Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Gilbert Sinoue

Part 2. Mehemet Ali (1770-1849): The last modern Pharaoh?

Mehemet Ali (Turkish pronunciation) or Mohammad Ali was born around 1770 in the poor port town of Kavala in Macedonia. Macedonia was called Roumelia by the Ottoman Empire, and Kavala faced the close-by island of Thasos.  Mehemet Ali’s father married Zeinab, a daughter of Hussein agha, and he had the job of securing the district routes, in addition of trading in tobacco.

At the age of 19, Mehemet Ali married Amina Hanem, the widowed daughter of the governor of Kavala. His first son Ibrahim was born in the nearby village of Drama, where the family fled from the cholera infesting the small port.  Amina was the favorite wife of Mehemet Ali, although he had 30 kids from his harem.  Only 10 lived to adulthood, 7 boys and 3 girls.

The second son of Mehemet Ali, the most beloved Toussoun, also died at 23 of age after an all-night of pleasure and bingeing… Toussoun had led an army in 1811 into the Arabic peninsula and defeated the extremist religious Wahhabi uprising and entered Mecca. The elder son Ibrahim would resume the war and the conquest and in 1818 eradicate Deryeh, the main city of the Wahhabi who received arms and  finances from England.

Mehemet Ali was totally illiterate till the age of 45, and spoke only Turkish, although he learned to understand local Arabic. Most of his children received the best education of the time and spoke several languages such as Farisi and Greek.

In 1800, Mehemet Ali reluctantly had to join the 300-contingent of Macedonians dispatched to support the British in the attempt of dislodging the remnant of 20,000 French soldiers in Egypt, lead by General Menou. Within less than a year, the French soldiers were evacuated from Egypt and Mehemet Ali advancing twice in military ranks.

The Ottoman Empire and the Mamluke in Egypt wanted to revert to the previous state of affairs, and Mehemet Ali played both powers, one against the other for four years, until he was appointed governor of Cairo in June 1805.

For another 5 years, Mehemet Ali relentlessly confronted the internal forces resisting his supreme rule and even managed to defeat another smaller British expeditionary force. In March 1811, Mehemet Ali massacred over 250 high-ranking Mamelukes in his palace.  The Mamelukes had to flee to Sudan.

When Mehemet Ali’s son Ismail led the troops to conquer Sudan in 1820, the Mamelukes had to retreat even further to actual Darfur.  Ismail was burned alive in his tent in 1822 in Chendy (Sudan) after angering a local tribe.

Mehemet Ali became the sole ruler or Vice-King of Egypt, Sudan, and current Saudi Arabia and Yemen:  He behaved as the biggest capitalist of his time since all the lands were His, and he bought all the agricultural products and resold them at monopolistic prices to the people and at premium prices to England, France, and Turkey…

Mehemet Ali transformed Egypt from scratch:  He created a modern army, a modern navy, public schools, public hospitals, hundred of miles of irrigation canals…most of them using forced labor by the hundred of thousands of Egyptian peasants.

Ibrahim started the Syrian campaign in 1831 and defeated the Ottoman armies in several battles. He could have entered the Capital Istanbul, but Mehemet Ali refused that Ibrahim army move forward.  Consequently, Ibrahim became the governor of Syria (from the southern Anatolia plateau to Gaza) and was a born administrator and Syria experienced its most prosperous period.

In 1839, Ibrahim defeated again the Ottoman army in the battle of Nezib, which lasted only two hours, and Istanbul was again ripe to fall, but for the western European coalition and Russia to refuse Ibrahim his military victory.  Ibrahim could annihilate the small British contingent that landed in Beirut in 1839, but it was a political decision to withdraw to Egypt and to relinquish Syria to the Ottoman Empire in Nov. 1840.

In 1841, Sultan Abdel Hamid II signed the “firman” extending the hereditary right of Mehemet Ali in Egypt.  Mehemet Ali refused the French investment to open the Suez Canal and also refused British investment for a railroad linking Alexandria with the Red Sea: Mehemet Ali foresaw the consequences of these foreign investment in Egypt and said: “Once the Suez canal is opened to navigation then the British will take it and Egypt will become under British mandated power…”

Mehmet Ali managed the British all the time because he knew that only the most powerful maritime Empire of the period could impose its conditions.  For example, it was the Egyptian wheat and cereal sale to England (1810-13) that maintained the British troops in Spain.

