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Full text of "The Egyptian Problem"

134
THE EGYPTIAN  PROBLEM
CHAP.
from Egypt itself. There was every intention at first to pay handsomely for everything we required from the Egyptians, and to induce Egyptian labour to volunteer by the offer of attractive .terms. But in practice those excellent intentions were ultimately frustrated by the increasing exigencies of the war, and very heavy burdens were forcibly imposed upon Egypt, which unfortunately fell chiefly on that section of the population that had been least affected by the political agitation against the British controlling power before the war.
The sudden fall in prices which, in Egypt as elsewhere, followed the outbreak of war had hit the fellaheen very hard, but measures were taken to avert a panic, and within a year the pendulum had swung right away in the other direction, and prices for all agricultural produce soared steadily to heights never dreamt of before. The lion's share of profits went to the large landowners. They at once screwed up the rents of their tenants, a large proportion of whom had always remained, and preferred to remain, yearly tenants. But on the whole the fellaheen themselves waxed fat, as has been shown by the astonishing rapidity with which they began to repay the loans granted to them by the Agricultural Bank and other institutions. About the war itself they for a long time knew little and cared less, though it furnished not unwelcome material for wild rumours and blood-curdling stories. They have so hated the Turks from times immemorial that even the religious appeal of their Khalif at Constantinople did not stir them deeply. It was none the less an extraordinary piece of folly on our part to make in a Mahomedan country repeated collections, which, under pressure from the local authorities, became really compulsory levies, for the Red Cross, as the mere name lent itself to easy misrepresentation and was in fact suspected of covering some mysterious purpose of sectarian propaganda. But the fellaheen had been told officially that they would not be made to suffer m any way by the war, and as they were beginninghe eyes ofdb.e  Canal—and Turks were marched into Cairo as