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Happy Birthday to

By Mohssen Arishie

Today, The Egyptian Gazette blows out the candles for its birthday on January 26, 1880. Since its establishment, the oldest English-language newspaper in the Middle East has had an interesting history, sometimes tumbling down before intervention by new owner(s) and new editorial boards succeeded to haul it out of its difficulties, mostly financial and political.
Regardless of these circumstances, which tossed it back and forth, The Egyptian Gazette has established over 145 years a reputation as the chronicle of global and regional events and incidents, which changed humanity to the best and sometimes the worst.
A conspicuous feather in Egypt’s Arabic and English press, The Egyptian Gazette is given credit for its integrity and credibility in its covering on global events and breakthroughs, which brought about a historical twist of the fate of nations and their future. It is also The Egyptian Gazette, which bore, and is still, witness of the rise of new major powers and the tragic fall of their rivals. In 1991, The Egyptian Gazette took the unprecedented step by issuing a daily second edition to cover the Gulf War between Iraq and a 42-country coalition led by the United States.
Headlines the newspaper and its twin sister The Egyptian Mail came up with over 145 years included revolutions across the globe, which helped nations to fulfill their national aspirations, the removal of monarchies and replacing them with republican regimes; and bloody wars for independence and freedom.
The twin newspapers also chronicled the ups and downs of major powers, which were stuck in the swamp of the First World War and its second edition from 1914 to 1945. Late journalist Mohamed Hasanin Heikal, who was dubbed the doyen of Arab and Egyptian journalists, began his press calling as a trainee in The Egyptian Gazette. He was assigned by the newspaper’s British board to cover the WWII abroad. Heikal was also posted in Palestine to report to the newspaper the Egyptian-Israeli war in 1948.
The headlines and stories in these twin newspapers also marked the births of ideological theories, such as Communism and Socialism, which provided ammunition for ideological wars against opposing forces representing Capitalism, Liberalism—and religion.
The Egyptian Gazette was co-founded in 1880 in the coastal city of Alexandria by five British stakeholders, including Andrew Philip, who took it up as its Editor. Starting as a 4-page courier tabloid, The Egyptian Gazette was printed aboard a British warship to provide connection link between the troops of the Great British Empire in the region and their families back home. The chief items published by the newspaper at that time, were limited to news stories and social activities and events.
And In 1914, The Egyptian Gazette had its twin sister, The Egyptian Mail. In 1938 the twin newspapers underwent a new lease of life. A new owner, British aristocrat Oswald Vini, decided to move their headquarters to Cairo after he realised that the Egyptian capital began humming like a beehive with business activities and heated politics. Also, the new owner wisely recommended The Egyptian Gazette as an evening newspaper; and its younger sister The Egyptian Mail had its place in the newsstand of morning newspapers. Under Oswald, the twin newspapers became the most favoured trustworthy press outlets to foreign and local businesspeople, diplomats and politicians.
Their political influence declined and they lost their lustre in the foreign community and diplomatic corps in society when an Egyptian revolution on July 23, 1952 deposed the monarchy and young army officers declared a republican regime. Also, the air in society became thick with heated debates over the end of the British occupation in Egypt and the departure of the British troops. The Egyptian Gazette disappeared from the newsstand; and its sister The Egyptian Mail became a weekly issue.
Hot national feelings gripping the society at that time, and deafening revolutionary aspirations and debates compelled the British proprietor to waive his right in the ownership of the two newspapers in 1954. They were entrusted to Arabic-speaking Al-Gomhuria newspaper, which was issued a year before.
Under the new editorial board, The Egyptian Gazette and the two English-speaking newspapers restored conspicuous positions among Arabic counterparts in the newsstand. They also turned the voice of the Egyptian Revolution, broadcasting its decisions and national inspirations. Foreign diplomats, politicians, journalists and members of European communities in Cairo and Alexandria saw the twin newspapers their main sources of information about Egypt’s new future independent from the British occupation.

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