The Cairo Fire of 26 January 1952 and the Interpretations of History

Anne-Claire Kerbœuf

in Re-Envisioning Egypt 1919-1952

Published by American University in Cairo Press

Published in print August 2005 | ISBN: 9789774249006
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781617971006 | DOI:
The Cairo Fire of 26 January 1952 and the Interpretations of History

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This chapter shifts from state institutions' functions in creating collective memory to the political and ideological role of a decisive event, the 26 January 1952 Cairo fire. The fire discredited the regime, prepared the way for coup six months later, and has been passionately debated by Egyptian journalists and historians. Through new evidence and fresh interpretation, this chapter argues that more than political plotting or elite intrigue, the Cairo fire manifested mass nationalist protest and was the first blow to the regime for reasons still under-appreciated. In an insightful demonstration of ways the pre-'Abd al-Nasser years are variously remembered in Egypt, this chapter illuminates how the nostalgia of today's “liberal elite” for the former Belle Époque motivates them to commemorate the fire as the dramatic end of the monarchy, and not as a mass revolutionary day heralding the delegitimation of the Egyptian elites themselves.

Keywords: Cairo fire; Egyptian journalists; nationalist protest; Belle Époque; monarchy; Egyptian elites

Chapter.  10217 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture

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