Ibrahim died one year before his father in Nov. 1848.  The eldest male in the family.  Abbas I (son of Toussoun) became Vice-King and ruined all the achievement of Mehemet Ali and Ibrahim within a few years of his reign.

The Suez Canal will be opened by the French in the 1860’s and a railroad will crisscross the country

A decade later, the British government purchased the Egyptian share in the Canal.  In Aug. 1882, a British contingent occupied Suez Canal and the last soldier left in June 1956 after Eisenhower ordered the retreat of the British and French troops.

In 1885, the British occupied Sudan and left in 1956.

Note: A review of the French book “The last Pharaoh” by Gilbert Sinoue

The modern Pharaoh: Who is Mehemet Ali Pasha?

Muhammad or Mehemet (in Turkish) Ali spoke only Turkish and was illiterate: He could not read or write in any language until he was in his 50’s.  A few European consuls suspected that Mehemet understood Arabic but faked his ignorance in order to double-check on the accuracy of the translation

Mehemet Ali lived in an environment of Turkish culture and believed that “White colored” people (including the Turks) were far more intelligent, more brave, more educated, and more developed than the Egyptians.

To Mehemet Ali, forcing military service on the Egyptian peasants was a necessity that drives this racist law: The Albanian and Turkish mercenaries rebelled several times and Mehemet had to constitute a national army, a new order army or Nizam Jadid.

His son Ibrahim had at several occasions pressed Mehemet to consider training the Egyptian to carrying arms in his army, but Ibrahim had to wait long time before necessity knocks on the door: Mehemet had extended his territory to all Sudan and the Arabic Peninsula, and he needed a large modern army, trained by the French!

Till the end of his life, Mehemet valued Turkish soldiers and officers as more capable administrators and soldiers than the Egyptians, although the Egyptian soldiers and officers are the ones who won the battles against the Turkish Ottoman army in more than 4 critical battles in Syria.

Mehemet Ali would warn his son Ibrahim: “Never place the Egyptian soldiers in front lines: They will prefer to be prisoners than fight. Never place the Egyptian soldiers in the rear lines: They will flea and retreat. Always make sure that Egyptian regiments are placed in sandwich between Turkish officers…”

Mehemet Ali managed to train a national army or Nizam Jadid.  At first, the forced soldiers from Sudan did not survive the harsh life of camp confinement, and Mehemed decided to try enlisting by force the Egyptian peasants. The Egyptians tried their best to avoid joining the army: They mutilated a thumb, fingers, hands, an eye…in order not to be considered fit for the army.

By the by, after the first initiation to military life and the donning of military outfit, the Egyptian soldier began to boast that he is a soldier in “Mehemet army

Ibrahim Pasha was different from his father Mehemet Ali.

British Prime Minister Palmerston was very worried that Ibrahim might succeed his father because he was a brilliant administrator,  a modern man, a military general who won all his battles against far more numerous armies, and he considered the Egyptians as Arabs and his people…

Ibrahim was raised in an environment that spoke Arabic, in addition to Turkish.  And he led armies constituted of mostly Arabic speaking soldiers and Egyptian peasants…Ibrahim is heard of saying: “I will lead my army as far as there are people speaking Arabic…”

Ibrahim led armies in current Saudi Arabia and quelled the Wahhabi sect tribes, who were funded and armed by the British.  He entered Sudan and conquered it. He won four critical battles against the Ottoman armies and could easily enter Istanbul twice and become the new Sultan.

The European called Ibrahin “Son of Napoleon“.  He ruled Syria and his administrative period of less than 8 years was the most prosperous and most modern time for the Syrian people, extending from Adana in Turkey, current Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan.

Note 1

Note 2: Article taken from the book “The last Pharaoh” by Gilbert Sinoue

“Planet of the Orient”: Who is Um Kulthum?

Is she the fourth modern Pyramid?

Is her silk handkerchief, tightly held in her left hand, the symbol of her singing genius?

It is November 1967:  Five months earlier, Egypt of Gamal Abdel Nasser suffered a crushing defeat by Israel.  Um Kulthum is in Paris for two concerts at the music-hall Olympia:  She is to receive 100,000 Francs for each night of performance, the highest in the history of this music-hall, and to be disbursed to Egypt’s funds of reconstruction.  Air bridges of countless charter planes and private planes are flocking from the Gulf Arab Emirates States.

