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.

Lawyer, Minister, 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. Saad and three of his friends were arrested by the British and interned in Malta, but the disturbances grew worse.  A new High Commissioner, General 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 but 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 to form a Wafdist Cabinet.  His Cabinet hoped to reach an Agreement on Egypt’s 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 to 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 May 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 and Wasef 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 and Mohammad 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 class. 

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 Saad 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 and, since 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 08 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. McDonald, 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 Sirdar was 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 Prime Minister’s 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 to abstain from claiming the right to protect the foreigners living in Egypt.  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




Arthur Goldschmidt 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. Goldschmidt is a frequent contributor on the Internet, including the prestigious and oldest forum: Egypt Net.

For 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 this purpose. 

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 body, 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. 

A representative 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 readers. 

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. 

Public attention 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 government's expense. 

Although Zaghlul's 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 statue. 



    "One 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. 

 Jill Kamil 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 deteriorated mummy.

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 Works. 

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 opening. 

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 abroad. 

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 isn't yours". 

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.

Meanwhile, responding 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 country. 

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 2008


The Egyptian Chronicles is a co-op of Egyptian authors. 
Articles contained in these pages are the personal views, or work, of the authors, 
who bear the sole responsibility of the content of their work.



For any additional information, please contact
the Webmaster of the Egyptian Chronicles: