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Egypt

Misr - The Arab Republic of Egypt, Jumhuriyah Misr al-'Arabiyah

Last modified: 2009-01-31 by ian macdonald
Keywords: egypt | africa | hawk | eagle of saladin |
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[Flag of Egypt] image by Željko Heimer

Egypt - Alternative design image by Željko Heimer

Flag and coat of arms adopted 4 October 1984
Proportion: 2:3
Description: Horizontally divided red-white-black flag with the emblem showing the so-called eagle of Saladin in the middle of the white stripe.
The emblem in the middle of the white stripe is sometimes pictured with different colours. Some flags seen in Cairo has the emblem as gold, white, gold; or red, white, black; or light gold hatching, white, dark gold hatching; or white, white, white with two gold vertical lines to divide the three parts. The artistic licence regarding the representation of this arms is very high.
Use: on land, civil and State flag, at sea, civil ensign.

Colour approximate specifications (as given in Album des Pavillons):

Source for the images: Album des Pavillons; CorelDraw clipart gallery for the emblem.
Željko Heimer

Based on a photo of the flag (not necessarily the most reliable of evidence), the eagle occupies 17/20 of the height of the white stripe, but there are apparently no official dimensions and I am reliably informed that flags do vary.
Christopher Southworth, 16 April 2005

Based on photos at the Egyptian Presidency website, almost all show the obverse side, but some of them shows the reverse: 22-May-2004, 19-February-2004, 4-march_2002.  It seems that the eagle always faces towards the hoist.
Antonio Gutierrez, 16 April 2005


On this page:

See also:


Official information about the flag history, symbolism and rules of use

From the State Information Service Website

"The first national flag of modern Egypt was established by a Royal Decree in 1923 when Egypt gained conditional independence from Great Britain in 1922. The color was green with a white crescent and three stars in the middle.
In 1958, a Presidential Decree established a new flag for the United Arab Republic which comprised a merger of Syria and Egypt. The new flag had three colors: red, white with 2 green stars and black. The flag was rectangular in shape and the width was one-third of its length.
[Editor's note]: the flag of the period 1952-1958 is strangely omitted.
In 1972, the Law was amended to change the flag. The stars were removed from the flag and replaced by a golden hawk.
In 1984, the hawk was replaced by a golden eagle or the eagle of Saladdin, the Ayubbid Sultan who ruled Egypt and Syria in 12th Century, the same Saladdin of the Crusades.

Color Symbolism
The color red refers to the period before 1952 Revolution which brought a group of army officers to power after deposing King Farouk, then King of Egypt. This was a period characterized by the struggle against the British occupation of the country. The white symbolizes the advent of the 1952 Revolution which ended the monarchy without bloodshed. The color black symbolizes the end of the oppression of the people of Egypt at the hands of the Monarchy and British colonialism.

Rules Governing the Hoisting of the Flag
The national flag is hoisted on all governmental buildings on Fridays, official holidays, on the inauguration of the People's Assembly session and other occasions on which the Minister of Interior orders that the flag be hoisted. The flag is hoisted daily on border posts and customs buildings. It is also hoisted on Egyptian consulates and embassies overseas on the National Day and other national occasions, as well as during the visit of the President to the country hoisting the diplomatic mission.

Penal Provisions for Contempt of the Flag
Abusing the flag in any way is a criminal offense and is punishable under law as it implies contempt of the power of the state. Penal provisions also govern abuse of foreign flags or national emblems of other countries."
Quoted by Dov Gutterman, 13 January 1999

Section 3 of Law No. 144 and Section 1 of Law No. 145 dated 4/5 October 1985 established the eagle and flag.
Christopher Southworth, 16 April 2005


All Egyptian flags, from the Ottoman era until now are displayed in one line in the Egypt Military Museum
Dov Gutterman, 13 January 1999


Alternative explanations of the flag symbolism

Smith ([smi75b] and [smi80]), says that the colors represent:

The derivation of red and black as being from the ancient Egyptians would have to be pseudo-history that is attributed to the ancient Egyptian view of their land. You had the red land, the desert, and Kemet (spelled by using the hieroglyphs KMT), the black land - the land which was farmed. It was called that because the annual flood of the Nile would deposit the rich black silt on the fields. Hence, the name of the nation was Kemet. The actual attribution of using those colors specifically by the ancients is quite speculative....as speculative as saying that green was the color of the Hittites or blue was the color of the Greeks. While they may have used those colors, we really can't say nor can we say why they used those colors.

Calvin Paige Herring, 12 January 1999

The Pharaohs ruled Egypt for over 2500 years, so it is of course possible that some of them used red and black as colors. But I think it is pretty easily demonstrated that these colors are from fairly recent vintage.

