General issues: Ottoman province 1866, Ottoman khedivate 1867-1914, British protectorate 1914-1922, Kingdom 1922-1953, Republic 1953-1958, United Arab Republic 1958-1971, Arab republic 1971-Present
Country name on general issues: Egypt in Arab script, Poste Khedivie Egiziane, Postes Égytiennes, Egypte, Egypt, U.A.R.
- Suez Canal Company 1868
- Foreign offices France
- Alexandria 1899-1931
- Port Said 1899-1931
- British forces in Egypt 1932-1939
- Occupation of Palestine 1948-1967
- Indian forces in Egypt 1965
Currency: 1 Piaster = 40 Paras 1866-1888, 1 Pound = 100 Piaster= 1000 Millièmes 1888-Present
Population: 10 186 000 in 1900, 86 060 000 in 2013
Political history Egypt
Egypt is located in northern Africa. Egypt ranks among the countries with the longest recorded history in the world. Established as a united kingdom around 3150 BC, Egypt is ruled by successive pharaonic dynasties until 350 BC. Having been part of the Persian, Greek, Roman and Byzantine empires, Egypt in the 7th century is conquered by the Arabs who bring to Egypt their culture, language and Islam. In the 16th century Egypt becomes part of the Ottoman Empire. Throughout Ottoman rule the Egyptian province has de facto been semi self governing.
Expansion in the 19th century
After a short period of occupation by France and Britain during the Napoleonic Wars in the early 19th century, the Muhammad Ali dynasty comes to power in Egypt, nominally still under Ottoman sovereignty. Under this dynasty, Egypt is focused on expansion. Conquests are made in the Middle East – for a large part at the expense of other Ottoman provinces – and to the south into Sudan and the Horn of Africa. The conquests in the Middle East are reversed by 1841. In Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia Egyptian rule will last until the advent of the Mahdi state in the 1880’s that forces Egypt to withdraw.
Increasing British influence
The Muhammad Ali dynasty does not only focus on expansion. Politically de jure self government within the Ottoman Empire is achieved in 1867 with the establishment of Egypt as a khedivate – a self governing state under Ottoman sovereignty. The dynasty, furthermore, invests in the economy – cotton is introduced as a cash crop. The most notable investment is probably the construction of the Suez Canal which opened in 1869 – constructed and operated by the Suez Canal Company, funded by Egypt and France. The investments place Egypt in a deficit crisis though, resulting in the British and the French gaining increased control of Egyptian state affairs to protect their shares in the investments. A threatening revolt in 1882 causes the British to occupy Egypt to ensure continued safe passage through the Suez Canal. The British now de facto take full control over Egyptian state affairs – all this still under nominal sovereignty of the Ottoman Empire. When the Ottoman Empire in WWI joins the Central Powers, Britain, in 1914, declares a formal protectorate over Egypt, reneging Ottoman sovereignty. The khedive assumes the title of sultan, thus ascending to a level equal to that of the sultan of the Ottoman Empire.
During WWI, Egypt is one of the major staging grounds for the advance of the British in the Middle East. The Egyptian Expeditionary Force will conquer large parts of the Ottoman empire in the Middle East that, after the war, will become British and French mandated territories. Shortly after WWI, as Italy sets out to gain full control of neighboring Libya – an Italian colony since 1912 – the borders with Libya are defined as we know them now through treaties in 1919 and 1926. Also, shortly after WWI, the rise of Egyptian nationalism causes the British, in 1922, to de jure renege the status of protectorate over Egypt declaring Egypt to be an independent sovereign state. Egypt is subsequently proclaimed the kingdom of Egypt. The sovereignty achieved at this time still has restrictions though – Britain retaining sovereignty in the domains of communications, defense, foreign policy and the administration of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. Egypt gains full sovereignty in 1936 – the British, now, only retain the right to station British forces in Egypt to guard the safety of the Suez Canal.Note: Given the complex developments regarding the sovereignty of Egypt, it is hardly surprising that resources used differ on the year in which Egypt gained independence. Mentioned are 1922, 1936, 1952 and 1956. In this profile I have chosen 1922, the year in which Great Britain proclaimed Egypt to be an independent state – albeit with restrictions.
