the builders of nations
and peoples emerge from the core of their societies and ascend the ladder
of life rung by rung until they reach the summit."
The patriotic spirit
that motivated Zaghlul was epitomised by a statement he delivered following
his election as speaker of the Legislative Assembly in 1913. "If the government
wants this assembly to be no more than an office for stamping and registering
government-issued laws and decrees then I, as an Egyptian who loves his
country, would prefer that this assembly did not exist at all." That Zaghlul
addressed the deepest sentiments and aspirations of the Egyptian people
was manifest in the unprecedented mass reception that turned out to greet
him upon his return from London following the collapse of his negotiations
with Lord Milner. "Thus nations are bodies that need a head," Zaghlul said,
"and insofar as the head is strong so, too, will the body be mighty."
In January 1924,
following a landslide parliamentary election in favour of the Wafd Party,
Zaghlul formed the first Egyptian government under the constitution that
had been promulgated following the declaration of Egyptian independence.
His government fell within less than a year in the wake of the assassination
of Sir Lee Harvey Stack, governor-general of Sudan. Barakat charged that
the assassination was a British conspiracy designed to topple the Zaghlul-led
"People's Government." The charge, he wrote, was substantiated by then
British High Commissioner Lord Allenby who admitted in an interview with
a Paris-based Islamic magazine. "At the time of the assassination of the
governor-general the ultimatum had already been drafted in my office to
be delivered to Zaghlul at the first available opportunity."
Following an account
of the rest of Zaghlul's career until his death, Al-Ahram's editor-in-chief
concludes, "Today, that brilliant light that had cast itself over the entire
nation has vanished. However, its effect can never be effaced from the
people's hearts and souls."
The next day's edition
brought scenes of one of the most important and widely attended funerals
in Egypt in the 20th century. This was one of the rare occasions in which
the cabinet actually organised something -- it would be that of the funeral
of a national leader. Wednesday, 24 August, was declared an official holiday
so as to allow all government, legislative and military officials and their
staffs to join the procession. "Senators and parliamentary deputies and
judicial and prosecution officials shall wear their uniforms of office
in full regalia, lawyers their official robes and all other government
functionaries shall appear in formal attire," the cabinet decreed. In addition
to delineating the route of the cortege, the cabinet also stipulated that
the coffin would be carried on a horse-drawn gun-carriage.
No matter how carefully
the ministers planned for an orderly and sombre procession, they could
not have predicted what transpired on the ground. The multitudes that thronged
to watch the procession exceeded all expectations. Al-Ahram reports that
by 2.00pm, "every street along which the procession was to pass was jam-packed
with people, and balconies and rooftops were filled to overflowing with
tens of thousands of mourners. All Egyptian and foreign commercial establishments,
banks and public buildings were closed and flags flew outside them at half-mast.
Water carriers had volunteered to circulate through this human mass in
order to supply the thirsty with water from their waterskins."
As the cortege wound
its way through the crowd-lined streets, the newspaper continues, "People
were so overcome by grief and anguish that four attempts were made to seize
the bier and carry it on their own shoulders. This occurred four times:
once in Al- Azhar Square, then in front of the National Bank, again in
Opera Square and the fourth time on Mohamed Ali Street near the burial
site. At the intersection of Mazloum and El-Madabigh Streets, mourners
mobbed the bier again, in the course of which many fainted and were taken
off to pharmacies. Ministers and other officials were unable to make their
way into Qaisoun Mosque on Mohamed Ali Street due to the crowds that had
already filled the mosque and its immediate surroundings."
That evening the
large reception pavilions that had been set up alongside the "House of
the Nation" filled with "ministers, senators and parliamentary deputies
of all classes and parties." Al- Ahram reporters were particularly struck
by the numbers of women who came to convey their condolences to Safiya
Zaghlul. "It would be no exaggeration to say that every woman in the capital
appeared at her house."