Um Kulthum writes to President Charles de Gaulle: “I salute in you your action in favor of justice and peace”.  De Gaulle had suspended delivery of Mirage jet fighters to Israel after its preemptive war in June 1967 against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan.

For an hour, Um Kulthum has been sitting among the 18-member orchestra, waiting for the start of the concert.  King Hussein of Jordan, the painter Carzou, Marie Laforet, ambassadors, personalities, and journalists are among the audience.

Um Kulthum is sitting on a chair and begins with “Love of the nation” then stand up in her green jellaba and sings “Restore my liberty, free my hands…” and resume with “The ruins”.

Three songs that stretched for six hours. The audience is described in dailies as “fanatics” of tarab, chanting “Allah” and “Ya salam”

Um Kulthum (Thuma) Ibrahim el-Sayyed el Baltagui, nicknamed “Al Sitt” or “Kawkab al Shark” was born in 1900 in the rural town of Tamay el Zahayra in the Delta of the Nile, the district of Dakhalia. Her father spends his time taking care of the mosque, and interpret religious folkloric songs during wedding ceremonies (mawalid). Her mother Fatima encourages Thuma to learn to read and write and at the age of 7, Thuma is dispatched to her uncle in El Sinbillawayn (Mansoura district) to resume her schooling.

Around 1914, Egypt in under British colonialism, and Thuma’s father discovers that she has an angelic voice, psalmoding Koranic verses and joined her to his small ambulatory group.  Um Kulthum is decked in a Jelabiya as boys and her voice is spreading in the Delta as captivating and the singing group is solicited extensively.

At 16 of age, the famous oud player Zakaria Ahmed and the famous singer cheikh Aboul 3ela heard Thuma singing in the Eid el Fitr in El Sinbillawayn and ask Thuma’s father to encourage her to go to Cairo so that they train her and expand her horizon.

In 1921, Um Kulthum sees Cairo for the first time: She is to sing to a noble and rich house for a wedding. At first, the host would not accept this poor girl dressed as a peasant (felaha) to sing in his house.  The wife beg to differ.  As Um Kulthum sang, an angel hovered over the audience.

For another year, her protectors Zakaria Ahmed and cheikh Aboul 3ela write to Um Kulthum. Thuma had to wait till 1923 to be taken in charge by her music professional protectors.

Thuma learns the dawr, profane songs, and sings poems of Hafez, Abu Nawas, el Mutanabbe, Rubayyat of Omar Khayyam…  Her voice emits 14,000 vibrations (frequency) while a normal voice is about 4,000.

Sadek Ahmad becomes her impresario and advertises Thuma, to the ire of her conservative father.

In 1925, Ahmed Rami, famous song writer, listened to Um Kulthum and fell in love: He wrote over 100 songs just for Thuma.

Um Kulthum is practically a lesbian and in love of Fatima Abdel Razek.  Thuma recorded her first album in 1925 “The lover is betrayed by his eyes” and sells over 15,000 copies.

Thuma is demanded everywhere in the Arab World and she obliges. The Turkish musical style is abandoned and replaced by popular Egyptian taktoukas.  Um Kulthum is heard on radio Masr and she acted in a few movies.

Um Kulthum built a villa of two stories in the street Abou Feda in Zamalek.  Her family declined leaving the village to living in Cairo.  Only her relative Sayyeda accept to join Thuma and becomes her confident and helper.

Thuma’s mother died in 1937.  In 1948, Thuma is suffering from her eyes and needs surgery of the neck (goitre).  She is sent to the USA for professional surgery.

July 23, 1952, a military coup brings Gamal Abdel Nasser to power. The new leader calls Thuma and tells her: “I wish you resume your career: You are the link that unite all Egyptians.  Millions have need of your voice…”

Um Kulthum is being treated by surgeon professor Hafnaoui and ends up marrying him. As she said: “When we bare our body to the physician, we are nude in front of man…”

In 1960, Nasser bestowed medal of honors to Um Kulthum and Mohammad Abdel Wahhab.  The Rais Nasser says: “Abdel Wahhad, I celebrate your art, but I cannot forgive you for not associating with Um Kulthum…” Abdel Wahhab replies: “It is my greatest honor to compose songs for Um Kulthum…” and Abdel Wahhab would compose three songs to Thuma such as “You are my life” (Enta oumri).