The end of the monarchy
During WWII, Egypt is invaded by first Italy and later Germany from Italian Libya. Fortunes change between 1940 and 1943, but events eventually lead to Allied victory and the occupation of Libya in 1943. After WWII, discontent with the rule of the king increases, leading to a coup d’etat in 1952 in which the king is disposed. Subsequently, in 1953 the monarchy is dissolved and Egypt declared a republic.
The republic of Egypt
Gamal Abdel Nasser – the architect behind the 1952 coup – comes to power in 1954. The relation with the British is redefined – an agreement is signed by which the British forces leave the Suez Canal zone by 1956. Shortly after the withdrawal of the British, Nasser nationalizes the Suez Canal thus provoking the Suez Crisis. British and French troops land in Egypt, Israeli forces advance up to the Suez Canal occupying Gaza and the Sinai. The invasion is reversed under international pressure. To oversee the withdrawal of the troops, the United Nations deploy a peacekeeping mission that will remain in Egypt to monitor the borders until 1967. Some historians consider the Suez Crisis to be the final end of Great Britain as a global super power.
Nasser is an advocate of pan Arabian nationalism and aligns Egypt closely with other Arab states. In 1958, a federation is formed with Syria – the United Arab Republic. Although Syria withdraws from the federation in 1961, Egypt adheres to the name, until becoming the arab republic of Egypt in 1971. Nasser, furthermore, is an advocate of socialism. In foreign policy this leads to alignment with the Soviet block, in domestic policy to a largely state controlled economy.
Nasser, in 1970, is succeeded by Anwar Sadat. Sadat shifts the course of Egypt, seeking alignment with the United States and liberalizing the economy. Sadat is, in 1981, succeeded by Hosni Mubarak. All three leaders, since the establishment of the republic, have been autocratic leaders, curtailing democratic rights such as the freedom of press and free multi party elections. The autocratic character of the regime combined with economic problems in 2011 bring the Arab Spring – a series of protests rapidly spreading across the Arab world – to Egypt. After prolonged protests Mubarak resigns. The window to democracy is opened with free parliamentary and presidential elections in 2011 and 2012 respectively. The democracy is short lived, though, as in 2013 the military, through a coup d’etat, once more seizes power.
Economically, Egypt has developed from being an agricultural country with cotton as its most important cash crop to a country with a diversified economy with services as the most important sector. The population consists of Egyptian Arabs. The largest part of the population lives in the valley and delta of the Nile.
The Anglo-Egyptian condominium of Sudan
In the 19th century Egypt has expanded its territory into Sudan, first in the 1820’s and later in the 1870’s. Egyptian rule of Sudan has ended with the advent of the Mahdi state – a jihad state that aimed to expel Egypt and establish an Islamic state. From 1881, the Mahdi state rapidly conquered most of Sudan forcing Egypt to withdraw. From 1896, the British – nominally under the aegis of Egypt – successfully launch the counter attack: the Mahdi state is defeated by 1898. Subsequently, in 1899 the Anglo-Egyptian condominium of Sudan is established – nominally under Egyptian sovereignty the British de facto administer the condominium, all senior positions in the administration being taken up by the British. The border between Egypt and Sudan is also established in 1899 as we know it until today. In 1902, part of Egypt is put under the administration of the Sudan. This Hala’ib Triangle is disputed until today. Egypt does not relinquish its claims to Sudan. When in 1922 the kingdom is proclaimed, the king is crowned king of Egypt and Sudan. A solution is reached after the establishment of the republic when it is agreed that Sudan will become an independent state separate of Egypt. Sudan gains independence in 1956.
The conflict with Israel
In 1948, Egypt is one of the Arab countries that invade Israel directly, after the proclamation of the state of Israel. Although the war ends in victory for Israel, Egypt occupies Gaza, which it will continue to administer for the next two decades. In 1967, war ensues again – the Six Day War. Israel again comes out victorious and occupies both Gaza and the Sinai. In 1973, war ensues for a third time – the Yom Kippur War that ends in the status qou ante bellum. Shortly after, Anwar Sadat engages in peace talks with Israel that lead to the 1979 peace agreement. Egypt is the first Arab country to officially recognize Israel. Israel agrees to withdraw from the Sinai – which is effectuated in steps between 1979 and 1982. Gaza becomes part of the discussion about the formation of a Palestinian state.
