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Mohamed Ali Dynasty
Ismail
ruled (1863 - 1879)
Ismail

Ismail was a visionary leader who had his own dreams for a modern European-style Egypt, just like his grandfather, Mohamed Ali.

Few years after this accession to the throne, Ismail tried to gain independence by bribing Ottoman officials and doubling the tribute sent to the Ottoman Porte.
His efforts were reaped in gaining the right of primogeniture instead of seniority in the inheritance of rule. Ismail was also granted the title of KhediveWhat does it mean?, a Persian title that means prince, in 1867. This was to differentiate his autonomy from other Ottoman provinces.
The same year saw the start of the postal services.

Egyptians digging the canal
An imaginary scene of the digging of Suez Canal
In 1869 Suez Canal was inaugurated in a splendid ceremony. The canal, which claimed the life of 100 thousand Egyptian diggers and overburdened the economy, was now to add to Egypt's strategic position. Ismail invited dignitaries like Empress Eugenie of France, princes of Prussia, Sweden, Hesse and Netherlands, and many other distinguished guests.
Ismail had well prepared for the ceremony. He built palaces in the new cities along the canal. He paved roads for the procession of the dignitaries and lightened them.
An opera house was built for that occasion and famous Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi was assigned to compose his famous masterpiece Aida but since costumes could not be ready in time Rigoletto was performed instead.
Ismail put the country on show, inviting guests to lavish banquets and splendid balls. This cost him millions and encumbered the country with more debts.

And in 1873 Ismail's efforts with the Ottoman sultan -aimed at gaining more concessions- were paid off by an Ottoman decree to grant him virtual autonomy.
Ismail, who embarked upon the second modernization wave of the country after Mohamed Ali, built residential quarters in Cairo and Alexandria of European style, installing all up-to-date infrastructures like sewage.
Ismail also realized the importance of education so he re-sent educational delegations to Europe, particularly France, and reopened secular schools.
Also because of his efforts, the Egyptian museum and the Geographical Society were opened in Egypt.

Ismail also introduced an administration reform. He had some interest in agriculture so he expanded irrigation canals and extended the system to the Suez Canal, bringing water to the new canal cities.
Massive projects were executed to modernize the infrastructure by building bridges, paving roads and expanding railway lines.

So much money was spent by Ismail to finance his modernization schemes, which the country couldn't really afford. Ismail, however, did secure large amounts of loans from major European banks and imposed heavy taxes on the people to meet his ambitious plans.

Unfortunately his endless visions led to the eventual bankrupcy of the state and in 1877 Ismail couldn't even pay the interests of his debts so had to sell Egypt's shares in the Suez Canal to the British government.
The next year an institution called Caisse de la Dette Public was formed by the creditors to provide direct European management on Egypt's finances. The body was representing the chief bondholding countries. Besides, a Dual Control of Britain and France was set up in order to supervise the revenues and expenditures of the state.

By pressures from the creditors, Ismail had accepted the entity of the British and French in key ministries in his cabinet in 1878. Meanwhile, the 'European' cabinet caused an outrage among the army officers and this was one reason the first nationalist grouping, Al-Hezb Al-Watani, was formed in 1879. This signaled a dissatisfaction feeling with the government controlled by foreigners.
Consequently, Ismail dismissed the European cabinet in April.

Europeans finally put pressure on the Ottoman sultan to depose Ismail, which was finally done in June 1879. He was instantly succeeded by his son Tawfik who had fewer qualities and abilities than his father who died later in exile in Istanbul in 1895.

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