The History of the Middle East

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Why is Muhammad Ali sometimes called the "father of modern Egypt"?

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Muhammad Ali, also known as Mehmed Ali, was born in 1769 in Kavala, Macedonia—an area that is nowadays part of Greece. He moved to Egypt in 1801, as second in command of an Albanian regiment, tasked with fighting the French in order to make them retreat from Egypt. In 1805, Muhammad Ali rose to even more power, when he became the sultan’s viceroy in Egypt. From this position, Muhammad Ali was beginning to undertake a restructuring of Egypt in an attempt to modernize it.

This is the reason, why Muhammad Ali is often called “the father of modern Egypt": his efforts significantly helped moving Egypt into the modern era. For example, Muhammad Ali got rid of the current rulers, the Mamluks, and reorganized the government’s administration. He also changed the economic structure of the country, such as by limiting the rights of the big landowning classes, as he instead nationalized big parts of the land: agricultural land now became state owned, thus creating more revenue for the country, rather than just for the rich land owners. He further tried to make Egypt more modern by engaging in weapon production and creating a textile industry.

Following the example of Western civilizations, he also established an education system, in order to produce well-qualified citizens, such as doctors. He also invested a lot of time in creating a more effective and reliable army.

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