The Government of Isma`il Sidqi Pasha takes the credit for the construction of the Alexandria Corniche. 
The project was extented from the quays between Fort Qaytbay and Cap Silsilah as far as Al-Muntazah in the east. The Corniche was officially inaugurated under Sidqi's successor `Abd al-Fattah Yahya Pasha, in 1934  (1)

 
 
 
As usual, the resignation of Mustafa El-Nahas Pasha was more than welcome to King Fouad who single handedly decided to appoint a Cabinet uninvolved in parties politics; such a Cabinet would have the main objective of changing the 1923 Constitution in such a way that the King would directly rule through a Prime-Minister and a Cabinet of his choice.  To achieve that long time cherished objective, the King needed a (very) strong and fearless man thus his choice of Isma’il Sidqi Pasha.

Lawyer, Cabinet Minister and three times Premier, he was born in Alexandria where his father, Ahmad Shukri Pasha, was Under Secretary of Interior and his mother was the daughter of the Wali Sa’id Pasha’s Chef Du Cabinet.  Sidqi graduated from the College Des Freres in 1889 and went on to the Khedivial Law School where he worked with Mustafa Kamel on “AL-MADRASA” and with Ahmad Lutfi Al-Sayed on “AL-TASHRI’I”, Egypt’s first Law Review.  He advanced rapidly through the “NIYABA” and the judiciary, became administrative secretary to Alexandria Municipality by passing a competition examination, and served as Agriculture Minister from 1914 to 1917, when he resigned because of a compromising scandal.

A member of the original “WAFD”, he was interned in Malta with Sa’ad Zaghloul Pasha in March 1919.Sidqi later broke with Sa’ad and helped to establish the Constitutional Liberal Party in 1922.  He served as Interior Minister in 1924-1925, worked closely with King Fouad and founded the “SHA’AB” Party to support his campaign for Prime-Minister under the 1930 Constitution.  He headed a strong Cabinet in 1930-1933, but his dismissal by King Fouad for being too powerful in his own right weakened Sidqi’s influence and the “SHA’Ab” Party.  He served on the Egyptian Delegation that negotiated the 1936 Anglo-Egyptian Treaty

He headed a third Cabinet from February to December 1946, concluding the abortive Bevin-Sidqi Treaty, which he believed could have ensured Egypt’s control over the Sudan.  He returned to the Senate and openly opposed Egypt’s entry into the Palestinian War.  One of the most personable and clever politicians of his era, Sidqi was loyal to the Monarchy, nevertheless, because of his frank criticism of King Farouk’s behavior, he did not receive the State Funeral to which he was entitled as a holder of the Grand Cordon Of Mohammad Ali. Egyptian Nationalists never forgave his attempt to supersede the 1923 Constitution to serve King Fouad and the British (2).
 
 

Sidqi Pasha did not disappoint his Sovereign.  The suggested list of the Ministers was submitted to the King for his approval and the approval of the Cabinet’s main objective which was the election of a new “DOCILE” Parliament that would amend the 1923 Constitution for the purpose of diluting the Legislative and Executive Power and concentrating it in the hands of the King.  To achieve that objective, Sidqi Pasha kept for himself, beside the Premiership,  the two most powerful Ministries which were the Ministries of Interior (Police, Public Order and Elections) and Finances (the Purse of the State).

As a first step, the Cabinet inaugurated its activities by suspending the newly elected Parliament and closing for a month its two Chambers with its huge Wafdist membership.  The people’s reaction to that closure was extremely violent to say the least.  The Country was rocked with demonstration, assassinations and political turmoil which encouraged the Cabinet to obtain a Royal Decree disbanding the Parliament, re-establishing censorship on the Press and reacting to the street violence with Police violence.  To the British High Commissioner who worried about the safety of the British Citizens residing in Egypt and that of the Other Foreigners, Sidqi Pasha promised to firmly guarantee their securities and that of their businesses.

