A mission of a century

Dina Ezzat , Tuesday 4 Jan 2022

On 15 March this year, diplomats in Cairo and over 150 missions overseas will mark the reestablishment of the country’s Foreign Ministry in 1922, writes Dina Ezzat

Egypt s Foreign Ministry
Egypt s Foreign Ministry

The reestablishment of Egypt’s Foreign Ministry, which took place under then king Fouad on 15 March 1922, came a little over a century after the country’s first modern ruler Mohamed Ali had laid the foundations for an Egyptian institution to manage trade and foreign relations with the rest of the world in 1826.  

In 1878, this role was extended and developed under the khedive Ismail before the ministry’s refoundation in 1922.

Over the past century, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry has evolved from a nascent operation of five embassies in Western capitals to diplomacy that has been serving growing missions to connect Egypt with the world, defend the nation’s interests and serve Egyptians overseas.

In peace and war and on the political, economic and cultural fronts, the Foreign Ministry has always been able to represent the country and the entire Arab nation. It has adapted its performance with changing times in Egypt and around the world.

As Egypt moved from being a newly independent monarchy in 1922 to becoming a thriving and aspiring republic in 1953, and as the world lived through and then overcame the Cold War, the Foreign Ministry had to incorporate new and evolving tasks.

In the 1950s, it defended Egypt’s right to nationalise the Suez Canal Company and build the Aswan High Dam. In the 1960s, it defended Egypt’s right to free the Sinai that had been occupied by Israeli military forces in 1967. In the 1970s, it worked to negotiate Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel after the October War. Over consecutive decades, it has worked to negotiate Egypt’s membership of various economic and other agreements.  

In the course of its 100 years, the Foreign Ministry has moved offices more than once. At first, it was housed in palaces allocated to it by members of the ruling Mohamed Ali family. Then in the early 1950s during the rule of former president Gamal Abdel-Nasser, the state approved the construction of a large building in the shape of a lotus flower overlooking the Nile to be the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

It took close to 40 years for this building to be inaugurated in the early 1990s during the rule of former president Hosni Mubarak.

Today, it is only a matter of time before the Foreign Ministry makes its next move to its new offices in the New Administrative Capital that are set to be inaugurated by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi.

The history of the Foreign Ministry is also documented in the memoirs of some of the most prominent ministers and in its remarkable archives.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 6 January, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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