The story of the Greeks in Egypt from Muhammad Ali to Nasser
“The Greeks and the Making of Modern Egypt” a new book by Professor Alexander Kitroeff, is the first account of the modern Greek presence in Egypt from its beginnings during the era of Muhammad Ali to its final days under Nasser. It casts a critical eye on the reality and myths surrounding the complex and ubiquitous Greek community in Egypt by examining the Greeks’ legal status, their relations with the country’s rulers, their interactions with both elite and ordinary Egyptians, their economic activities, their contacts with foreign communities, their ties to their Greek homeland, and their community life, which included a rich and celebrated literary culture.
From the early nineteenth century through to the 1960s, the Greeks formed the largest, most economically powerful, and geographically and socially diverse of all European communities in Egypt. Although they benefited from the privileges extended to foreigners and the control exercised by Britain, they claimed nonetheless to enjoy a special relationship with Egypt and the Egyptians, and saw themselves as contributors to the country’s modernization.
The author suggests that although the Greeks’ self-image as contributors to Egypt’s development is exaggerated, there were ways in which they functioned as agents of modernity, albeit from a privileged and protected position. While they never gained the acceptance they sought, the Greeks developed an intense and nostalgic love affair with Egypt after their forced departure in the 1950s and 1960s and resettlement in Greece and farther afield. This rich and engaging history of the Greeks in Egypt in the modern era will appeal to students, scholars, travelers, and general readers alike.
Alexander Kitroeff is associate professor of history at Haverford College, where he teaches courses on Modern European and Mediterranean history. Born in Greece, he studied in Britain, where he received his doctoral degree in history at Oxford University.
The book, an AUC Press Publication, is available at major bookstores and Amazon.