To amend the existing Constitution, The Prime Minister needed a rubber stamp Legislative Assembly that would cover such an amendment with a semblance of legality and normality; for that purpose he established a new Political Party which he called “THE SHA’AB PARTY” (The People Party) and instructions were given to the Police Forces all over the land to make sure, by any means, that a majority of the candidates of the new Party would be voted in.  Elections took place and the newly elected Assembly reflected the wishes of the King and his Prime-Minister.  The Assembly quickly and without much deliberations abolished the 1923 Constitution and came up with what was then called the 1930 Constitution which gave the Monarch more powers than he ever dreamed of and turned the Country from a Constitutional Monarchy into an absolute Monarchy similar to those European Middle Ages Monarchies of Divine Right!!

The promulgation of the new Constitution compounded the people’s furor and the streets violence, causing hundreds of casualties; it was like a resurrection of the 1919 upheaval.  The Prime-Minister, the President of the Assembly and his deputy were themselves the target of an unsuccessful assassination attempt; the perpetrators escaped in spite of 3,000 Pounds reward for any information leading to their arrest. Violence was met by more violence from the Government; hundreds were arrested and many Public Servants lost their jobs for just a benign critic of the Cabinet’s policy!!

On the other side of the coin, the Cabinet did its utmost to help the citizens, particularly the farmers, to face the International economical crisis that hit the world including Egypt.  The price of cotton having reached its lowest level, the Cabinet imposed a moratorium on agricultural land rental and fertilizers purchase.  It helped in the creation of a Bank Of Agricultural Credit and a Bank of Land Credit, by heavily participating in their capitals.  It also agreed to put aside the amount of one million pounds to finance interest free loans to small farmers to be paid on five years easy installments.  All these unforeseen expenses pushed the deficit of the 1930/1931 budget to seven millions and four hundred and thirty eight pounds.  Furthermore, the Cabinet imposed a strict price control on all household products and particularly food and created “SOUP KITCHENS” to feed the needy!!  It also ordered the water and electrical supply companies to reduce their rate and ordered the reduction by 20% of all rentals of lodgings and stores. 

To encourage tourism within the Country, the Government agreed to spend the amount of one hundred and twenty thousand pounds for the building of the BENHA bridge and the modernization of the KASR-EL-NIL bridge while another amount of ten thousand pounds was directly for the creation of summer resorts in the sea shore town of MARSA MATROUH, in the Western Desert.  Last but not least, an extra amount of fifty thousand pounds was decreed to reinforce the budget of the new  Royal  EgyptianAir Force.

All this goodies did not help in improving the popularity of the hated Sidqi Pasha’s (3) Cabinet and calming down the rebellious mood of the population.  Demonstrations, strikes and destructive incidents increased; one such incident, the assassination of the “EL-BADARI” Chief Of Police (MA’AMOUR) caused the collapse of the Cabinet: the two assassins were arrested and the Criminal Court imposed the death penalty on one and a life sentence with hard labor on the other; the sentences were appealed and the Head of the Appeal Court, Abdel-Aziz Fahmi Pasha, vehemently attacked the Government for the inhuman torture to which the culprits were subjected and ordered the investigation of the torture accusation, the Chief Judge also stated that the real criminals were the torturers and the Government that authorized those acts!!  The Minister of Justice, Abdel-Fattah Yehya Pasha, ordered a strict investigation and resigned his Cabinet post as a result of the shameful torture acts that were perpetrated behind his back, by officials of the Ministry of Interior.   His resignation was followed by that of Ali Maher Pasha, the Minister of Public Education!! Facing the rebellion of his Cabinet, Sidqi Pasha submitted his resignation to King Fouad. 
 