The level of participation
of foreign communities in the funeral was also unexpected. "Not only did
diplomatic representatives of all nations and large contingents of foreigners
take part in the funerary cortege, but all foreign commercial establishments
closed for business and hung Egyptian flags in mourning. The foreign newspapers
published in Egypt printed pictures of the late leader to express their
deepest respects and sympathy."
Over the next few
days, page after page of Al-Ahram was filled with letters of condolences
to "Madam Zaghlul." Many were from members of the royal family spending
the summer abroad in St Moritz or Paris. A rather jarring note, however,
was struck by King Fouad, who had left for Vichy two weeks before Zaghlul's
death, arriving there on 29 August. On 8 September, the front pages of
Egyptian newspapers carried a photograph of the king, smiling against the
background of that famous spa resort, and undoubtedly leaving readers to
wonder whether his joyful countenance was due to his safe arrival or to
the demise of his great political adversary.
Among the journalistic
highlights at this time was a unique full- page photo biography of "the
glorious leader Saad Zaghlul during various phases of his life from 1886
to 1927." Consisting of eight large and carefully selected photographs,
the first was of Zaghlul as a young lawyer in 1886 and the second, taken
three years later, showed him also as a lawyer in clearly good health and
vigour. In the 1890s the career of the young and energetic nationalist
progressed with astounding speed, as is documented by the next two photographs,
taken in 1891 and 1892, which feature him as a deputy magistrate at the
age of 32, and then as counsellor in the Court of Appeals. The fifth picture,
taken five years later, shows him still in the same office, but by this
time he had risen socially, having married into the family of the prime
minister of that time. In 1906, Zaghlul was appointed minister of education
and Al-Ahram's photograph of him in that office was taken a year later.
The seventh picture was taken in 1913, following his election as speaker
of the Legislative Assembly, after which the newspaper leapt 14 years to
a photograph of the leader "in his last days."
A second striking
and unprecedented feature in the newspaper's coverage of the "calamitous
event" was the number of articles contributed by women writers. Perhaps
the most important was that which appeared on the newspaper's front page
on 27 August and which was written by the most famous female writer of
the day, May Ziada. Entitled, "Giant of the Valley Sleeps" and dedicated
to "the mother of the sad heroic people, Safiya Zaghlul," the article represents
an attempt to explain the overwhelming popular support which Zaghlul enjoyed.
Zaghlul, Ziada wrote, succeeded in uniting the people of Egypt, with no
discrimination on the basis of creed or denomination, and fusing them into
a single Egyptian nationalist entity. He dissolved class boundaries, opening
avenues for advancement to those to whom such paths had previously been
closed, thereby permitting the rise of public figures who would previously
have remained at the station in which they were born. Finally, he promoted
women's liberation, for "in the name of Saad, Egyptian women were emboldened
to raise their voice and under his banner women took to the streets, proclaiming
calls to freedom and independence. In the embrace of his power the people
responded to womankind, paid heed to their cheers and grew accustomed to
hearing their appeals with veneration and respect."
If such were the
passions that Zaghlul fired in the hearts of his compatriots, grieving
Egyptians were faced with the frightening question: What will happen now
that Saad is gone In view of the role Zaghlul played in the fight against
British colonialism, it was also perhaps natural that eyes turned to the
British press. Al-Ahram was assiduous in relaying these opinions to its
In spite of the fact
that the commentaries in these newspapers would have reflected the British
perspective, many put their finger on the fundamental problem that gripped
public opinion in Egypt and abroad. The London Times wrote, "It is difficult
to predict what will happen following Zaghlul Pasha's departure. Like every
other dictator, he has created a vacuum that cannot be filled by his successors
or his closest colleagues who had sometimes helped him with advice or criticism.
It is very doubtful that any of his followers will be able to safeguard
the unity and order of the party."
According to the
Daily Telegraph, the problem lay in the fact that the Wafd Party "differs
from similar parties in other countries in that it has not produced any
other single person who, even in the opinion of the party itself, can fill
a high political position." The Statesman observed that although Zaghlul
was stubborn and intractable, no one could rival him as a representative
of the Egyptian people "who, after the death of their leader, no longer
have someone with total authority to speak on their behalf." Referring
to the negotiations that were then in progress between Prime Minister Abdel-Khaleq
Tharwat and Lord Chamberlain, the commentator continued, "We do not know
whether this change will facilitate the recent political settlement process
or further complicate it. What is certain, however, is that the situation
will change tangibly."
Writers in Britain
touched upon a weak point in the Egyptian political system: the lack of
a clear line of succession or, put in other terms, the enormous gap between
the charismatic leader and any possible contender for succession. Mustafa
Kamel's death created a similar vacuum, as did the death of Gamal Abdel-
Nasser, with all the dangerous confusion that engendered. Evidently, it
is an ancient Egyptian custom to believe in the eternal life of their leaders
until the hand of death takes them by surprise.
For its part, Al-Ahram
featured three editorials on the future of Egypt "after Saad." The first
sought to allay the sense of anxiety and despair, asserting that it was
the people who had made Zaghlul and not the reverse. "This nation whose
womb gave birth to Saad is fertile enough to produce a thousand more Saads,
to produce great men who will walk in its vanguard and bring to life its
aspirations. The nation that puts its strength behind its intrepid heroes
will never die with the death of a single hero."
Although the second
editorial reiterated the apprehensions voiced in the British press over
the vacuum that had to be filled, it, nevertheless, struck a note of optimism.
Zaghlul's policies were always the policies of the Egyptian people, "and
although the British may look down on the Egyptian peasant and accuse our
populace of ignorance, this people are the paragon of a public spirit that
dictates its will to its leaders and ministers."
The third editorial
addressed the fear that the palace would now try to assert autonomous rule
because Zaghlul's death had left the nation without a leader powerful enough
to ensure that the constitution would be upheld. Al-Ahram cautioned that
indeed the Wafd would have to double its efforts to defend the constitution.
Unfortunately, fears for the constitution proved accurate, for only a year
later the Mohamed Mahmoud government suspended the constitution and three
years later the Sidqi government sought to impose an iron grip.
also turned to ways to commemorate the nationalist leader. The government
took the initiative, as expected, despite the fact that Prime Minister
Tharwat was not a Wafd Party member. However, the cabinet consisted of
a Wafdist majority. On 26 August, Al-Ahram published the resolutions the
government adopted in this regard. The government resolved, first, to commission
two statues of Zaghlul, to be erected in the most important squares in
Cairo and Alexandria. It would also purchase the "House of the Nation"
and the home in which Zaghlul was born in Ibyana and dedicate them to activities
that would serve the public welfare. A hospital or orphanage would be constructed
in the capital, bearing the name of the late leader and, finally, a mausoleum
would be constructed on the grounds of the "House of the Nation" at the
widow had no objections to these plans, particularly as she had won the
right to live out the rest of her days in her husband's home, details would
inevitably stir debate. For example, a dispute arose over whether the proposed
mausoleum should be a religious or purely national shrine. From an interview
with "a senior government official," Al-Ahram's Mahmoud Abul-Fath learned
that the government was considering some form of compromise. The mausoleum,
he was told, would not have the customary features of a mosque, such as
an ablution fountain and the like, but it would be possible for Muslims
to pray in it and for non-Muslims to visit it.
As for the site of
the statue, Al-Ahram predicted that it would be erected in Ismailiya Square,
today known as Tahrir Square. The prediction failed to materialise. Neither
a statue of Zaghlul nor of any other national leaders has ever been erected
in the centre of the capital's hub. There was a pedestal but without a
of the greatest figures in the history of archaeology," wrote C.W. Ceram
in the book, Gods, Graves, and Scholars, about Howard Carter. Those that
recognize the name, Howard Carter, usually associate it with the discovery
of King Tutankhamun's tomb. The amount of preserved artifacts provided
information to piece together key pieces of an archaeological puzzle, whilst
the richness of the treasures caused the media to make King Tutankhamun
a household name. As excavator and discoverer of the famous tomb of King
Tut, Howard Carter has won a place in the archaeologist's hall of fame.
