Revolution Day 2018 and 2019
Revolution Day is an Egyptian public holiday that occurs on every July 23rd to commemorate the 1952 revolution that resulted in the birth of the modern republic.
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It is celebrated with more fanfare than any other public holiday in Egypt. Its results were far-reaching, including the overthrow of the monarchy, freedom from British colonial rule, and the beginning of “modernisation” during the era of President Nasser.
The 1952 Revolution was a bloodless military coup led by the younger generation of army officers. The immediate goal was to overthrow then-sitting King Faruq, but the end-result was an independent republic in Egypt and in Sudan, which had been combined with Egypt under British colonial rule. The Nasser era proceeded to promote nationalism, oppose colonialism, support pan-Arabism, and to work to improve the lot of the Egyptian people.
The British had ruled Egypt since 1882, and the French did not want to see Arab uprisings encouraged in places like French Syria. Thus, they opposed the revolution, though they ultimately stepped aside rather than violently suppress it. Instead Egypt inspired other nationalist uprisings in Algeria, Kenya, and beyond.
Nasser ruled Egypt from 1956 till 1970. He gained for Egypt control over the Suez Canal but lost to Israel in the Sinai during the Six-Day War. He suppressed the Muslim Brotherhood after an assassination attempt. He also briefly united his country with Syria as a single nation. His internal reforms promoted industrialisation, urbanisation, modernised farming, and a centrally controlled economy. Fearing Communist or radical Islamic take-over, he imposed restrictions on opposition parties. When Sadat became president in 1970, these restrictions were finally reduced or removed. Next came the rule of Mubarak from 1981 to 2011, when he was forced to resign in the wake of the “Arab Spring,” a new revolution by the Muslim Brotherhood. Finally, in 2013, Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi was overthrown in a new military coup.
Despite the back-and-forth of Egyptian politics, Revolution Day is observed by all as a day to celebrate the independence of the nation from foreign rule. On this day, the sitting president gives a speech publicly praising the 1952 Revolution. There are military parades, concerts of music and dance, and celebrations all over the country meant to honour the sacrifices of the “martyrs” of the 1952 Revolution.
Things for the tourist to do if in Egypt on Revolution Day include:
- See the biggest Revolution Day celebration, which is in Cairo, the capital. The marching troops, the patriotic singing, the profuse display of the Egyptian flag, and other cultural events bring in thousands of locals and tourists every year.
- Visit Tahrir Square, the place in downtown Cairo where protests were held in 1952. This is also the location of the 2011 protests. You will see statues of Egyptian heroes, a dazzling, gigantic water fountain, and an amazing view of the surrounding city.
- While in Cairo, stop by at the Khan el Khalili, a popular bazaar that is built on the site of mausoleum of the Fatimid caliphs. You can view a genuine piece of history, a reminder of the era of kings that the revolution brought to an end, at the same time you shop for souvenirs.
- Also in Cairo is Al Azhar Park, which was gifted to the city by a descendant of the Fatimid caliphs who founded Cairo in A.D. 969. There is an immense network of gardens, a restored 12th-Century Ayyubid wall, a rehabilitated 14th-Century mosque, and much more.
- Go to Port Said to see the Martyrs Memorial, which is a remembrance to those who died during the 1956 Suez Crisis. Also see the canal itself while there. The Suez Canal was first opened in 1869, runs for 120 miles, is a one-lane, no-lock waterway, and has “passing lanes” for ships in Great Bitter Lake and at the Ballah Bypass. It was renovated and expanded in 2015.
Egypt has many ancient wonders that tourists come to see, but it also has some more modern sites well worth visiting. Those in Egypt on Revolution Day have a perfect occasion for exploring Egypt’s more recent past.