Egypt on the Brink

Egypt on the Brink: From the Rise of Nasser to the Fall of Mubarak

TAREK OSMAN
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 310
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1npxzc
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  • Book Info
    Egypt on the Brink
    Book Description:

    Famous until the 1950s for its religious pluralism and extraordinary cultural heritage, Egypt is now seen as an increasingly repressive and divided land, home of the Muslim Brotherhood and an opaque regime headed by the aging President Mubarak.In this immensely readable and thoroughly researched book, Tarek Osman explores what has happened to the biggest Arab nation since President Nasser took control of the country in 1954. He examines Egypt's central role in the development of the two crucial movements of the period, Arab nationalism and radical Islam; the increasingly contentious relationship between Muslims and Christians; and perhaps most important of all, the rift between the cosmopolitan elite and the mass of the undereducated and underemployed population, more than half of whom are aged under thirty. This is an essential guide to one of the Middle East's most important but least understood states.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18176-0
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. vi-vii)
  4. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  5. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. viii-ix)
  6. A NOTE ON TRANSLITERATION
    (pp. x-xiii)
  7. Map of modern Egypt
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
  8. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-20)

    Egypt’s 2011 revolution put an end to the political order that had dominated the country for over half a century and which managed to combine social stability with steady decline. Given Egypt’s demographic size, strategic weight in the Arab world, and the cultural and political influence it has exerted on the Middle East and North Africa for centuries, its revolution will prove to be a regional tectonic shift with significant and far-reaching waves. But the events that were to culminate in the revolution began quietly.

    Throughout December 2010 and in the first two weeks of January 2011, a group of...

  9. CHAPTER 1 EGYPT’S WORLD
    (pp. 21-49)

    The classical Greek historian Herodotus described Egypt as ‘the gift of the Nile’. Indeed, for millennia the great river has nourished and sustained this land as one of the most fertile agricultural areas of the world. From its source in Ethiopia’s catchment plateaus, it courses across Sudan’s swamps to enrich the narrow valley along its banks with a dense blanket of natural fertilizer. The Nile gave life to the valley and the Delta, its cycles of inundation and recession governing the eternal seasonal cycles of plantation and harvest. The guarantee of abundance was the foundation of an economic stability that...

  10. CHAPTER 2 NASSER AND ARAB NATIONALISM
    (pp. 50-85)

    Many aficionados of Arab cinema recall a famous scene inNasser 56, the film made to commemorate the Suez War of October/November 1956. An old Egyptian woman from Al-Saeed, the region from which Gamal Abdel Nasser hailed, gets a chance to talk to Nasser in private. She hands him a wretched, flimsy pair of trousers that used to belong to her grandfather. She tells Nasser that the man was, like millions of Egyptian youths, taken from his village into slavery (al-sokhra) to join the brigades digging the Suez Canal. And like many of those millions, he never returned; he died...

  11. CHAPTER 3 THE ISLAMISTS
    (pp. 86-126)

    More than a million mourners packed Cairo’s streets in June 1998 in a display of grief for Sheikh Mohamed Metwalli Al-Sharaawi, Egypt’s (and the Arab world’s) most popular and successful Islamic preacher. Al-Azhar University erected a marquee to receive the huge crowds wishing to offer their condolences. It was a remarkable tribute to a man who illuminated the complex layers of religious sentiment and affiliation in Egypt.

    Every Friday afternoon for almost three decades, millions of TV screens in Egypt would glow with the vivacious features of this elderly, amiable man. The Sheikh – by turn smiling, laughing, nodding, waving...

  12. CHAPTER 4 THE RISE OF LIBERAL CAPITALISM
    (pp. 127-157)

    Throughout 2008, the Egyptian parliament debated the reasons behind the double-digit inflation from which Egypt was suffering at the time. The parliamentary committees assessing the situation comprised a score of the country’s largest business tycoons and some of the key beneficiaries of the rising prices, most of whom were also leading members of the then ruling National Democratic Party (NDP).

    That bizarre situation was one example among many of the dominance of the alliance between Egypt’s previous regime and the country’s main economic and financial powers. The picture was clear: more than 40 per cent of the country’s wealth (real...

  13. CHAPTER 5 EGYPTIAN CHRISTIANS
    (pp. 158-178)

    ‘With steps such as this, your majesty’s wisdom and vision would take Egypt to lead modernity in the East,’ said Nubar Pasha, a senior civil servant – later Egypt’s first prime minister – whose family had settled in Egypt in the early nineteenth century. He was addressing Khedive Ismael, and the occasion was the inauguration of the Cairo Opera House in 1869 – only the fifth in the world, and the first anywhere in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Nubar Pasha, the obsequiousness to a ruler aside, was not exaggerating. As discussed in Chapter 1, the era was one...

  14. CHAPTER 6 THE MUBARAK YEARS
    (pp. 179-212)

    The argument of Jonathan Fenby’s insightful bookFrance on the Brink¹ – that the character, style and personal experience of a country’s president can strongly influence its political system – is of central relevance to Egypt’s experience. The absolutist nature of Egypt’s presidency since the inception of the republic in 1953 makes the nature and outlook of the ruler a matter of vital importance to his subjects.

    Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Egypt was dynamic and revolutionary. It grabbed the political landscape of the region via a thunderous coup that abolished monarchism; installed republicanism; transformed the country’s socio-economic fabric; eliminated entire social...

  15. CHAPTER 7 YOUNG EGYPTIANS
    (pp. 213-241)

    Egypt’s current state resembles a surrealist painting. It is difficult to decipher its components, challenging to comprehend its meaning. At the centre of the painting there are dark, abrasive lines; most onlookers would see them depicting anger, frustration and occasionally menace.

    The painting’s most conspicuous ominous line is the country’s 45 million young Egyptians who are under thirty-five years of age (including the largest group of adolescents in the country’s history). The conditions in which many of these millions live may be somewhat caricatured in much of the foreign media: neighbourhoods with absolute poverty, unreliable services and shabby buildings with...

  16. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 242-271)

    King Ahmose, effectively the founder of Ancient Egypt’s New Kingdom,¹ described his pharaonic mandate as ‘maintaining order (maat) and averting chaos (isfet)’. Today, at the beginning of the second decade of the twenty-first century, a number of dynamics determine whether or not the country will fall intoisfetor grab hold of its future and establishmaat.

    Three players dominate post-Mubarak Egypt: the country’s military, the Islamic movement (with its assortment of constituents), and the various groups that comprise Egyptian liberalism. Since the 1952 coup that established Egyptian republicanism, the military establishment (the armed forces and the intelligence services) has...

  17. NOTES
    (pp. 272-292)
  18. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 293-300)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 301-310)