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]

< 1960-69 1970 - 1979 1980-89 >
Richard Nixon Shah of Iran Camp David Accords
Shaarawi Gomaa
1976 student's march
Jan. 1977 bread riots
Shukri Mustafa Sheikh Muhamed Hussein El-Dahabi
Nasser's funeral Jihan El-Sadat
Farouk El-Baz
Othman Ahmed Othman
Amal Dunqul
Bar Lev Jerusalem

Nasser's death on 28 September 1970 (main photo, centre) brought millions of mourners into the streets in an unprecedented demonstration of popular grief (paralleled only during Umm Kulthoum's funeral at mid-decade), and closed an entire era as a new decade began. The May 1971 friendship treaty signed with the Soviet Union by Nasser's successor, Anwar El-Sadat, seemed to indicate that Egypt's political orientation would remain on course; a little over a year later, however, 15,000 Soviet military experts were ordered to leave the country. On 15 May, Sadat announced the "Corrective Revolution", deciding a power struggle between him and the so-called "centres of power", led by Vice-President Ali Sabri. Leading figures among this orthodox Nasserist group, including Interior Minister Sha'rawi Gom'a (left, second from top), were tried for high treason, handed down stiff sentences, which were later commuted. They were released by Mubarak.

Sheikh ImamThe decade was marked by widespread popular protest, and the consolidation of solidarities shared by students and workers. Protests on campuses across the country, but especially in Cairo and Alexandria, began in 1972, culminating in the students' 1976 march on the People's Assembly (left, second from bottom), where they demanded greater democracy. Poets like Amal Dunqul (sidebar, second from bottom) or Ahmed Fouad Negm and musicians like Sheikh Imam (end of page) composed litanies that still seem to crystallise the ambient alienation and disenchantment.

October 1973 seemed to answer the second of these claims; at any rate, it reinforced the impression that the '70s would reverse the '60s in many ways: the humiliation of the '67 defeat was wiped out as Egyptian troops crossed the Suez Canal (bottom, second from left). The October War healed the deep sense of humiliation felt by the Egyptian people and won Sadat tremendous popularity, enabling him to initiate major shifts of direction both domestically and on the regional and international fronts.

Among these was the move towards political and economic liberalisation. In 1974 Sadat launched the Infitah (open door) economic policy, and in 1976 initiated political pluralism by allowing the establishment of three "platforms" of the Left, Right and Centre within the Arab Socialist Union, then the single ruling party in the country. In 1978, the platforms were transformed into full-fledged political parties and the Arab Socialist Union was disbanded. New political parties, notably the Wafd and Socialist Labour, also came into existence during this period. On the socio-political front, too, women's rights seemed to have found a powerful advocate in the person of Jihan El-Sadat (sidebar, top).

A downscaling of the Nasser era's social welfare policies --notably, price hikes and slashed subsidies on basic goods --triggered the massive uprisings known as the January 1977 bread riots. Egyptians across the country flooded the streets in protest (bottom left, the offices of the Arab Socialist Union in Alexandria, set alight by demonstrators). Another kind of discontent was also swelling, as became abundantly obvious when Shukri Mustafa (bottom left), the leader of a militant Islamist group that became known as Al-Takfir wal-Higra and advocated the violent overthrow of the state, assassinated Sheikh Mohamed Hussein El-Dahabi (bottom, second from left), then minister of religious endowments.

On 9 November 1977, Sadat announced to the People's Assembly that he was willing to go to Israel. A few weeks later, he was in Jerusalem (bottom, third from left), addressing the Knesset in a move that shocked the Arab world. On 26 March 1978, Sadat signed the Camp David Accords, shaking hands with Menachem Begin on the White House Lawn (top right) and ensuring the return of Sinai to Egypt. The agreement was widely criticised as a "sell-out" of the Arab cause for Egypt's sole benefit. During these years, too, international relations also swung away from Nasser's more radical liberationist and anti-imperial stands. Sadat gave a heroic reception to Richard Nixon, whose Cairo visit was a welcome respite from the Watergate scandal back home (top left); and established a close friendship with the Shah of Iran (top centre), who later took refuge and received medical treatment in Cairo after the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

The Open-Door Policy (announced in 1974), witnessed the creation of new classes of consumers and entrepreneurs. Most visible and enduring, perhaps, is the legacy of mega-contractor Osman Ahmed Osman (sidebar, third from bottom), whose star began to rise during this period.


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