Postal history Egypt
The roots of the modern postal services in Egypt lie in the services as set up by an Italian private company. Having started with an international mail service, the company subsequently gained a concession for domestic mail. This service was, in 1865, taken over by the Egyptian government. The first stamps are issued in 1866. The stamps are of an ornamental design, the name of the country and the face value are added by means of an overprint in Arabic – the stamps are printed in Genoa, Italy. In 1867 stamps are issued with a design showing the pyramids and the sphinx – a theme that is used uniquely until, in 1914, a set with several Egyptian monuments is issued. The 1867, issue is in Arabic script only. The first stamps, also with Latin script, are issued in 1872 – inscribed in Italian ‘Poste Khedive Egiziane’ showing the Italian influence on the early postal services in Egypt. Issues from 1879 are in French. The first stamps of the independent kingdom issued in 1922 are overprints commemorating the proclamation of the kingdom. The first set of definitives shows the portrait of king Fuad I.
The first set issued under the new regime, after the 1952 coup d’etat, commemorates the change of government. From 1958 until 1971, Egypt issues stamps in the name of the United Arab Republic – stamps inscribed ‘UAR Egypt’ or just ‘UAR’. During the period from 1958 to 1961, when the United Arab Republic includes both Egypt and Syria, both of these countries issue stamps – most of different designs, some of the same design. Stamps from this period of the same design are distinguishable in that the stamps in Egypt are issued in millièmes and those in Syria in piaster. Egypt has issued stamps almost exclusively with themes of national interest.
Egypt operated a significant number of offices abroad – using the general issues of Egypt. In the Levant, Egypt operated 21 offices between 1865 and 1881 – please refer to the map of the Levant for the exact locations. Egypt also set up postal services in the territories acquired to the south in the 19th century. Philatelic tradition has it to label these offices as offices abroad while de facto they formed the extension of the Egyptian postal services to the acquired territories. Thus, in the Sudan 27 offices were opened from 1867 – most of these offices were closed upon the advent of the Mahdi state in the 1880’s, some remained open until 1897 when they were made part of the postal services set up for what, in 1899, became the Anglo-Egyptian condominium of Sudan. Furthermore, offices existed in Berbera and Zeila in the future British Somalialand, the current Somalia and in Massawa in the future Italian Eritrea. These offices all closed in the 1880’s. Finally Egypt operated an office in Harar in Ethiopia – a true office abroad – between 1866 and 1880.
As Egypt was part of the Ottoman Empire, the concessions made by the Ottoman Empire also applied to Egypt, and several European powers had offices abroad in Egypt. Foreign offices existed from Austria, France, Great Britain, Greece, Italy and Russia – most of these offices being in Alexandria, some in Cairo, Port Said and Suez. With the exception of the French offices, the foreign offices offices in Egypt closed between 1875 and 1889 – relatively early when compared to the other offices in the Levant of which the last closed in 1923. The French offices closed in 1931. The French were also the only country to issue stamps for specific use in the offices in Alexandria and Port Said – stamps were issued for these offices from 1899.
The postal history of Egypt finally shows the following special issues:
- Suez Canal Company. The Suez Canal was constructed from 1859 and operated from the opening, in 1869, until 1956 by a private company, the Suez Canal Company. The Suez Canal Company provided a postal service between Port Said and Suez. Stamps for this service were issued in 1868. The stamps were used only for a little over a month, just before the service was incorporated into the developing Egyptian government services.
- British Forces in Egypt. Mail from the British forces in Egypt was handled by the Egyptian postal service. From 1932 the British forces enjoyed a reduced rate for letters sent to Great Britain and Ireland, later also to other parts of the British Empire. Stamps were issued to take advantage of this rate from 1932 until 1939. These stamps were withdrawn in 1941, although the reduced rate applied until 1951.
- Egyptian occupation of Palestine. From the independence war of Israel in 1948 to 1967, Egypt occupied Gaza. Administered as a separate, entity stamps were issued for specific use in Gaza. The issues are a subset of the issues for Egypt overprinted and from 1960 inscribed ‘Palestine’.
- Indian forces in Egypt. Forces from India were part of the United Nations peacekeeping force that was put in place in Gaza and the Sinai after the Suez crises in 1956. Stamps for use by these forces were issued by India in 1965 – these being the Indian issue for the Day of the Army from 1964 overprinted ‘UNEF’ for ‘United Nations Emergency Force’. They were used until 1967 when the United Nations forces withdrew as a consequence of the Six Day War.