Skip to main content

Full text of "The Egyptian Problem"

See other formats

NEITHEE of Mehemet All's immediate successors left any deep impress on the history of Egypt. Abbas I, who as the eldest agnate had taken over the reins after the death of Ibrahim during the last melancholy months of the old Pasha's dotage, was a solitary and sinister figure, seeking in retirement not so much a refuge from the cares of State as privacy for the indulgence of his morbid cruelty. Ibrahim had sometimes urged his father to " let the people alone/3 and had he lived, he might have relaxed the harshness without destroying the structure of Mehemet Ali's system of administration. Abbas did not even wait for his grandfather to pass away before setting himself to undo out of sheer hatred all that the great Pasha had done. He resented above all the growth of European interests and European influence. He disliked foreigners of all nationalities. He would gladly have closed the doors of Egypt to all of them impartially and put the clock back to the old days before the nineteenth century when Egypt, forgotten by the outer world, could ignore its existence. He posed as a devout Mahomedan to whom the Infidel and all his works were anathema. He dismissed a number of European officials and closed the schools in which the rudiments of .European education had been taught. He regarded European trade and industry as insidious channels for the infiltration of European influence, and though he could not interfere with them openly in defiance
21I had ten thousand lives, I would willingly sacrifice them all to possess her/5 He did not make of Egypt a nation, for, himself an alien by birth, the people of Egypt were so little to him that he never even learnt to speak their language. Yet by giving Egypt for the first time a place and a name in modern history, and securing, at the cost of however tremendous sacrifices, a measure of autonomy which at least released her from the direct grip of predatory Turkish officials, he created in the rising generations of Egyptians a sense of pride in their country which became