In 1958 Egypt and Syria formed the United Arb Republic (UAR) to protect common interests in the Middle East. From that year, postage stamps issued by the union countries carried the letters ‘UAR’ as well as the country where the stamps were issued. These denotations were to change in the following years and, in the absence of a catalogue, often provide the philatelist with an easy way to date a issue even when they adopt the same image design and colour.
The United Arb Republic was formed as a political union between Egypt and Syria and was intended to be a step towards a pan-Arab state. Egypt’s president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, had become a popular figure in the Middle East following the Suez War of 1956. Following the Syrian Crisis of 1957, Syrians sought stability by proposing a union with Egypt. Nasser initially resisted a union but, fearing the threat of communism in Syria, he ultimately agreed.
From 1958, Egyptian postage stamps carried the letters ‘UAR’ as well a the country name ‘Egypt’ (see featured image). Many Arab countries considered the union a threat but there were attempts from Iraq to join following the overthrow of the Hashemite monarchy in 1958. Indeed a new flag of the union was proposed with three stars symbolising the three states of the proposed union. However, Iraq never cemented their place in the union although bizarrely, the three-star flag was later adopted by Iraq as its national flag and remained so until 2007. Meanwhile the UAR adopted a flag based on the Arab Liberation Flag of horizontal bands of red, white and black accompanied by just two stars. In 1959, the postage stamps of Egypt merely carried the letters ‘UAR’ and the country name was dropped altogether.
Nasser introduced sweeping economic reforms across Egypt and Syria including a wave of nationalisations. Syrian political parties were dismantled and the federation became increasingly dominated by Egypt. The tempestuous relationship between the union countries eventually lead to the Syrian coup of 1961, followed by a declaration of Syria’s independence from the UAR. Nasser never gave up on his dream of an Arab union but by 1971 the UAR had been dissolved. Egypt became the Arab Republic of Egypt and its postage stamps reflected this change by carrying the inscription ‘AR Egypt’
By 1973 the ‘AR’ component of the inscription was presented in an ever smaller font size and by 1978, it was dropped completely and stamp issues returned to the denotation of country name only.
To view postal issues of the Egypt, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.