John Tyman's
Cultures in Context Series
  2.5  The Arab Empire : 114-117
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.114. From the seventh century onwards the Sahara was progressively brought under Arab influence, as the armies of Islam pushed westwards. Their invasion culminated in the 11th century in the occupation of large areas by Arab Bedouin who, in Libya especially, put an end to most arable and orchard farming and replaced it with the nomadic pastoralism with which they were familiar. (Bedouin at Ain Khudra in the Sinai) 
.115. Thereafter for a thousand years North Africa was administered from a succession of distant political centres -- Medina, Damascus, Bagdad or Istanbul. Egypt then was simply a province of the Arab empire; and its wealth was plundered by the Sultan’s representatives. Its irrigation system was neglected and agriculture ruined in places. (Narrow strip of irrigable land below Aswan)
.116. At the beginning of the 19th century, Egypt experienced a revival under Mehemet Ali, a Turkish officer who was proclaimed Pasha of Egypt after he'd forced the withdrawal of the British forces that had just defeated the French sent there by Napoleon to cut Britain's lines of communication with India. He built dams and irrigation canals, reorganized land holdings, and exported food to Europe. He built a powerful army, occupied both Mecca and Medina, annexed Syria and the Sudan, attacked Istanbul and almost destroyed the Ottoman Empire. (Portrait of Mehemet Ali in 1840 courtesy )
.117. His successor Ismail inaugurated the Suez Canal in 1869, and a host of expensive public works thereafter. On the verge of bankruptcy he was forced to sell his shares to Britain (at a very low price!): and from 1876 onwards his finances were audited by Britain and France. When officers in the army of his successor revolted, chanting “Egypt for the Egyptians”, they were quickly defeated by the British, who built new dams and canals to extend the area of arable land and turn Egypt into vast cotton field for the mills of Manchester. (Opening of Suez Canal by Empress Eugenie in 1869 courtesy )


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