However, few people know anything more about Howard Carter than his exploits
involving the tomb.
Howard Carter was born on March 9th, 1874 in Kensington, London, the youngest
son of eight. He grew up in the county of Swaffam, North Norfolk, England
with no formal education although his father, Samuel Carter, an artist,
trained him in the fundamentals of drawing and painting. Although Howard
Carter developed a well above average skill, he had no ambition to continue
the family business of painting portraits of pets and families for the
local Norfolk landowners. Instead, Howard Carter sought the opportunity
to go to Egypt and work for the Egyptian Exploration Fund as a tracer,
a person who copies drawings and inscriptions on paper for further studying.
In October of 1891 at the age of 17, Howard Carter set sail for Alexandria,
Egypt, which was his first journey outside of Britain.
Howard Carter's first project was at Bani Hassan, the gravesite of the
Sovereign Princes of Middle Egypt during 2000 B.C. Carter's task was to
record and copy the scenes from the walls of the tomb. At this early age,
Howard Carter was a diligent worker with much enthusiasm. He would work
the day through and then sleep with the bats in the tomb.
In 1892, Carter joined Flinders Petrie, at El-Amarna. Flinders was
a strong field director and one of the most credible archaeologists of
his time. Petrie believed Carter would never become a good excavator, but
Carter proved him wrong when he unearthed several important finds at the
site of El-Amarna, the Capital of Egypt during the sovereignty of Akhenaten.
Under Petrie's demanding tutorage, Carter became an archaeologist, while
keeping up with his artistic skills. He sketched many of the unusual artifacts
found at el Amarna.
Carter was appointed Principle Artist to the Egyptian Exploration Fund
for the excavations of Deir el Babri, the burial place of Queen Hatshepsut.
This experience allowed him to perfect his drawing skills and strengthen
his excavation and restoration technique. In 1899, at the age of 25, Carter's
hard work paid off, when he was offered the job of First Chief Inspector
General of Monuments for Upper Egypt by the Director of the Egyptian Antiquities
Service, Gaston Maspero. Carter's responsibilities included supervising
and controlling archaeology along the Nile Valley.
Carter's employment at the Egyptian Antiquities Service came to an end
in an unfortunate incident between the Egyptian site guards and a number
of drunken French tourists. When the tourists became violently abusive
to the guards, Carter allowed the guards to defend themselves. The French
tourists, enraged, went through some high officials including the Egyptian
Consul General Lord Cromer and called for Carter to make a formal apology.
Carter refused, standing by his belief that he made the right decision.
The incident gave Carter a bad name and caused him to be posted to the
Nile Delta town of Tanta, a place with very little archaeological involvement.
This forced Carter to resign from the Antiquities Service in 1905.
From 1905-1907, Carter sustained a hard existence after resigning from
the Antiquities Service. He had to make a living by working as a commercial
watercolorist or sometimes a guide for tourists. In 1908 Carter was introduced
to the fifth Earl of Carnarvon by Gaston Maspero. The partnership proceeded
happily, as each partner's personality seemed to compliment the others.
Carter became the Supervisor of the Excavations funded by Carnarvon in
Thebes and by 1914 Carnarvon owned one of the most valuable collections
of Egyptian artifacts held in private hands. However, Howard Carter had
still more ambitious aspirations. He had his eye on finding the tomb of
a fairly unknown pharaoh at the time, King Tutankhamun, after various clues
to its existence had been found, Carter tore up the Valley of the Kings
looking for Tutankhamun's burial place, but season after season produced
little more than a few artifacts. He worked in the field with Lord
Carnarvon in the west valley at the tomb of Amenophis III in 1915 and in
the main valley from 1917-1922. Carnarvon was becoming dissatisfied
with the lack of return from his investment and, in 1922, he gave Carter
one more season of funding to find the tomb.
Carter was confident and the challenge went on as work began on November
4, 1922. It took only three days before the top of a staircase was unearthed.
