Al-Ahram Weekly Online   15 - 21 July 2004
Issue No. 699
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Naguib Mahfouz

Past joy

By Naguib Mahfouz

I clearly recall coming out of Cinema Radio, Downtown, and hearing people celebrating the repudiation of the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936 which had been proclaimed earlier in the day by the prime minister, Mustafa El-Nahhas.

That was in 1950. El- Nahhas himself had signed the Treaty but as time went by it transpired that Britain had no intention of respecting the terms of the agreement, and people felt that the whole business was no more than a strategy to reduce Egyptian resentment of the British presence. When El-Nahhas declared it null and void support for him was expressed on the streets.

Yet people change as time goes by. When I look back on the event I no longer feel the same happiness I felt when it happened, so much so that I am now not at all sure whether cancelling the treaty was beneficial for Egypt.

There were very serious consequences -- the Cairo fire of January 1952 being one of the direct consequences. And yet I still count the proclamation among the happiest occasions in my life, and the life of the nation as a whole: that such a bold step should be taken in answer to British procrastination towards leaving Egypt was a cause for joy and that joy was so widespread that it is impossible to think of that day without feeling, once again, an echo of the excitement to which it gave rise.

Based on an interview by Mohamed Salmawy.

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