Egyptians holding Egypt’s flag - Wikimedia Commons
CAIRO – 22 March 2018: The Egyptian flag and national anthem have expressed the identity, pride and belief of the Egyptian citizen throughout the country’s history.
Every morning, Egyptian students across the nation stand up straight, facing Egypt’s flag and singing the Egyptian national anthem.
What does the Egyptian flag represent? How many times have the flag and anthem changed? What do the colors and symbols on the flag mean? Who composed the lyrics of the national anthem?
Egyptian flag 1881-1922
Egypt’s flag 1881-1922 –Wikimedia Commons
The first Egyptian flag was released when Mohamed Ali seized power in Egypt in 1805. It has a red banner with three white crescents and three stars. The three stars and crescents referred to the victory of Mohamed Ali in the three continents of Africa, Asia and Europe, as well as his sovereignty over Egypt, Sudan and Hejaz.
Meanwhile, “Al Salam Al Malaky”, composed by Italian opera composer Giuseppe Verdi in 1869, was the first national anthem, during the era of Khedive Ismail.
Egyptian flag 1922-1953
Egypt’s flag 1922-1953 –Wikimedia Commons
King Fuad I changed his title from sultan to king when the British recognized Egyptian independence in 1922. Simultaneously, Fuad I issued a royal decree for adopting a new national flag, which consisted of three white stars inside a big white crescent on a green background.
The three stars symbolized Egypt, Nubia and Sudan, while the green background represented Egyptian agriculture. However, other opinions have said the three stars symbolized the people who lived in Egypt: Muslims, Christians and Jews.
“Eslamy Ya Misr”, the anthem from 1923 until 1936, was written by Egyptian poet Mustafa Sadeq al Rafeaie and composed by Safar Ali. It is still being used at the Egyptian Police Academy.
Egyptian flag 1953-1958
Egypt’s flag 1953-1958 –Wikimedia Commons
After the kingdom was formally abolished on July 18, 1953, the flag of the 1952 revolution became the Egyptian national flag, which consisted of red, white and black stripes. Red represented the struggle against British occupation, white symbolized ending the monarchy without bloodshed, and black referred to the end of the oppression experienced at the hands of the monarchy and British colonizers.
In 1952, Egypt adopted “Nashid Al Huriyya” as its anthem, which was sung by Egyptian singer Mohamed Abdel Wahab and written by Egyptian poet and journalist Kamel el Shennawy.
Egyptian flag 1958-1972
Egypt’s flag 1958-1972 – Wikimedia Commons
Between 1958- 1961, the United Arab Republic (UAR) was formed by Egypt and Syria – a short lived political union – and a national flag similar to the Egyptian flag of 1953 was adopted, however with some changes. Two green stars representing Egypt and Syria were placed on the flag instead of the eagle of Saladin.
On September 28, 1961, Syria declared independence from Egypt. Despite the breaking of the union, Egypt retained the name of the United Arab Republic until 1971.
“Walla Zaman Ya Selahy” was the national anthem of the United Arab Republic, which was retained as the official anthem of Egypt until 1979, even though the UAR had been disbanded.
The anthem was written by poet Salah Jahine and composed by Kamal al Tawil; it was sung by renowned Egyptian singer Om Kulthum. Furthermore, the melody of “Walla Zaman Ya Selahy” was also used in Iraq from 1965 to 1981, but without the lyrics.
Egyptian flag 1972-1984
Egypt’s flag 1972-1984 – Wikimedia Commons
On January 1, 1972, Egypt formed the Federation of the Arab Republics along with Syria and Libya. The flag of the federation was similar to the flag of the United Arab Republic, but the two stars were replaced by the golden falcon of Qureish, which was used as an emblem of Arab nationalism.
This alliance lasted for only five years, from 1972 to 1977, but Egypt retained the name and the flag of the Federation of the Arab Republics until 1984.
Egypt's flag 1984-present
Egypt’s flag 1984-present –Wikimedia Commons
On October 4, 1984, the current Egyptian flag was adopted. The current flag of the Arab Republic of Egypt consists of red, white and black horizontal stripes.
Red represents the sacrifices and blood of Egyptian martyrs, white symbolizes peace, black stands for the dark period of occupation, and the eagle represents strength and power.
“Bilady” is the current Egyptian anthem; it was composed by Mohamed Younis al Qaday and Sayed Darwish. The lyrics of the anthem had been taken from Egyptian lawyer Mustafa Kamel’s speech in 1907.
In 1979, the third president of Egypt, Mohamed Anwar Sadat, entrusted Mohamed Abdel Al Wahab to recompose this anthem.