 

The Monarch asked Sidqi Pasha to form a new Cabinet in spite of his deteriorating health.  He reluctantly accepted on condition of keeping only the portfolio of Finances because of the ailing economy of the Country. He did not include in his Cabinet those Ministers who resigned their posts in the previous Government and those who were tainted with financial scandals.  The Prime Minister denied the rumors that he was involved with secret negotiations with “THE COMPAGNIE INTERNATIONALE DU CANAL MARITIME DE SUEZ” for the extension of its mandate! All in all it was a short lived but very active Cabinet:  it extended by an extra year the moratorium imposed on the rental fees of agricultural land; the 1933/1934 Budget was agreed with total receipts of thirty two millions and seventy five thousand and the expenditure of thirty one millions and nine hundred and nineteen thousand pounds (no deficit); The Government allocated the amount of five thousand pounds to MISR AIRWORK  CO. (Egyptian Air lines) (4). for the extension to Marsa-Matrouh, of the Cairo/Alexandria line; the Government froze all the civil servants salary for a year; it allocated the amount of eight hundred and seventy thousand pounds to indemnize those affected by the raising of the Aswan Dam and two millions and eighty five thousand pounds were decided to subsidize the “JABAL AL-AWLIYA’A” dam, in the Sudan, provided that only Egyptian cement was to be used in its construction; the amount of two hundred thousand pounds was decided for the creation of a radio station in “ABU-ZA’ABAL” and one in Alexandria; a compulsory primary education was decreed for all the children aged seven to twelve; an extra sixty five thousand pounds was added to the Royal Egyptian Air force for the purpose of buying a new wing of ten planes.

Before the end of September 1933, the health of the overworked and underestimated Prime-Minister deteriorated and he submitted the resignation of his Cabinet to King Fouad who accepted it on September 27, 1933.  Instead of thanking his devoted Prime-Minister for sacrificing his health, his popularity and his reputation as a disciple of Saad Zaghloul Pasha and one of the leaders of the 1919 Revolution, for the “grandeur” and authority of the Monarchy, the King accused Sidqi Pasha of establishing a dictatorship in Egypt!! (5) Not to be outdone Sidqi Pasha accused King Fouad of being the driving force behind the abolition of the 1923 Constitution and the institution of the autocratic 1930 one!!

(To be continued)
 

Kamal Karim Katba

 

 

 

(1)

Alexandria did not have a Corniche until the early 20th century. At the time the old isthmus residences faced inland while the rest of the bay was bordered by the remains of fortifications. Their declassification (1885) was followed by a seawall project, whose purpose was to reclaim a large area of land from the sea (a strip of land with an average of about 100 yards). 

The new quays between Fort Qaytbay and Cap Silsilah were begun in 1907 and completed ten years later. In 1931 the government of Isma`il Sidqi began the construction of what became to be known as the Alexandria Corniche. It was extended as far as al-Muntazah and was completed in 1934 shortly after Sidqi's resignation. His successor `Abd al Fattah Yahya inaugurated the mammoth project.

Because Alexandria's beaches were either unsuitable or inaccessible, bathing was practiced throughout the 19th century in special establishments . The most famous of these was the "Zuro" later known as the Cleopatra situated on the present site of the "Grand Trianon". It had a long floating landing stages with lay at right angles to the beach, and wooden huts on stills so that the women could bathe shielded from prying eyes. Although nothing remains from these establishments they have to some extent been superseded by the many stilted "casinos" dotted along the new constructed Corniche. Nobody bathes here any more but people come to drink tea even in bad weather, and for wedding celebrations.

Dances were held here in the postwar years especially at the ship (now the Saraya), a casino that looked like a steamer, which was built in 1945 by the Alexandria Town Council but somewhat disfigured by successive renovation work. The development of the Corniche was accompanied by the construction of row upon row of beach huts which were intended to offer the bathers the best possible facilities. These could be rented seasonally from the Town Council and were initially a huge success. In 1945 demand was three times greater than the number of huts available . It was considered then, the fashion to have your own beach hut. 

Following the foundation of the new Alexandria Library laid in on Cape Silsilah, massive renovations of the Corniche took place in  the late 20th century - early 21st century, as a consequence, most of the four thousand of huts built on the beaches were gradually eliminated.
 
 
 
 

(2)

 
 

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.) 

