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article imageHistory still in the making in Egypt

By Carol Forsloff     Feb 10, 2011 in World
“We are witnessing history making in Egypt,” but what might that history be? This country's past provides perspective on unfolding events.
Recently, this journalist spoke with Lindsay J. Benstead, a Professor in the Department that for more than fifty years has helped students prepare for careers in the Middle East or has helped to foster understanding of this difficult and somewhat unpredictable region. She maintained at the time, during the interview, Egypt must control its own destiny. The back story of Egyptian history, shows the Egyptian people have rebelled before in treacherous times. From looking back at a time in its history a context allows some perspective on the rebellion taking place today. It also offers that side-view of what Obama says is this history-making moment in Egypt’s history.
The history before us “is fluid,” as experts have told us, both on television and during interviews. What Obama maintains is a history-making day may reveal elements favorable to the rest of the world and those that may not be. It is, like Professor Benstead said during her interview, up to Egypt, as other experts say it should be.
Egypt is part of that massive collection of states that was once part of the Ottoman empire, ruled by the Turks for centuries, according to historical accounts. These were strong leaders, like Hosni Mubarak is strong, with a mighty military force. But Egypt maintained its identity, after it was taken over by the Ottoman Turks in the 16th century and ruled by Sultans for decades. But as one authority continues, in this discussion of Egyptian independence. “The Turkish manners and ways of life seemed to make no impression on the Egyptians. They did not use the Turkish language and the people of Cairo managed to keep their own identity. The ruling families did adopt some of the Turkish habits, but by and large the city remained Egyptian. The Turks built mosques but they preferred the public mosque called a masjid, to the college mosque called a madrasa. The Byzantine style was preferred to the traditional Arabian style. The mosques were usually smaller and their artistic creativity was less, not because of a lack of skill, but because of a lack of money.”
Eventually Egypt, with its independent postures, sought to make its way by revolt, not much different than evidenced today. Ali Bey was one of the Egyptian Mamelukes, a leader in this revolt. He and his forces took over Cairo, then sent the Turks packing back to Porte. Although the Turks were not entirely overcome, Ali Bey’s strength was made greater with his actions along the front. He ended up conquering Arabia and Syria, was made caliph of Mecca, thereby creating an independent state within the Ottoman Empire. Egypt became that state within the larger country, but with its own identity intact.
When Ali Bey was murdered, Murad Bey took over the rule of Egypt. He faced challenges of both Napoleon’s army’s advances and the Turkish power. A bloody battle ensued. The French, under Napoleon’s leadership, set fire to gun powder, so explosions took place surrounding Cairo. The people fled the city, believing Napoleon had set Cairo on fire. The people, made angry, by a foreign invasion, fled as European conquest of the former Ottoman Empire eventually developed on all sides.
Egypt’s history reveals it has followed its own path, that experts say it should today. The country has been led by Europeans and strong men of the Middle East. Egypt has a history of autocratic rule. Commentators tell us the events today remain fluid, as the course of Egyptian history reveals a background to help us track these events as they happen.
More about Hosni Mubarak, Egypt, Ancient egypt, Ottoman empire, Napoleon
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