Um Kulthum died on February 3, 1975 from renal deficiency. Million of Egyptians carried her gasket to Midan El Tahriri and on to Tuma’s mausoleum in Al Bassatine.

Note 1: Article extracted from a chapter of the French book by Gilbert Sinoue “12 women who changed the history of the Orient”

Note 2: It is reported that Jihan, wife of president Anwar Sadat, was terribly jealous of Um Kulthum as the leading women in Egypt and the Arab World.  Jihan did her best to castrate Thuma into seclusion at the end of her life.

No women representation? “The Arab League represents half the Arabs…”: Who is Hoda Sha3rawi?

In “Letters from Egypt, 1863“, the British Lucie Duff-Gordon wrote that the Christian copt of higher Egypt were far more stringent in wearing the veil than the Moslem women.

Wearing the veil was a symbol of higher social status, regardless of religion, even in the Arabic Peninsula during the Prophet Muhammad time.

Wearing the veil was a tradition inherited from the strict Christian Byzantium Empire that ruled the Near East from 325 AC to 650.

Summer 1923 was a turning point for women liberation in Egypt:  Hoda Shaarawi was returning from a women conference in Rome, and stepped out of a train in Cairo.  As she landed, Hoda removed her veil and threw it on the ground saying: “No more veil”.

Her companion Saiza Nabarawi imitated the gesture and all the women waiting in the train station followed suit.

Note 1:  The Arab League does not represent the “Arabs”.

It represent the stability of the regimes of dictators and absolute monarchs.  With the fall of the oligarchies in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya…we expect the representatives to the League of the “liberated States” to be capable and acknowledge the engaged women.

The “Arab States” will be democratic or not, depending on the engaged women.  We expect the women representatives not to be exclusively the mouth speakers of their respective governments, but to shoulder the aspiration of all women, according to the UN definition of human rights, and human development indicators, and be the vanguard to what is meant by democracy, fair and equitable election laws…

Note 2:  Article inspired from the French book “12 women of the Orient who changed history” by Gilbert Sinoue.  I have reviewed a book on Hoda Shaarawi by another author (maybe Fatima Mernisi)

Note 3:  Iqbal, mother of Hoda and second wife to Muhammad Sultan, was Circassian by origin (from the Caucasus region). Russia invaded the Caucasus to expand on the detriment of the Ottoman Empire.

Iqbal was sent to Istanbul and at the age of 10 was dispatched to Cairo,  Her uncle Youssef Sabri was a military officer, but the wife of her uncle refused to admit this poor relative.  Consequently, Iqbal was raised by relatives of her mother.

Iqbal was behind Hoda getting education and enjoying liberty for expressing opinions and getting involved.

“Heading to Haifa: Want to see my home up close”: Who is Leila Khaled?

No, nothing is written for Leila, nothing is Maktoub for Laila: She will not die a refugee!

It is August 29, 1969.  Leila Khaled and her Palestinian comrade Salim Issawi, another refugee from Haifa, hijacked TWA 840 plane from Rome airport to Tel-Aviv as destination.  The purpose was to take Yitzhak Rabin prisoner and be tried in front of a Palestinian tribunal for crimes against humanity.  Rabin (Ambassador in the USA then) had missed the plane.

Leila and Salim are carrying hand grenades. The Captain and pilot tried several times to redirect the plane to Tripoli (Libya) where the US has a military base. Leila was trained to reading the gauges (the plane has enough autonomy for more than 5-hour flight), and she would correct the flight course.

Leila order the plane to El-Ladd airport.  The smart-ass pilot corrects Leila: “You mean Lod airport in Israel?” “No, it is al Ladd, a name known for millinea, and it is not this stupid Zionist State won’t change it”

Leila orders the pilot to descend at 12,000 feet.  The Israeli air traffic controller is summoned not to mention TWA 840 but call it PFLP, and he finally agreed to obey after the Captain warns him that there are 140 passengers on board.

