Mohammed Ali: Pasha of Egypt
For forty years, ruler of an alien country, Mohammed Ali attempted a revolution from which Egypt might have emerged into the twentieth century “as a small-scale Japan.”
The original effects of Napoleon's invasion of Egypt were to extend throughout the nineteenth century, working upon the minds of men, not only in the Nile valley but throughout the Ottoman empire. The influence of French arms, French organization and French ideas was all-pervasive. Where it worked most rapidly, it worked often least profoundly. Where it worked most slowly, as with the great mass of the Egyptian people, modifying a religious outlook that had remained fixed for many centuries, it was to be ultimately most enriching.
Besides the effects on men of power, such as the two sultans Selim III and Mahmoud II, there was the influence on such young men as Sheikh al-Attar who had attended the gatherings of the Institut d’Egypte, and who had met there the brilliant men whom Napoleon had brought with him from Europe. Attar was the first figure of a spiritual renaissance that was to make Cairo the leader of Arab thought. But his immediate effect on Egyptian history was unimportant compared with that of a young Albanian, the founder of a dynasty, and to a sick society a rigorous doctor.
The Egypt to which the young Mohammed Ali had taken a troop of horse to support the Sultan against the infidel invader was the impoverished fief of quarrelling beys, the Mamelukes. Their destructive power over this naturally rich land had been shaken, but not finally shattered, by the revolutionary army of France. From the Pyramids, they had retreated to Upper Egypt, waiting the moment to restore their anarchic rule.