Join me as we go back, way back, all the way back to 342 Before the Common Era, when Nectanebo II, after many years of struggle, finally lost Memphis to the Persians and had to flee south to Nubia, he would ultimately be the last native Egyptian ruler to rule Egypt, all the way up to 1922 CE, when Egypt would gain a semblance of freedom from their overlords of the time, the British Empire.
After Nectanebo II Egypt would be ruled by in order chronological: The Persians, the Greeks (Alexander the Great, then the dynasty of Ptolemy), the Romans, the Persians again, the Romans one more time, then the Arabs under the Abbasid, then de jure the Fatimids and de facto the Mamluks (The Mamluk Sultans were so many nationalities that most Historians just group them as Mamluks, otherwise we’d be here all day), the Ottoman Turks were next, then it becomes a bit tricky.
Enter Napoleon Bonaparte, his Egyptian expedition in 1798 basically threw a giant wrench into the already fairly unstable political system, oh yeah, the French conquered Egypt too, briefly at least. Napoleon’s supporting fleet was blasted into pieces during the Battle of the Nile, one of Nelson’s battles, causing him to flee back to France, leaving his army behind.
This left a three-way struggle behind, the Ottoman Turks, the nominally Egyptian Mamluks and of all things, Albanian Mercenaries, that’s right, Albanians, the Ottoman Empire was a fun part of history, it basically spread nationalities everywhere.
In 1805, Muhammad Ali Pasha won, using the oldest trick in the book, he massacred everyone else, he’d manage to gain independence for his Egypt, now ruled by an Albanian dynasty, so technically speaking, the Albanians were next.
In 1822 the British basically became the next and ultimately the final colonial overlord of Egypt, using a nationalist uprising as pretext, they’d maintain effective control of Egypt from that point forward, the French being allowed to retain their share of the Suez Canal, the single most important strategic overseas position of the British Empire, thanks to the Jewel that always will be India.
This would finally end in 1952, when the last of Pasha’s successors would be overthrown in a Nationalist and Republican Revolution, the last British soldiers withdrew two years later.
Which brings us to the Suez Crisis, the last final gasp of the diminishing Superpowers that were the French and British Empires, the Suez canal was at the time of the Crisis in 1956, carrying over half of the oil needed for the British economy, so when Nasser decided to nationalize the Canal company, the British and the French lost their fucking minds.
Literally, Anthony Eden was prime minster of the UK at the time, and was described as a man of “weakened nerves”, poor bugger had been Foreign Minister under Churchill during the Second World War, not something everyone makes it out of intact, he wasn’t the man he used to be, being terrified of a second Hitler.
Now Gamal Abdel Nasser had a simply reason for nationalizing the Suez, the West wouldn’t sell him the weapons he needed to “defend” himself from the Israeli, this was the time when the Egyptians actually wanted to drive the Israeli into the sea, these days they probably would be happy to have them visit as tourists.
The Western Powers couldn’t sell him any cool stuff, mostly because only the Americans could afford cool stuff and I’d remind everyone that this is a time where the largest Jewish population could be found in New York City, no way Eisenhower was going to sell Nasser anything.
So he turned to the Soviets, bought cool shit from the Czechoslovakians and told the west to go suck it, which caused them to retract an offer to build the Aswan Dam, so he nationalized the Canal so he could afford to built it.
The British, French and the Israeli then attacked and absolutely wiped the floor with the Egyptians, which probably shouldn’t surprise anyone at all, the British and French armies still had a lot of experienced Officers from World War Two, their navies were immensely superior to anything the Egyptians could vaguely assemble, the Israeli had access to all the cool military equipment from the west and a significant chunk of their Officers were also World War Two veterans and the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
However, Nasser knew what he was doing, he understood something that the British and the French refused to grasp, their time was over, the rise of the United States of America and the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics was already a reality and that they’d have to accept their new roles as big powers, rather than Superpowers.
After both of the two new powers threaten to essentially nuke the shit out of both the French and the British, they both retreated and accepted the new order of the world, the Israeli withdrew shortly afterwards, Nasser got to keep his new canal, had to give a few minor concessions to keep everyone happy, Lester B. Pearson got a Nobel Peace Prize for hashing out a treaty, the Soviets got a big prestige win and Nasser got to throw out a bunch of Jews.
The failure here was the old Powers not realizing just how old they were.