A historic celebration

Mohamed Salmawy
Friday 19 Nov 2021

Mohamed Salmawy remarks on a remarkable coincidence

In 2023, in little over a year from now, Egypt will be celebrating three landmark anniversaries of major national events, each of which marked a turning point in our country’s modern history. The person who alerted me to the coincidence is my dear friend and Victory College classmate, the retired General Ali Al-Beblawi, who wrote to me the following:

“In 1823, Mohamed Ali established Egypt’s first modern standing army. In the October 1973 War, the Egyptian army liberated its occupied territory and declared victory over Israeli aggression. On 30 June 2013, the Egyptian people, supported by the army, rose up against the mob that took over power in Egypt and rectified the political course.

“It appears that fate has arranged for the anniversaries of these events to come together in a unique way in 2023. That year will mark the centennial of the founding of Egypt’s first modern army, the golden jubilee of the October 1973 victory and the tenth anniversary of the people’s rectification of the revolution with the support of the army in 2013. 

“In order to inspire the patriotic spirit and rekindle it in the consciousness of young Egyptians, whose awareness of that spirit may have faded due to the effects of time, I propose a major celebration that would involve the following activities:

“Audiovisual recordings of personal recollections of the veterans of the 1973 War in order to preserve these precious memories against oblivion due to age, death or illness, as the youngest person who fought in that war will be 70 years old by 2023. After historical, literary and artistic processing, the collected recordings would be broadcast and distributed in various media and formats that will appeal to the hearts and minds of all sectors of society.

“Paying tribute to all veterans of that glorious war by presenting them with a commemorative medal and a certificate of appreciation signed by the president in his capacity as supreme commander of the armed forces to be passed onto their children and grandchildren with pride. I also suggest granting these veterans the right to be buried in memorial graveyards established in governorate capitals along the lines of the memorial graveyards for the fallen soldiers from the Allied and Axis forces in World War II. They would also feature a monument around which people can assemble to commemorate the October 1973 War heroes from that governorate on Victory Day and other national holidays. 

“An international celebration, preparations for which should start as soon as possible. It would be attended by the president, Arab and international dignitaries, and its guests of honour would be the war veterans who are still alive...”

Naturally, I was drawn to the idea because of the importance of the three national occasions involving Egypt’s great army and how their landmark anniversaries fall in the same year. But I was also interested for another reason which is that, unfortunately, we often fail to plan ahead. As a result, we are often taken by surprise: an occasion suddenly pops up, then it passes before we know it. This has even come to apply to fixed annual events. How often do we hear employees say they were unable to finish a certain task they were instructed to complete because suddenly Ramadan arrived and with it the change in daily routines during that month. They act as though Ramadan sprang on them unannounced, even though a quick search on the Internet will tell us, based on astronomical calculations, when the holy month falls, not just this year and the next, but a hundred years from now. 

I agree with General Ali Al-Beblawi that the important national occasion to which he has alerted us merits a historic celebration. I also believe that it should be hosted by the new administrative capital which is another feat linked to our national army, even if all government agencies were involved in the achievement. If the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 occasioned the composition of an opera dedicated to Egypt, then the proposed triple celebration in 2023 should aspire to the same level of splendour and sophistication, but engaging contemporary media, styles and forms commensurate with modern technologies and with the artistic tastes of the 21st century. I picture an event that pays homage to all the great national figures connected with the three occasions politically, militarily and culturally, from Mohamed Ali and his son Ibrahim Pasha to Sayyed Darwish and Umm Kulthoum. Perhaps 3D laser technology could be used to bring them to life alongside our living intellectuals, artists and other leaders who would each have a turn in that once-in-a-lifetime event. Our tribute to modern history should be no less grand than the procession of mummies that paid tribute to our ancient history. After all, the victories of the modern era we will be commemorating together in 2023 laid the very foundation for the march to the future to which we aspire. 

*A version of this article appears in print in the 18 November, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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