Almost three weeks later the staircase was entirely excavated and the full
side of the plaster block was visible. By November 26, the first plaster
block was removed, the chip filling the corridor was emptied, and the second
plaster was ready to be taken apart. At about 4 P.M. that day, Carter broke
through the second plaster block and made one of the discoveries of the
century, the tomb of King Tutankhamun.
The tomb's artifacts took a decade to catalogue. During this time, Lord
Carvarvon died in Cairo of pneumonia. After the media got wind of the treasures
of King Tutankhamun and the death of Lord Carnarvon, the hype about a mummy's
curse set the media on fire. Much to Carter's displeasure, letters poured
in from spiritualist from around the world, selling advice and warnings
from "beyond the grave."
Finally, the artifacts were sent to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and the
corpse of the young king was studied and laid back to rest. After his work
was done with King Tutankhamun, Carter no longer worked in the field. He
retired from the archaeology business. He took up the pursuit of collecting
Egyptian antiquities and, indeed, became a very successful collector. Often,
toward the end of his life, he could be found at the Winter Palace Hotel
at Luxor, sitting by himself in willful isolation. He died in Albert Court,
Kensington, London on March 2, 1939.
recalls the drama that surrounded that event .
While the boy king
Tutankhamun has rarely been out of the limelight since Howard Carter found
his tomb in 1922, interest in this enigmatic Pharaoh has proliferated in
the past months. An exhibition of Tutankhamun's treasures kicked off its
world tour in the German city of Bonn last year and has since moved on
to Los Angeles, from where it will go on to three other American cities
before returning to Europe. Meanwhile; the mummy itself has been subjected
to 1,700 high-resolution CT-scanning by a multinational team of scientists
with a view to uncovering facts about how Tutankhamun met his death (apparently
not by foul play). Now, to satisfy curiosity about what he really looked
like, three independent teams have reconstructed his features using the
latest forensic techniques.
Does it matter what
he really looked like when we have statues and representations of his beautiful
young face on so many objects from his tomb? Was it necessary to carry
out the scan on his mummy, only to confirm what had already been deduced
by early scholars? The answer must, of course, be "Yes" -- if it is a question
of maintaining interest abroad in Egypt and Ancient Egyptian treasures.
It is with this in
mind that we recall the hullabaloo that surrounded events following the
discovery of Tutankhamun's now famous tomb. The early 1920s was a period
in modern Egyptian history when politics and archaeology commingled for
the first time. Egypt was riding a wave of nationalism when Carter made
his discovery in the Valley of the Kings only four years after the end
of World War I. A constitutional monarchy was about to be declared, and
it was therefore inevitable that the discovery of an intact royal tomb
would be drawn into the political arena. It was a possibility of which
Carter seems to have been unaware. He and his sponsor began their work
during a period of foreign domination, and they regarded Egyptology as
exclusively a Western domain.
There are many versions
of the discovery and many articles have been written about the so-called
"curse of the Pharaohs", but few references concern what actually went
on behind the scenes: how Carter and his aristocratic British sponsor Lord
Carnarvon insulted Egyptian government officials; how the tomb was officially
closed for many years and Carter banned from working on the necropolis;
or that the then antiquities law, tabled by Auguste Mariette in the reign
of the Khedive Ismail and under which the discoverer and his sponsor were
entitled to half of any objects found during an excavation, was re-tabled.
For the first time Egypt managed to retain an entire collection from a
single excavation in the home country. Such events, surely, are just as
worthy of note as the results of modern technological experiments on Tutankhamun's
When the British
archaeologist located a doorway bearing the seal of the necropolis and
realised that he had found an intact tomb in the Valley of the Kings, he
secured it from robbers and reputedly waited until the arrival of Lord
Carnarvon and his daughter before proceeding to clear the entrance passageway.
On 26 November, following their arrival, the full height of a second sealed
doorway was revealed, and the rest is history. Carter made a tiny hole
with an iron rod, peered inside, and saw "wonderful things".