 


 
 
 



(3)

Perhaps no political figure in Egyptian history before 1952 stirred up as much conflicting opinion as Ismail Sidqi. Though he was hugely unpopular some have credited him for his pragmatism and willingness to seek practical solutions to the country's problems instead of trying to curry favour with the people. Professor Yunan Labib Rizk* profiles a man of many sides 
 

Ismail Sidqi was one of the few politicians who rejected demagoguery in an era when inflaming the passions of the masses was common currency. Yet in many circles he was despised. What gave rise to such a polarisation of opinion over this figure, the protagonist of the "Sidqi era", which lasted five years (1930- 1935) out of the 30-year history of the post-constitutional parliamentary system (1923-1952). 

From the outset of his term as prime minister, Ismail Sidqi did not sit well with the public. But then, there was little in his past to inspire confidence. Sidqi was born in 1875, in the heart of the Egyptian countryside, in the village of Al-Gharib, in the district of Zifta. His father, Ahmed Shukri Pasha (Ismail Sidqi had two first names) had been a senior government official in the age of the Khedive Ismail. Educated in France, Shukri rose through the government ranks until he became governor of Cairo and then deputy minister of interior. His mother, Fatma, was the daughter of Mohamed Sayed Ahmed Pasha, head of the royal cabinet under Said Pasha. 

Sidqi relates in his memoirs that his father had originally named him Ismail Seddiq, after a prominent minister under Ismail, but changed his name to Sidqi after Seddiq fell out with the khedive for fear that the monarch's anger might somehow rub off on his son. 

Educated in French schools, Sidqi obtained his baccalaureate at the age of 14, which presented a problem upon applying to the Royal School of Law, with its minimum age qualification of 15. The problem was easily overcome, however, through the intercession of his father with the minister of education, Ali Mubarak. In his memoirs, Sidqi boasts that he came out at the top of his class in the licentiate exams. 

He devoted a considerable portion of his memoirs to his meteoric rise in government. Beginning in the office of the public prosecutor at an annual salary of LE5, Sidqi's career advanced quickly. He was taken under the wing of Mohamed Said, chief public prosecutor of Alexandria and later prime minister. Consequently, it was not long before he leaped from the prosecutor's office to the post of administrative secretary of the Alexandrian municipal board at a salary of LE30. He remained with the board for 10 years, during which he was promoted to its secretary- general. 

When Said became minister of interior under Boutros Ghali (1908), he created a post especially designed for his protégé. As "secretary-general" of this ministry, at the age of 33, Sidqi was given the powers of a deputy minister. Then, two years later, when Said became prime minister after the assassination of Ghali, Sidqi became the actual deputy minister of interior. 

Surprisingly, Said's fall from power in 1914 did not affect Sidqi. On the contrary, he became minister of agriculture under Hussein Rushdi -- testimony both to his abilities and to his class affiliations, which generally protected such individuals from political fluctuations. It was also, perhaps, testimony to the meritocracy that was prevalent in those times. 

With the declaration of the British protectorate over Egypt later that year and the reshuffling of the Rushdi cabinet, Sidqi was handed the portfolio of the newly-created Ministry of Awqaf (religious endowments). However, Sidqi remained in this position for only a few months. In his memoirs, Sidqi relates: "The late Hussein Rushdi Pasha was a friend of mine, and I had accompanied him into government, firstly in the Ministry of Agriculture and then in the Ministry of Awqaf. When I resigned during the war, distancing myself from the constraints of government, he sought to benefit from my expertise and chose me as chairman of the Committee for Trade and Industry." 

Official documents are obscure about the circumstances of Sidqi's departure from that office: a mere one-line decree from Sultan Hussein Kamel states, "Ibrahim Fathi Pasha, director of Al- Gharbiya, has been appointed Minister of Awqaf, replacing Ismail Sidqi Pasha who has resigned." However, the British Foreign Office file on Sidqi tells another story. The young minister became embroiled in an amorous affair with the daughter of Yehia Ibrahim and the woman committed suicide. Although martial law, which the British had declared upon the onset of the war, prevented the press from publishing the scandal, the rumour mill could not be stopped. That Sidqi, in his capacity as minister of awqaf, had an important religious function, rendered the scandal all the more appalling. To our knowledge, Ismail Sidqi was the first minister to have been caught in dalliance with a woman. 

