Advancing a Free Society

Rebellion in the Land of the Pharoahs

Monday, January 31, 2011

'When Ramses II was over eighty he celebrated his rejuvenation at the feast of Set, repeating it yearly until he was ninety and more, and displaying his power of rejuvenation to the Gods above in the Obelisks he regularly erected as a memorial, which the aged Pharaoh decorated with electrum at the top so that their brightness should pour over lands of Egypt when the sun was mirrored in them."

This is from a classic account of this ancient and ordered land, "The Nile in Egypt," by Emil Ludwig (1937). Hosni Mubarak, the military officer who became Pharaoh in his own right, is well over 80. His is the third-longest reign since Ramses, who ruled for 67 years. The second-longest had belonged to a remarkable soldier of fortune, Muhammad Ali, an Albanian by birth and the creator of modern Egypt, who conquered the country in the opening years of the 19th century and ruled for five decades. His dynasty was to govern Egypt until the middle years of the 20th century.

In the received image of it, Egypt is the most stable of nations, a place of continuity on the banks of a sanguine river. Egyptians, the chronicles tell us, never killed their pharaohs. Anwar al-Sadat had been the first. But this received image conceals a good deal of tumult. The submission to the will of Gods and rulers has been punctured by ferocious rebellions.

Continue reading Fouad Ajami’s Wall Street Journal op-ed…