The controller refuses the landing of the plane and two Israeli Mirage planes are accompanying the civilian plane to prevent it from descending below 12,000 feet.  Leila orders to resume the descent and the Mirage jets made room.

Without warning, Leila orders the pilot to head north to the city of Haifa: “I want to see my home from up close” said Leila.

The plane circled the city twice and was ordered to head to Damascus, where it landed softly. After the passengers exited safely, Leila blew up the cockpit of the plane, and surrendered to the Syrian police.

Three passengers were Israelis and were exchanged for 71 Syrian and Egyptian prisoners three months later.

Life was pleasant in Haifa before April 9, 1948, the 4th birthday of Leila Khaled.

Leila lived in a house on Stanton Street, by the Jewish quarter of Hadar Hacarmel.  On that date of 1949, the Palestinian family of Leila had to vacate the city and seek refuge in Lebanon: Israel has entered the city and 80,000 more Palestinians living in Haifa did the same trip.

The family settled in a camp in Tyre called Bourj al Chemali, where 7,000 Palestinians refugees from Haifa crowded it.  Since that date, Leila would refuse to celebrate her birthday, a day of mourning for her, the nakba for her family.

In 1958, Leila and her sister Nawal are sent to a boarding school in Saida, run by Evangelists, though a Moslem teacher made her memorize verses of the Coran, as Leila was learning to read.

In 1963, at the age of 19, Leila is attending the American University of Beirut (AUB):  Her brother Mohammad, working in Kuwait, paid her tuition.  Her father preferred to pay the tuition of her brother who failed his high school public exam.  Leila could not finish her university degree for lack of financial support and ended up in Kuwait in 1966.

Leila joins the Palestinian Resistance Movement, the main faction of Fateh.

Yasser Arafat is still not ready to train women for military exercises, and Leila tells him that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), headed by Georges Habash, trained both genders and sent them in active duties. She said: “We’ll meet again“, and went ahead and joined the PFLP.

It is September 6, 1970.  Leila does it again and hijacked the Israel El Al plane at the airport of Schiphol (Holland).  Her comrade is Patrick Arguello, originally from Guatemalla and run by dictator Somoza at the time. Patrick had no idea who was his companion boarding as his wife Maria Sanchez.

The attempt failed. Patrick is shot dead and Leila is interrogated by the British police. Leila endures 3 hours of interrogation and kept repeating: “I am the leader of the hijack.  My name is Leila Khaled and a member of the PFLP and from the unit of Rasmieh Odeh, a Palestinian woman prisoner“.

She declare that she want to be considered a prisoner of war.  Scotland Yard officer said: “England is not at war with the Palestinians”. And Leila replies: “Yes, England is at war with us since the declaration of the Balfour document in 1917, promising a homeland for the Jews, in return of a handful of silver coins to prosecute the war against Germany.  England carried out this promise, and is directly responsible for the displacement of million of Palestinians, robbing us from a State and inflicting humiliation, miseries, and indignity on us for decades.” (I developed a bit on that answer).

Four hours later, the officer returns and said: “Three more planes have been successfully hijacked and landed in the Zarka in Jordan.  They want your liberation in return of the passengers.”

In April 1996, Leila is crossing the Allenby Bridge to the West Bank.

A “peace” deal was struck between Rabin and Arafat in Oslo.  The Israeli soldier is interrogating Leila before crossing the border. Leila tells him: “Yes, I belong to a Palestinian organization, I do not agree with this peace deal, and yes I want peace with the Jews. My profession was hijacking Israeli planes. No, I don’t want this peace where I cannot return home without an Israeli soldier interrogating me. Remember young man: I am Leila Khaled.”

“We are refugees, we’ll die refugees” would frequently repeat Leila’s father.  No, nothing is written for Leila: She will not die a refugee. Leila is currently living In Amman (Jordan) by the Jordanian intelligence agency and is married with two kids. She is a member of the Palestinian National Council, and of the Palestinian Women General Union.

Note 1: Article inspired by a chapter of the French book “12 women of the Orient who changed History” by Gilbert Sinoue.

Note 2:  Leila Khaled published her autobiography “My people shall live” in 1973.

Note 3:  After the successive triple hijacking to Zarkat, the Jordanian Monarch Hussein chased out the Palestinian factions into Lebanon, and Lebanon witnessed three decades of bloodshed and calamities.




February 2023

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