Although his contemporaries thought that this scandal marked the end of his career, Sidqi proved them wrong. In 1918, he surfaced again as one of the leading figures in the national independence movement, becoming one of the three to be exiled along with Saad Zaghlul to Malta in March 1919. He then became one of the members of the Egyptian delegation that went to Paris to present the Egyptian cause to the peace conference. But in this capacity, too, he did not last long -- three months later the Wafd dismissed him. The reason, according to Sidqi: "I found that my opinions on how to handle matters were at odds with those of my colleagues. I was not inclined to let emotions rule. Rather, my policy has always been to defer to the practical." 

Historical works relate that Sidqi, along with Mahmoud Abul- Nasr, took such strong issue with Zaghlul and the rest of the delegation over whether to bring up the outrages committed by British forces in Nazlat Al-Shawbak and Al-Aziziya that they decided to withdraw from the delegation. British archives, on the other hand, indicate that Zaghlul and his colleagues were uncomfortable with Sidqi's membership in the delegation because of the scandal still attached to his name and had been waiting for an opportunity to get rid of the man with a past. 

Certainly Sidqi's pragmatism asserted itself after this when he agreed to assume the Ministry of Finance portfolio in Adli Yakan's first cabinet (1921) and to take part in the negotiations with Curzon. Indeed, he boasts in his memoirs of being one of the contributors to the Declaration of 28 February 1922, recognising Egypt's formal independence, and to the constitution that was promulgated the following year. However, he met disappointment, again, in the first constitutional parliamentary elections, having been bested in his constituency by a relatively unknown candidate from the Wafd Party. 

Not one to remain out of the limelight for long, Sidqi reappeared as a member of the Ahmed Ziwar cabinet that assumed power following the collapse of the Zaghlul government in 1924. As minister of interior, Sidqi built up a notoriety that would ensure his widespread unpopularity. It was he who set the precedent for direct government intervention in the 1925 parliamentary elections. In addition to the redrawing of 106 out of 214 voting constituencies in order to hamper the chances of the Wafd, he issued instructions that ballots were to be filled out in pencil rather than ink -- clearly a sign of the government's intent to forge. He also held meeting with governors and directorate chiefs to urge them to do what they could to prevent individuals known for their Wafd affiliations from fielding themselves as candidates. His campaign dropped to its lowest point with the edict he issued in the week of balloting, prohibiting public assembly in the areas near the polling stations, establishing roadblocks in the vicinity of the polling stations and prohibiting rallies and demonstrations on election day itself. The decree further threatened legal measures against students who participated in the electoral campaign if they were not registered in the electoral lists. Naturally, none of these precautions succeeded in keeping the Wafd from sweeping the polls but they did establish Sidqi as an implacable enemy of the powerful populist party. 

In 1925, Sidqi headed the Egyptian negotiating team in the talks with the Italians over Egypt's western borders. In his memoirs, he boasted of having gained for Egypt the strategic area of Sallum in exchange for only the few acre-wide Jaghboub Oasis. Although, he refused to sign the agreement that resulted from these negotiations, leaving that task to Ziwar, he has gone down in Egyptian history as having needlessly squandered a portion of the nation's territory. 

If Sidqi's record tells anything, it is that if he fell off his horse he would hasten to get on again, but also that he had no compunction about changing horses midway. This characteristic is evident during his term as MP at the time when Zaghlul was speaker of the house. Although he maintains in his memoirs that he was very close to Zaghlul, this did not prevent him, along with others, from aspiring to fill the vacuum the nationalist leader left upon his death in 1927. 

Sidqi was, above all, an ambitious man. His name had been put forward as a candidate for prime minister following the resignation of Mustafa El-Nahhas's first government. Although the position fell to Mohamed Mahmoud, he bided his time until the opportunity arose again. This was not long in coming. 

Early in the summer of 1930, El-Nahhas threw the gauntlet down in the form of his resignation he presented to the king. Fouad took up the challenge and, just as the Wafd was preparing huge mass demonstrations in support of El-Nahhas, he issued a statement accepting El-Nahhas's resignation and charging Sidqi with forming Egypt's 41st ministerial cabinet. Sidqi had much in his favour -- royal patronage and British approval -- but his past pursued him. 

