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]

< 1910-19 1920 - 1929 1930-39 >
Egyptians in Malta Mai Ziyadeh
Mohamed TaymourAhmed Lutfi El-Sayed
Mohamed Bayoumi Sheikh Zakariya Ahmed
Egypt's Awakening British High Commissioner
Lord Carnarvon Saad Zaghloul and Mustafa El-Nahhas
Talaat Harb Ahmed Shawqi
  Mounira El-Mahdeya

As the decade opened, the Egyptians were boycotting the Milner Commission, which had arrived in December 1919, and sought to circumvent the Wafd and negotiate directly with Egyptian politicians. At popular insistence that "our only negotiator is Saad," Zaghlul was allowed to proceed from Malta, where he had been exiled, to Paris, where he presented Egypt's demands for independence before the Versailles Conference (top, main picture: the Egyptian delegation arrives in Malta to meet Zaghlul before proceeding to Paris). From France, he continued to London to negotiate with Milner. No agreement was reached, and Milner declared his mission over in November 1920.

Zaghlul returned to Egypt in April 1921, only to be deported again in December. In February of the following year, Britain granted Egypt limited independence. Zaghlul was released in 1923, and a National Assembly was formed to draft the 1923 Constitution. Zaghlul's return to Egypt was also a landmark in another respect: it occasioned the filming by director Mohamed Bayoumi (sidebar,second from bottom) of Egypt's first documentary film.

Elections held in 1924 brought a landslide victory for the Wafd, and Zaghlul became prime minister in January 1924 (right, third from top: Saad Zaghlul and Mustafa El-Nahhas at the first session of Egyptian parliament in 1924).

In November, Sir Lee Stack, governor-general of the Sudan, was assassinated in Cairo, leading to the fall of the Wafd government at British hands. From that point until the July 1952 Revolution, the country's political life would oscillate between periods of suspension of the constitution, the rule of pro-British and/or pro-king governments, and the restoration of parliamentary life under the rule of the majority party: the Wafd. Zaghlul, however, would not be there to lead it; he had died in August 1927, and was not there to see the British high commissioner arriving in Alexandria in 1929 (right, second from top).

It was also during the '20s that Talaat Harb (bottom, second from left) founded Banque Misr and the ideal of the Egyptian capitalist was born. This was a good decade for indigenous capital, with the Union of Egyptian Industries established in 1922. But this was also a time marked by the opening of Fouad I University (later Cairo University) in 1925 (sidebar, third from top: Ahmed Lutfi El-Sayed, first rector of Fouad I University), and in a somewhat different sphere, the foundation of the Society of the Muslim Brothers by Hassan El-Banna in 1928.

Politics --and more specifically, national pride --found its most self-conscious artistic expression in Egypt's Awakening, Mahmoud Mukhtar's magnum opus (left, second from top). Lord Carnarvon's stunning discovery of the mummy of Tutankhamun (bottom left) may eventually have fuelled nationalist solidarity and developed the theme of a common identity, which had rallied the masses in 1919.

Literary life entered the era of the salon, with the most glamourous of Cairo's literati gathering around writer Mai Ziyadeh (sidebar, top). Ahmed Shawqi (bottom, third from left) was crowned poet laureate, while Mohamed Taymour (sidebar, second from top) became known as a fiction-writer of talent.

For some, like Mounira El-Mahdiya (bottom), the decade was a harbinger of doom: she would soon be overshadowed by an unknown young girl from the countryside, whose unearthly voice ultimately earned her the title "Star of the East". For musician Sheikh Zakariya Ahmed (sidebar, bottom), on the other hand, the '20s were a roaring time, and things were only going to get better: he would soon be composing the music sung by that same young village girl, later to be known as Umm Kulthoum.


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