Anwar al-Sadat


Born into a family of 13 children in 1918, Anwar al-Sadat grew up among average Egyptian villagers in the town of Mit Abul Kom 40 miles to the north of Cairo. Having completed a grade school education, Sadat\'s father worked as a clerk in the local military hospital. By the time of his birth, Anwar\'s Egypt had become a British colony. Crippling debt had forced the Egyptian government to sell the British government its interests in the French engineered Suez Canal linking the Mediteranian Sea with the Indian Ocean. The British and French had used these resources to establish enough political control over Egyptian affairs to refer to Egypt as a British colony.


Four figures affected Sadat\'s early life. The first, a man named Zahran, came from a small village like Sadat\'s. In a famous incident of colonial rule, the British hanged Zahran for participating in a riot which had resulted in the death of a British officer. Sadat admired the courage Zahran exhibit on the way to the gallows. The second, Kemel Ataturk, created the modern state of Turkey by forcing the downfall of the Ottoman Empire. Not only had Ataturk thrown off the shackles of colonialism, but he established a number of civil service reforms, which Sadat admired. The third man was Mohandas Gandhi. Touring Egypt in 1932, Gandhi had preached the power of nonviolence in combating injustice. And finally, the young Sadat admired Adolf Hitler whom the anticolonialist Sadat viewed as a potential rival to British control.


In 1936 as part of a deal between the British and the Wafd party, the British agreed to create a military school in Egypt. Sadat was among its first students. Besides the traditional training in math and science, each student learned to analyze battles. Sadat even studied the Battle of Gettysburg, the turning point in America\'s civil war. Upon graduating from the academy, the government posted Sadat to a distant outpost. There he met Gamal Abdel Nasser, beginning a long political association which eventually led to the Egyptian presidency. At this outpost, Sadat, Nasser and the other young officers formed a revolutionary group destined to overthrow British rule.


Commitment to their revolution led Sadat to jail twice. During his second stay in jail, Sadat taught himself French and English. But the grueling loneliness of jail took its toll. After leaving prison, Sadat returned to civilian life. He acted for a bit, and he joined in several business deals. Through one of his deals, Sadat met Jihan whom he would eventually marry.


Sadat recontacted his old associate Nasser to find that their revolutionary movement had grown considerably while he was in prison. On July 23, 1952, the Free Officers Organization staged a coup overthrowing the monarchy. From the moment of the coup, Sadat began as Nasser\'s public relations minister and trusted lieutenant. Nasser assigned Sadat the task of overseeing the official abdication of King Farouk.


Working with Nasser Sadat learned the dangerous game of nationbuilding in a world of superpower rivalries. Egypt eventually became the leading "non-aligned" country in the world, giving a voice, through Nasser, to the desires of the undeveloped and post-colonial societies. Their most important trial came over the Suez Canal, which Nasser nationalized in 1956. In a coordinated effort, the British, French, and the new nation of Israel launched an attack on Egypt hoping to reestablish colonial control over the Canal and its profits. The 1956 war ended only after the United States pressured its allies to withdraw. Egypt emerged from the war a hero of the non-alligned countries, having successfully resisted colonial powers and maintained its cont