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EGYPT: Call Me Mister

3 minute read

His Majesty. King Fuad II of Egypt and the Sudan, sucked his thumb and wiggled contentedly.

His father, deposed King Farouk, summoned 100 waiting newsmen at Capri’s sumptuous Eden Paradiso Hotel, pointedly cradled his seven-month-old son in his arms and read a statement: “I am no longer a rich man. It is untrue that I have taken a fortune from Egypt. My wife, my baby son and three young daughters'[by his first wife] will live very simply… The King of Egypt is here with me. I must be careful not to say anything that might make difficulties. He will have difficulties enough of his own, for it is not as easy to be a king as some may think.”

Then he returned to his quarters—the entire third floor of 27 rooms, 15 baths, private dining room and elevator, costing $500 a day for himself and entourage (four Albanian bodyguards, three governesses, one chauffeur, one manservant, one ladies’ maid, one pressagent, five Italian policemen).

Back in Egypt, Fuad’s subjects debated what to do with Farouk’s empty palaces. Two overcrowded universities wanted to occupy them as classrooms, but one Cairo newspaper argued: let the palaces become museums like Versailles, so that the people might see what lavish living went on near some of the world’s slummiest slums. The new de facto ruler of Egypt, General Mohammed Naguib, and his hand-picked Premier, Aly Maher, decreed the abolition of the titles of bey and pasha (roughly equivalent to sir and lord). “Call me Hadretkom [mister],” urged an aging pasha on hearing the news.

Seventy-three-year-old Nahas Pasha (now to be known simply as Mustafa el Nahas). who bosses Egypt’s biggest political party, the corrupt Wafd, broke off a Swiss vacation at the news of Naguib’s coup. He boarded a plane for the first time in his life and hastened to Naguib’s side, crying: “It is my duty to pay a visit to the savior of the country.” They talked for an hour and when they emerged. Nahas, catching sight of waiting photographers, cagily hooked elbows with Naguib and flashed his winning smile. But two days later, Naguib rejected his plea to reconvene Parliament, which the Wafd dominates. Had Naguib given in to Nahas, it would have been a sign that he was only half interested in fighting corruption.

After the first week was over, it was plain that soft-spoken General Naguib, who suddenly emerged as a world figure, protesting his ignorance of politics, was proving a cagey politician indeed.

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