During First World War, Arabs in the Hejaz (the Red Sea coast of the Arabian peninsula) rose up against the Ottoman Sultan, with the help of the British, who were fighting the Ottomans at the time. The revolt was headed by the Hashemite dynasty of Mecca, and their banner was red, white, green, and red. Jordan is the last state left with a Hashemite ruling king, and thus its flag is closest to the original model. The colors are intended to correspond to the early Islamic dynasties of the first half of the middle ages, though I forget which colors correspond to which; this is probably an "invented tradition," as the use of flags by such dynasties is anachronistic.

The Hashemite revolt was the Arab world's first embrace of European-style nationalism, but it was largely unsuccessful, mostly due to lack of Western support. The Arab-speaking areas of the old Ottoman empire were mostly divided up between France and England, though the British did install Hashemite princes as local rulers in the areas they controlled. Even in the Hejaz, the Hashemites were driven out by the Wahabi Saudi dynasty, which, then as now, was less concerned with Arab nationalism than in its doctrine of religious fundamentalism.

Nevertheless the flag was remembered as associated with Arab nationalism, even if the Hashemite dynasty was not. When the next phase of Arab nationalism began, in the aftermath of Second World War, it was dominated by pan-Arabist parties like the Ba'ath party and military strongmen who set up republics. Although this wave of nationalism swept away the Hashemite king of Iraq, most of its leaders used a red-white-black banner derived from the original Arab revolt. Egypt adopted a red-white-black flag at this time, though not identical to the current model. The fact that this flag adoption coinsides with the adoptions of very similar flags by Syria, Iraq and (I think) Yemen and Libya (Qadaffi's all-green flag didn't come in till later) seems to prove false the idea that said colors are inherently Egyptian. In fact, the Egyptian regime that made this flag choice is the same one that would later participate in the short-lived expirament of the United Arab Republic, a brief union between Egypt and Syria. This project shows aspirations beyond mere Egyptianism.

Since this tide of Arab nationalism did not result in Arab unity, as the failure of the UAR helped show, it is not surprising that the current Egyptian government ties the color scheme to purely Egyptian ideologies. However, I think this helps demonstrate the dangers of taking "official" descriptions of flags at face value. A historical approach can be more fruitful in determing the reasons for flag design, even if those reasons are no longer in favor with the regime that flies the flag. While we certainly should not ignore current beliefs about the meaning of flags -- especially if those beliefs are held by the bulk of national populations -- it is important that we do not let governments rewrite or erase chapters of history, because without that history we cannot understand current conditions properly. (Think of Orwell's "We have always been at war with Eurasia...")

Josh Fruhlinger, 11 January 1999


Emblem

[Emblem of Egypt] image by Graham Bartram

According to Whitney Smith's Flags Through the Ages and Across the World [smi75c], the symbol placed in the middle of the Egyptian flag is the so-called eagle of Saladin, based on the eagle carved on a wall in Cairo.
Saladin (Salah al-Din Yusuf) (1138-1193) was the first Ayubid Sultan. He ruled over Egypt, Hejaz, Syria and Mesopotamia. He captured Jerusalem to the Latins in 1187 and signed with them a peace treaty in 1192.
The use of the Saladin eagle on Arab flags is modern, however.

Some flags seen in Cairo has the emblem as gold, white, gold; or red, white, black; or light gold hatching, white, dark gold hatching; or white, white, white with two gold vertical lines to divide the three parts.
Graham Bartram
, 29 June 2000

The inscription on the ribbon is Jumhuriyat Misr al-Arabiya (Arab Republic of Egypt).

Even thou both the inscription of the former coat of arms Al-Jumhuriya (Al-Arabiya Al-Misriya) and Jumhuriyat Misr Al-Arabiya are translated to the same "Arab Republic of Egypt", there is a big internal political difference between the two. In the first (old) way - the Republic is first Arabic and then Egyptian, in the newer version it is first Egyptian and then Arabic.
Dov Gutterman, 18 October 1999


Reverse of the flag

The Egyptian flag is not a simple mirror image on the reverse. You need to look closely, but if you do you will find that the writing beneath the eagle and shield reads the correct way round on both sides of the flag.

Graham Bartram, 29 June 2000


Usage of the Flag

Tonight's TV news showed a press conference with Presidents Bush and Mubarak, who were standing in front of an array of US and Egyptian flags. The Egyptian flags clearly displayed the gold and white Saladin Eagle, rather than the multi-coloured design 
James Dignan, 14 April 2004


Flag without Eagle

[Egyptian flag, no eagle] image by Ivan Sache, 4 February 2006

The Africa Nations Cup in football takes place in Egypt. During the matches played by the Egyptian national team ("The Pharaons"), the stands of the stadiums are full of national Egyptian flags waved by eager supporters. There are several variations in the colours of the coat of arms - beside the two official versions, it appears outlined in black and white or in red. Moreover, several supporters use a flag without the coat of arms, that is a simple horizontally divided red-white-black flag.
Ivan Sache, 4 February 2006

This is similar to what I once saw in Syria (one of the several versions used) 
Marcus E.V. Schmöger, 5 February 2006

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