There is no doubt
that both Carter and Carnarvon, who had funded excavations in the royal
valley for some 15 years, expected the law to hold good and to take possession
of half the treasure. With this in mind they made a series of errors of
judgment, as a result of which the tomb was officially closed. Few know
that for years after the discovery Carter was banned from the necropolis
and that access to the tomb was prohibited.
News of the discovery
naturally spread like wildfire, and to halt what Carter described as "fanciful
reports" (some even suggested that he had entered the tomb before the arrival
of Carnarvon and taken some objects) he was anxious to set down an authoritative
account of the discovery. Also, unbeknown to anyone outside his inner circle,
he signed a contract with The Times of London in which he agreed to give
them exclusive media coverage. This action was to have serious repercussions.
Carter's second mistake
was even more serious. He took it upon himself to set the date for an official
opening of the tomb at 29 November 1922, and invitations went out to the
British high commissioner in Egypt, Lord Allenby, the provincial governor
Abdel-Aziz Yehia, the chief of police Mohamed Fahmi, and some other Egyptian
notables and officials. Significant by his absence was Pierre Lacau, director-general
of the Antiquities Service, then under the auspices of the Ministry of
According to Carter's
account, Lacau was unable to attend but said he would make an official
inspection of the tomb on the following day. Such a curt response, if indeed
it was made, was laden with doubtful nuance in view of the moot relationship
between France and Britain.
In fact, as soon
as Lacau heard of the discovery, he insisted that a member of the staff
of the still French-run service should be on site during the entire excavation.
His choice was Egyptologist and linguist Reginald Engelbach, who was chief
inspector in Luxor. However, Engelbach was on an inspection tour, so the
passageway was cleared without the presence of a representative of the
Antiquities Service. This gave Carter and Carnarvon the impression that
the tomb was theirs, and they went ahead with the arrangements for the
Lacau was, understandably,
deeply offended when the official opening of the tomb was announced before
he had even been to Luxor to see it for himself. He followed a long line
of French directors-general of the Antiquities Service -- including such
illustrious scholars as Auguste Mariette, who spearheaded the service,
and Gaston Maspero, who opened the first museum of antiquities, both of
whom worked tirelessly to safeguard Egypt's heritage by tabling an antiquities
law to prevent foreign archaeologists from taking the cream of their discoveries
Before the full wealth
of the tomb of Tutankhamun was known, discussions took place between the
Antiquities Service and the Ministry of Works on the legality of the treasures
of the first royal tomb ever discovered intact being considered as a unit
and, as such, remaining in Egypt.
When the 1923 elections
swept Wafd Party- founder Saad Zaghloul into office as prime minister of
the first people-based cabinet of the constitutional monarchy under King
Fouad, it was only to be expected that the tomb's treasure would be drawn
into the political arena. Even as the king presided over the ground- breaking
ceremony of a proposed new university campus at Giza, and Carter and his
team entered the burial chamber of the tomb, news began to circulate that
the government planned to place restrictions on foreign archaeological
missions in Egypt.
In an effort to stall
any such restrictions by the government, Carter and Carnarvon -- busy separating
the huge gilded shrines that fitted one within the other, as well as a
quartzite sarcophagus within which lay three anthropoid coffins - decided
to change their tune. They communicated with, and gained the support of
the British Museum, the Louvre and the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Arts
-- all in the hope of embarrassing the government into dividing the treasures
according to the existing law by stressing that they did not claim a half
share of the objects in the tomb for themselves personally, but for exhibition
in museums abroad.
The drama climaxed
on 12 February 1924, the date scheduled for the official lifting of the
sarcophagus lid in the tomb chamber. This time the invitation went out
to a more carefully selected delegation. The event would be attended by
British aristocracy, French and American archaeologists and politicians,
Egyptian nobility, representatives of every nation, and Pierre Lacau of
the Antiquities Service. The official photograph of the occasion shows
Lacau wearing a dire expression. Members of the national and international
press were gathered in Luxor when they learnt of the exclusive rights granted
to The Times, and they were outraged.