At the same time, it must be said, the circumstances were not propitious for any new prime minister. Expressing the general consternation at the time, Al-Ahram remarked, "We are without a doubt in the midst of a grave crisis; it is not merely a ministerial crisis. Were it such, matters would be much simpler. However, the crisis is political and constitutional and, as such, it compels lengthy and profound contemplation." 

The editorial continues, "If this new government that has come to power today is unconstitutional, then for the sake of what it hopes to accomplish tomorrow it must not lend itself to political action in the absence of parliament. Its task must be to resume what has been interrupted, thereby demonstrating its virtue and the nobility of its intent." Al-Ahram was overly optimistic, as the following days would prove. 

The next day, Al-Ahram announced the composition of the Sidqi government. It would have done little to assuage the public's apprehension to learn that, in addition to being prime minister, Sidqi also handed himself the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Finance. Although some assumed that this was because of the short time he was given to form a cabinet, time confirmed that Sidqi was determined to retain his grip on the reins of power. As already noted, he had demonstrated his prowess in the interior during the 1925 elections, but he also had considerable economic expertise to bring to bear on the repercussions Egypt was suffering from under the global economic crisis. Before becoming prime minister, he had executive positions in 11 important companies: chairman of the board of directors of the Egyptian Electricity Company, general director of the Kom Ombo Company, chairman of the board of directors of the German Oriental Bank, president of the Egyptian Pharmaceutical Company and deputy chairman of the board of directors of the German Depot Company in Port Said, to name a few. 

In its declaration of purpose, appearing in the same day's issue of Al-Ahram, the new government pledged to "instill peace of mind among the people and to work towards ensuring public order and safety. To achieve this end, the government intends to ground its actions on a solid foundation of justice and fairness towards all segments of society, whereby none shall have undue influence upon the government at the expense of another, for all shall be equal. The government is, therefore, resolved to maintain absolute political neutrality, and neither it, as a whole, nor its individual members shall have affiliations with any political organisation." So saying, Sidqi resigned from the Liberal Constitutionalist Party, as did his minister of foreign affairs, Hafez Afifi, while Ali Maher and Mohamed Tawfiq Rifaat resigned from the Ittihad Party. 

Al-Ahram welcomed the government's declaration of neutrality and its members' decisions to resign from their parties under the headline, "Cabinet is national, not partisan". However, the newspaper had its own interpretation of this development, one that was consistent with Sidqi's record. The new government, it wrote, intended to treat all Egyptians equally, regardless of their political differences and their party affiliations. "Zeid will not be at an advantage because he is a Liberal Constitutionalist and Bakr will not be disadvantaged because he is a Wafdist or National Party member. If, indeed, there can be a skilful way of inaugurating rule, then this declaration is without a doubt very politically adept." 

But the editorial could not help but notice the subtly couched warning in the declaration. The government "fervently hoped that circumstances would not compel it, in spite of itself, to pursue means and measures contrary to its intent," it said. Did this imply "a svelte glove concealing an iron hand?" Al- Ahram asked. 

Such apprehensions were spelled out more explicitly in a Daily Herald commentary that Al-Ahram relayed to its readers. According to this British newspaper, King Fouad was averse to parliamentary rule. "He has always sought dictatorial rule, largely as the result of Fascist influence. The king was brought up in Italy, speaks Italian better than Arabic and is a great admirer of Mussolini. He saw for himself the enthusiastic mass reception that was accorded him upon his visit to Rome in 1927, which persuaded him that dictatorial rule is a marvelous system for monarchs to emulate." 

