As the first shots of World War I were being fired, Egyptian culture was changing forever. For the preceding 40 years, Egypt had lived as a free state – ruled, on paper, by the British government, but in practice allowed to live under the rule of its own leaders and to practice its own faiths.
This Egypt, at the dawn of the 20th century, was a wildly different place from the one we know today. This was the Egypt that inspired pulp fiction epics and comic books, where snake charmers performed on the streets of Cairo and merchants rode from town to town on the backs of camels.
It was also an Egypt that was, like the Egypt of today, overwhelmingly Muslim. Egypt, during the Khedivate period (1867-1914), was considered an Islamic state. It was a place where women went out with their faces veiled, children learned to read by studying the Quran, and devout men gathered in the courtyards of great mosques.
But it was an Egypt whose culture was slowly eroding away. With British troops occupying the nation, the people of Egypt were being pushed to adopt Western culture like never before. Egyptian culture was changing – entering into a new, modern world controlled by Western powers.
The Egyptian Khedivate didn’t last forever. By 1911, the British were already uneasy with the way that the Egyptians had chosen to rule themselves. And, when World War I broke out, they deposed the Egyptian leader and installed one of their own.
Egypt was now no longer an independent country in any sense of the word. For the 40 years that followed, Egypt would be ruled by the British — and Egyptian culture would never be the same again.
The rich and vibrant culture of the Egyptian Khedivate has changed – but, today, it still lives in on photographs. These images give a last glimpse into Egypt as it once was, just before the British occupation swept in.