As the celebrated
occasion approached, with excitement at fever pitch, Howard Carter made
another grave mistake. He had already alienated the Antiquities Department
and the Egyptian press, and should have known better than to ask for permission
for the wives of the expedition members to visit the tomb before the arrival
of the official delegation. The suggestion that foreign women be allowed
into the tomb before Egyptian officials was an affront of the first order.
Morcos Hanna, the newly- appointed minister of public works (with the Antiquities
Service under his supervision) immediately sent Carter a letter forbidding
him from showing the tomb to the women and threatening that the government
would close and seal the tomb unless permission were given for a special
preview by Egyptians.
Carter was not ready
to listen. Stubborn by nature, he insulted Hanna and refused to apologise
or listen to the advice of his colleagues. The government took action.
Pierre Lacau applied the existing antiquities law - many clauses of which
had never been seriously adhered to - on behalf of the government, as was
his right. He requested the names of all of Carter's "assistants", and
declared that no one could visit the tomb without prior permission from
the Antiquities Service. Since Carter had already entrusted a small group
of scholars to open the outer sandstone sarcophagus and record the tomb's
contents without prior permission, he had already violated the law.
Morcos Hanna himself
went to Luxor, stood over the sealing of the tomb, and posted a guard.
The Times correspondent, witness to the events, sent briefs that made headlines:
"Tomb locked against Mr Carter", "Government guard posted", and "The tomb
Needless to say,
The Times lost its monopoly, and Carnarvon was obliged to abandon his formal
claim to the treasure. The tomb was officially closed for several years
after the discovery, and Howard Carter banned from the Valley of the Kings.
He decided to go on a lecture tour to the United States, and launched two
court cases against the government -- one for a half share of the antiquities,
the other for the right to study and restore the treasures. Only in 1925,
three years after the discovery, was he allowed to resume work in the tomb
of Tutankhamun, but then only under strict control.
to government sentiments, Lacau started to table a revised antiquities
law. This gave the government total authority to supervise and safeguard
all excavations, rather than cede rights to the excavator, and declared
its right to approve the direction of all field projects, including all
members of the staff. Infringement would lead to cancellation of the concession.
The distinguished and learned French scholar must have been delighted to
clip the wings of his long-time British rivals.
In 1929, a revised
antiquities law to control wealthy foreigners working in Egypt from taking
the cream of their discoveries abroad was ratified. It stipulated that
no concessions would henceforward be given to individuals, only to recognised
institutions. What it amounted to was that neither Carter nor Carnarvon
had the right to take a single object from Tutankhamun's tomb out of the
World attention was
riveted on Luxor as the spectacular objects from the tomb came to light.
The beautiful objects represented the golden age of the Ancient Egyptian
empire and the greatest find in the history of Egyptology, and as a consequence
tourists flocked to Egypt. The hotels in Luxor set up tents in their gardens
to accommodate guests from all parts of the world. Shops sold out of goods.
A fake antiquities trade flourished, and the demand for genuine antiquities
was such that there arose an irresistible temptation to supply them.
Carter, with the
help of such scholars as Sir Alan Gardiner, James Breasted, and Percy Newberry,
completed documentation of the 5,000-odd treasures. All were transported
by train to the Egyptian Museum in 1932, except for the king's mummy, which
was left in the inner coffin in his tomb in the royal valley.
The recent studies
of the mummy and the scan on 5 January revealed that it was, as at the
time of discovery, in poor condition. It was divided into pieces and the
chest destroyed, probably during the extraction of amulets and other sacred
objects. Modern scientists confirmed that Tutankhamun died at the age of
19, possibly as a result of an infection to a knee injury; that he was
approximately 170cm tall, slight of build, and that he had a fracture of
the left thighbone (which could have occurred during embalming), and, for
those interested in such details, that he seems to have had an overbite,
a common characteristic of the kings of his family.
© Kamal Katba
Egyptian Chronicles is a co-op of Egyptian authors.
contained in these pages are the personal views, or work, of the authors,
bear the sole responsibility of the content of their work.
BACK TO MAIN PAGE
MAY 2008 ISSUE