1Sahil B = ""EGYPT AT THE turn of the nineteenth century had become, in the words of William Welch, “an essential
spoke in the imperial wheel” of the British Empire. Unlike India, where the British held uncontested and
unconcealed control over every level of civic administration, Egypt was allowed to maintain a façade of
independence through the hereditary reign of its utterly impotent viceroys, or khedives. Though their fealty
remained, in principle, to the Ottoman Empire, by the nineteenth century the khedives were little more than
subjects of the British Empire. They were powerless to make any political or economic decisions in Egypt
without the consent of their colonial masters. In exchange for a seemingly inexhaustible line of credit, which
they could never hope to repay, a succession of viceroys had gradually settled into apathetic reigns
characterized by unrestrained excess and political indifference.
Meanwhile, Egypt was inundated with foreign workers, wealthy investors, and middle-class
Englishmen eager to stake their claims on a country with few bureaucratic obstacles and unlimited
opportunities for advancement. To accommodate the rapid influx of Europeans, entire cities were built on
the outskirts of Cairo, far away from the indigenous population. The foreigners quickly took charge of
Egypt’s principal export of cotton. They built ports, railroads, and dams, all to implement colonial control
over the country’s economy. With the construction of their crowning achievement, the Suez Canal, Egypt’s
fate as Britain’s most valuable colony was sealed.
To pay for these massive projects, taxes were increased, though they were already too high to be paid
by the average Cairene, let alone by the expanding peasant class (the fellaheen) forced into the cities by
the destruction of their local industries. Making matters worse, the khedives had been pressured into
allowing the foreign élite unreasonable concessions, including exemption from all taxes except those levied
on property, and total immunity from being tried in Egyptian courts."-No god but God, Reza Aslan "