1919 Revolution ثورة ١٩١٩

 In Egypt, Vignettes

While I’m in an historical frame of mind, considering this week’s ousting, revolution or coup* (*depending on your standpoint), I thought I’d mention the 1919 Revolution, mostly forgotten as it’s been overshadowed by the 1952 revolution and the various wars (and now the Arab Spring).

A strike by train drivers and other key railway workers against heavy-handed British colonial rule in 1919 paralysed Egypt, caught the British by surprise and – no doubt in my mind – turned the British away from colonial control of the country and towards control of the Suez Canal. There lies another story……..

Here’s a snippet from Abd el-Rahman el-Rafi’i’s book ‘The 1919 Revolution’ (page 216, my translation from Arabic).

After 12th March [1919] came the idea to cut communications, so the railway, telegraph and telephone lines were cut. The first line cut was between Tanta and Tala, then spread to different lines cutting communications between Cairo and the provinces, and town from town. People could only travel from place to place by means of Nile and canal boats and every area became involved in the general revolution. In his report, Lord Milner said, “On 16th March, railway and telegraph lines were cut in Cairo, separating Upper and Lower Egypt, and totally cutting off Cairo from Upper Egypt”.

There’s much more, if anyone’s interested let me know.


From April to November 2013 I kept a news blog about Egyptian Railways, where I translated and summarised articles from the Egyptian (Arabic) press and posted them in English. This was through the period of the dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood government, after which train services were suspended for many weeks. This is one of a small number of the 150 blog posts I wrote during that time. 

If you have any stories about railways or the Middle East in general that you would like help to write or publish, please get in touch.

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