Egypt: Reflections of an Ancient Civilisation

Few countries can boast a history quite like that of Egypt – built on the foundations of an ancient civilisation at that. Central to this civilisation was the River Nile that rises in eastern Africa and runs for thousands of miles before traversing Egypt and emptying into the Mediterranean. This was a powerful nation long before the documented age of modern history. By the sixteenth century, the Turks were expanding their empire and Egypt became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1517. It remained an integral component of the Ottoman Empire until 1914, led by a regional leader known as the Khedive.

The influence of the Suez Canal on the history of Egypt was covered in an earlier blog (Nationalisation of the Suez Canal) but this established a relationship with British that would last until the 1950s. The British recognised the Khedive as the Head of State, informed him of British military activities and supported the Egyptians during their invasion of Sudan that resulted in the stationing of a British garrison in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. The assassination of General Gordon in 1872 at the garrison and the invasion of Sudan by a British military force a few years later as a reprisal, led to the defeat of the Mahdi Forces at the Battle of Omdurman.

The earliest set of postage stamps issued by Egypt was in 1862, a decade before General Gordon lost his life. In 1914, the Turks and the might of the Ottoman Empire sided with Germany at the beginning World War I. The British responded by deposing the existing Khedive, installing a new one who was sympathetic to the allied cause – interestingly the uncle of the deposed Khedive. At this point, Egypt became a British Protectorate.

With the defeat of Germany and the axis forces in 1918, the Ottoman Empire was disbanded and several independent countries, including Egypt, came into existence without the controlling influence of Istanbul. A Head of State was appointed in 1917, Sultan Ahmed Fuad, who was subsequently anointed as King Fuad. He ruled until his death in 1936 when his son, Farouk became King and Head of State. Egypt became independent in 1922. King Farouk struggled to maintain support and in 1953 he was deposed and an Egyptian Republic was declared.

Egypt 1927 10m stamp featuring King Fuad
1927 10m featuring King Fuad
Egypt 1945 10m stamp commemorating 25th Birthday of King Farouk
1945 10m commemorating 25th Birthday of King Farouk

In 1958 the United Arab Republic (UAR) was formed as a federation comprising Egypt and Syria. Both countries retained their own currency so different postage stamps were issued but all carrying the acronym ‘UAR’. The federation expanded in 1971 when Libya joined the UAR and Egypt declared itself as the Arab Republic of Egypt. Presidents of Egypt have been elected and deposed in the years that have followed and turmoil is never far from the country’s doorstep. However, the postal issues are varied and portray much of the country’s rich history.

To view postal issues of Egypt, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

Published by billmandsphilatelycom

William (Bill) Matthews has been a philatelist for more than 60 years. He has a particular interest in the postal history of the British Commonwealth including most notably, the issues from Australia, Canada and New Zealand. However, he also has specialist interest in the postal history of Egypt, Norfolk Island, Papua New Guinea, Sarawak, Sudan and the Italian States as well as a fine collection of overprints.

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