Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
30 Dec. 1999 - 5 Jan. 2000
Issue No. 462
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues
20th century Special issue  [INDEX]

  1900 - 1909 1910-19 >
Dinshawai Lord Cromer
Ahmed Orabi
Khedive Abbas
Mohamed Abduh
Aswan Dam Mustafa Kamel's funeral
Convention of the National Party Cairo University
Mahmoud Sami El-Baroudi
Rashid Reda
Mustafa Lutfi El-Manfaluoty
Mohamed El-Muweilhi
Abduh El-Hamouli

The first day of the 20th century coincided with the 29th day of the Muslim month of Shaaban, when Muslims all over the world search the dim skies for the crescent announcing the beginning of Ramadan, which appeared on the night of that day, and preparations for Ramadan took precedence over celebrations of the centenary.

In the last few decades of the 19th century, Egypt was torn between a powerful undercurrent of millenarianism, at the root of various forms of Egyptian popular piety, and surface compromises within a rapidly transforming society, among the political and intellectual elite in particular. From the majesty of the court to the vociferation of various ultra-religious groups, the country was searching for its soul. The presence of British troops had accentuated the rift. Three years after the British occupied Egypt, the Mahdi's forces had taken Khartoum, inflicting on the empire one of its most memorable defeats.

In the first month of 1899, the Mahdi had been dealt with and the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium established. A docile Ahmed Orabi (center, second from top) returned from 16 years of exile in Ceylon to praise the reforms carried out in his absence by the British. That year, another rebel from Orabi's time, Mohamed Abduh (center-right, second from top), was appointed mufti of Egypt and entrusted with the task of reforming Al-Azhar.

The century began with the emergence of a new rebel, Mustafa Kamel, editor of Al-Liwaa newspaper, which began publication in 1900. Other than the fiery articles it published, everything seemed to be going the British way until 1906. In June of that year, a number of British officers out pigeon-shooting near the Delta village of Dinshawai set fire to a threshing-floor by mistake. When the peasants rose up in anger, a British soldier was killed. Lord Cromer (top right), Egypt's effective ruler in the name of the empire, seized the opportunity to set an example the Egyptians would not forget.

A tribunal, headed by Boutros Ghali, was convened; the condemned were flogged and hanged in Dinshawai as their families looked on in horror (main picture, top left).

The emotions the Dinshawai incident aroused were unprecedented since the Orabi Revolt. Ahmed Shawqi wrote poems resounding with grief and rage, and Mustafa Kamel employed all his eloquence in defence of Egypt's independence and against British injustice. Cromer had to resign his post, and in July 1907 Eldon Gorst was appointed British agent in Egypt, while Khedive Abbas Helmi (center-right, top) looked on impassively.

By 1908, the time of Mustafa Kamel's death (centre, right), he had become the uncontested leader of the nationalist movement in Egypt. A year later, in 1909, Boutros Ghali was invited to form the government.

The first decade of the century often seems to have been confused by all the new beginnings it witnessed: work in progress on the Aswan Dam in 1901 (center, left); the inauguration of the Egyptian University in 1908 (bottom right); or the first convention of the National Party (bottom, left), held in Geneva and chaired by Mohamed Farid, who led the party following Kamel's death.

Other developments affected the print press, with the rise to prominence of journalists advocating Islamic reform, like Sheikh Ali Youssef of Al-Mu'ayyid newspaper, or Rashid Reda (second from top). Writers and poets like Mahmoud Sami El-Baroudi (sidebar, top), Mohamed El-Muweilhi (sidebar, third from bottom), and Mustafa Lutfi El-Manfalouti (third from top) made their mark in various ways. The century opened with the death of Abduh El-Hamouli (bottom) in 1901, but Almaz (second from bottom) would continue to enthral audiences for some time.


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