This analysis would be born out through Sidqi. Only a day after forming the new cabinet, the prime minister issued an edict postponing the opening of the Wafdist-majority parliament for a month. When Speaker of the House Wissa Wassef and Speaker of the Senate Adli Yakan insisted that the edict be read out to a joint meeting of both assemblies, Sidqi agreed, but on one condition: that no member of parliament be permitted to speak following the recitation. Wassef objected, saying that such a condition constituted unwarranted interference on the part of the executive in the area of his jurisdiction. Sidqi countered by ordering the doors of parliament chained closed and armed troops stationed around the premises to prevent representatives and senators from entering the building at the appointed time. Six pm on Monday, 23 June 1930 marked an historic moment in Egyptian history, observed Al-Ahram's parliamentary correspondent who was on hand at the scene: 

"Police began to surround the parliament building at 2.00pm this afternoon and soldiers lined up at each of the four junctions leading to parliament, wearing their familiar helmets and spaced a truncheon's width apart. Police and soldiers remained standing in their positions while the surrounding area remained empty until after 5.00 when the MPs began to arrive." 

Soon the numbers swelled, "creating a large throng that began to shout out in protest, as one thought began to process them, which was to break the doors down. Then the leaders of the Wafd appeared: El-Nahhas, Makram, El-Nuqrashi, Bahyeddin Barakat. The first of these declared that the speaker of the house, when he arrived, had the right to order the police to unlock those doors because they should only take orders from the speaker of the house or senate." 

The drama reached its climax with the arrival of Wassef at precisely 6.00pm. After briefly consulting with El-Nahhas, "the speaker of the house called over the chief of the police force and asked the meaning of locking closed the doors of parliament. The officer responded that it was not his affair, upon which the speaker ordered him to break the chains. The officer immediately summoned two sergeants, normally stationed in parliament as a precaution against fire. They had an ax which they hit the chains with until they broke. Wassef then pushed open the doors and signalled to the members of parliament to enter, which they did, chanting and clapping as they headed directly to the assembly hall and took their seats as normal."

Things were not proceeding as Sidqi had planned. True, order prevailed as he read out the decree postponing the opening of parliament. However, instead of remaining silent, as he had hoped, the members of parliament responded by reciting their oath "to defend the constitution with all the power, money and spirit of sacrifice I possess". Following this, the Al-Ahram correspondent reports, "there resounded throughout the chamber calls for the downfall of the new government." 

"The day of breaking the chains," as these events were dubbed, was the subject of considerable commentary in the press, and not just the Egyptian press. Describing the atmosphere in Cairo that day as "electrified" and "gloomy", the Daily Telegraph correspondent in Cairo observed that violence had only been averted "by accident". He added, "It is well known that Sidqi Pasha does not like anyone to defy him." That certainly was the case that day. Following the parliamentary meeting he issued a statement claiming that the only reason the members of parliament had been able to enter the building was because he had issued "strict orders to the police to respect the MPs and not to intervene with their persons". 

Three days later, in the Saadi Club, the Wafd held a national conference. Outside, security was tight, with "forces armed with rifles and truncheons stationed at the entrances to Qasr Al-Aini, Saad Zaghlul, Al-Falaki and Maglis Al-Nawwab streets". Al- Ahram continues, "In addition, a detachment of cavalry and motorcycle corps were deployed in those streets, under the command of the chiefs of Sayyida Zeinab, Abdeen and Helwan police stations and many police officers, both foreign and Egyptian, foremost among whom was Baker Bek, deputy police commissioner of the capital." 

Commenting on the government's siege of the conference, Al- Ahram held that political parties had the right to convene for the purpose of deliberation and to publicise their principles and platforms. "Such is the course adopted by all constitutional countries", the newspaper wrote. But then, Al-Ahram could not have known what surprises Ismail Sidqi had in store, not only for political parties but for the constitution itself. That was a chapter yet to come in the life of this extremely controversial figure.

(4)

Egypt Air was established in May 1932 to become the seventh carrier in the world and began its operation the next year with a Spartan cruiser from Cairo Almaza airport to Alexandria. The Spartan Cruiser was a 1930s British three-engined monoplane transport plane for 6 passengers built by Spartan Aircraft Limited at East Cowes, Isle of Wight. 

