Mohamed Naguib

Naguib was the first President of Egypt, serving from the declaration of the Republic on 18 June 1953 to 14 November 1954. Along with Gamal Abdel Nasser, he was the primary leader of the Egyptian Revolution of 1952, which ended the rule of the Muhammad Ali Dynasty in Egypt and Sudan.

Early years

Naguib's full name was Mohamed Naguib Yousef Qotp Elkashlan; he was born on 20 February 1901 in Khartoum, Sudan,[3] which was united with Egypt at the time. He was the eldest of nine children of an Egyptian, Youssef Naguib, and a Sudanese woman Zohra Ahmed Othman. His family name, "Elkashlan," was popular in Egypt at that time, due to well-known scientific personalities such as Saad Elkashlan and Abdulsamad Elkashlan. He came from a long line of army officers; his father served in the Egyptian army in Sudan. Naguib spent his formative years in Sudan, where, as a child, ostriches and monkeys were his playmates, in a house decorated with hunting trophies like elephant tusks, tiger-skin rugs and rhinoceros and gazelle heads on the wall. Naguib's favourite game, however, was playing at soldiers with his younger brother, Ali. Having built a toy fortress in the front yard, Naguib would spend hours conquering inches of land with his toy soldiers.[citation needed] Nevertheless, Naguib's father did not want his sons to follow in his footsteps, believing from his own experience as an officer in the Egyptian army that the army at that time was little more than a group of auxiliaries waiting for British orders. He believed that Naguib could serve Egypt better in civilian life, and he even had Ibrahim Urabi, son of the 1882 revolutionary Ahmed Urabi, speak to Naguib and caution him that by joining the military he would become only "a supervisor in the service of the British." As a result, Naguib first studied to become a translator, and later in his life earned a law degree, an MA in political science and another MA in civil law. He never completed his doctorate because his career in the army, undertaken in defiance of his father's wishes, by then had begun to take off. Nevertheless, he found the time to polish his language skills, learning English, French, Italian and German. Naguib also began to study the Hebrew language in the 1950s, and soon after the Revolution he ordered that Hebrew be taught at military college and at Cairo and Alexandria universities, realising that the Egyptian army had been handicapped during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War by the fact that very few soldiers could interpret Israeli communications.[citation needed] While studying in Khartoum, Naguib had often been censured and sometimes even whipped by his British tutors for criticizing Britain's occupation of Egypt and Sudan. At this time, Naguib chose Napoleon as a role model, even deciding to sleep on the floor instead of on a bed to imitate the great French general. Soon, however, Napoleon was replaced in Naguib's affections by Mustafa Kamil, the founder of the National Party, and later he found another mirror in Saad Zaghlul. Some years after he was ousted from power, Naguib also came to somewhat admire Gandhi. After the death of his father in 1916, the family moved to Cairo, while Naguib and Ali finished their studies in Sudan.

Free Officers Movement

In 1949, Naguib secretly joined the Free Officers movement, and a year later he was promoted to the rank of Major-General. The general is considered one of Egypt's few heroes from the war in Palestine and enjoyed wide respect in the country. The Free Officers, led by Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser were young members of the military – all under thirty-five and all from peasant or lower-middle-class backgrounds. Nasser's goal was to overthrow King Farouk and end the British domination of Egypt and Sudan. Knowing that officers of such youth would not be taken seriously, he asked General Naguib to assume leadership of the movement. While this proved successful in strengthening the Free Officers, it would later cause great friction between the two men. Despite his disapproval of his fellow military top brass, Naguib remained in the army in order for the Free Officers not to lose their highest-ranking officer and most influential member, although many today argue that his position on the top was merely a figurehead leader to the revolutionary Free Officers Movement to lend credibility to the group. Finally on 6 January 1952, Naguib won the elections at the army Officers' Club, almost a revolutionary step in itself, since ordinarily the king's appointees held the executive roles in the Club. However, the Free Officers' increasing influence in the army, together with Naguib's reputation, resulted in the defeat of the king's nominees, and Naguib won with a landslide victory. Farouk was contemplating removing Naguib from his post when Egypt was thrown into turmoil following the 26 January Cairo Fires. Meanwhile, the noose was beginning to tighten around the Free Officers, and investigations being carried out to uncover dissidents in the army. The executive committee of the Officers' Club was dissolved and the Free Officers brought their plans for a revolution three years forward, taking power in July 1952.