The Egyptians themselves were keen to enter the new age of air transportation and in the spring of 1924 the Ministry of Transportation formed a committee to study the possibilities for commercial aviation in the country. Among its preliminary recommendations was the creation of a civil aviation authority, its function to supervise everything pertaining to air traffic control, airport construction and administration and implementation and conformity to a variety of relevant technical specifications.

However it was not until May 1932 that Misr Air Work was established in association with the Air Work company and in August 1933 it began commercial operation with a Spartan Cruiser from Cairo to Alexandria. By 1935 a total of 12 De Haviland aircraft were added to its fleet.

During the 1930s commercial flights were quickly developed and many "first flight" covers were produced; these may be found with Egyptian stamps for routes passing through or originating in Egypt. Imperial Airways was soon joined by KLM, which was keen to form air routes to Dutch East India, and by 1932 it had reached as far as the East Indies, two years before Imperial Airways. 

Egypt Air was one of the pioneer airlines in the world and the most important in the Middle East and the Arab countries. It was established in May 1932 in association with Air work company under the name of Misr Air work . Its main object .Its main objective was to promote the spirit of aviation among Egyptian youth . Using Gypsy Moth air planes, the company taught the art and science of flight and aeronautical engineering.

In August of 1933 Misr Air work commenced commercial operation with a Spartan Cruiser from Cairo to Alexandria. By 1935  a total of 12 De Haviland were add to its fleet. During the Second World War, the Egyptian Government took over the airline and changed its name to Misr Airlines.  During the Second World War, the Egyptian Government took over the airline and changed its name to Misrair in 1949. In 1949 MisrAir bought 10 Vickers Vikings and the following year put into service a French Aircraft, the Languedoc. In 1958 MisrAir got merged with Syrian Airlines forming a new identity "United Arab Airlines-UAA". was created in December 1958, following the union between Egypt and Syria (United Arab Republic). Misrair gradually adopted this name and Syrian Airways was merged into the airline but left in the autumn of 1961 .  In 1960 UAA enhanced the fleet with Comet 4-c jets becoming the first Carrier in the Middle East to use the jets. 

1968 witnessed the introduction of the Boeing 707-320c to cope with the growing international traffic and to operate longer routes and the next year UAA became the first Airline in the Middle East to fly Boeing 707s.  After the death of Nasser in 1970, the UAA changed again its name to EgyptAir. 

Today EgyptAir is a state-owned company with special legislation permitting the management to operate as if the company were privately owned without any interference from the government. The company is self-financing without any financial backing by the Egyptian government.

In 2008, EgyptAir's passenger traffic increased by 6% to 8.2 million passengers. As of November 2009, the EgyptAir Holding Company fleet (which includes EgyptAir Airlines, EgyptAir Express and EgyptAir Cargo) stood at 64 (+ 22 orders and 3 options).

EgyptAir wholly owns EgyptAir Express and Air Sinai. The airline has stakes in Air Cairo (60%) and Smart Aviation Company (20%). As of June 2007, the EgyptAir Holding Company had 20,734 employees of which 7,600 worked in EgyptAir Airlines.

The EgyptAir Holding Company has recorded substantial profits in past years, reaching US$170 million during the 2007/2008 financial year. This is fortified by huge assets of more than US$3.8 billion. The airline's financial year is from July to June.  For the fiscal year ending 31 July 2007, EgyptAir achieved a record total revenue of US$1,143 billion. Total group revenue grew by 14%, as compared with the previous year.

EgyptAir wholly owns EgyptAir Express and Air Sinai. The airline has stakes in Air Cairo (60%) and Smart Aviation Company (20%). As of June 2007, the EgyptAir Holding Company had 20,734 employees of which 7,600 worked in EgyptAir Airlines (the airline subsidiary of the group).

The EgyptAir fleet has an average age of 5.2 years and consists of the following aircraft (at November 2009). Totalof 48 airplanes; including 13  Airbus A320-200, 4 Airbus A321-200,  7 Airbus A330-200, 4 Boeing 737-500,  12 Boeing 737-800, 3 Airbus A340-200. 25 additional airplanes are on order.


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© Kamal Katba 2009


 

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