Ramses II is depicted on the front of out banknote. The Al-Azhar Mosque is featured on the other side.
The Al-Sayida Aisha Mosque is featured on our banknote and the Egyptian coat of arms on the other side.
The mosque is in Cairo. It was commissioned in 11th century to commemorate Sayyidah Nafisah bint Al-Hasan, a great woman scholar and teacher of Islam.
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Egypt, whose very name appears a cipher, a hieroglyph, who can but feel humble before Thee! Foremost among the Five that complete the African Mediterranean States, You are the oldest; You, must be preeminent in any reckoning. Pyramids that puzzle eminent thinkers to this day, so simple in their structure. Sphinx gazing eternal at Leo’s horizon, stupidly marred by the mechanical troops of Napoleon, but a pretender to thy glory, O Egypt.
Select images above for banknotes of Egypt.
Egypt is ancient, breathtakingly ancient.
Egypt has been invaded and conquered many times, say our encyclopedias. The elders smile, the old men sigh, and the Sphinx remains, poised, unmoved, resting, waiting. The pyramids point, mark, remind, as the simplest of mathematical constructs. Egypt has never been conquered.
From the Crisis over the Suez (1882) to the Suez Crisis (1956) – Colonialism through the 20th century Great War…
The Suez canal had opened in 18691, with great international fanfare, just six months after the completion of the Trans Continental Railroad.2 The combined openings dramatically adjusted costs of trade and brought the world closer. Just 4 years later Jules Verne published Around the World in 80 Days in which his protagonist, Phileas Fogg, made use of these dramatic advances to accomplish his record journey. The Suez Canal soon assumed the world-wide strategic significance as we know it today.
Unsurprisingly, the cost to complete the canal was double the cost estimated. The subsequent indebted Egyptian ruler sold Egypt’s shares, 44% of the total of the Suez Canal Company, to Great Britain which had opposed the project during construction.3
The cost of the Suez increased the debt burden upon the already distressed Egyptian economy. Soon, Egypt sold its 44% share to Great Britain, and in addition to other measures, increased taxes upon the people. To protect their interests, France and now Great Britain too, increasingly meddled in Egyptian affairs. In those days, a colonel in the army named Urabi, rose up and led a nationalist revolt4 seeking to curb the European influence, especially of France and Great Britain.
Great Britain invaded Egypt, and defeated Urabi at Tel el-Kebir September 13, 1882. The intervention was ostensibly at the invitation of the Egyptian ruler, but certainly also to secure its own interests, as well as prevent default on the British loan for shares in the Suez canal. The British presence, ostensibly for just a short while, extended until finally expelled by Egypt in 1956, almost a hundred years later, the decade following WW2.
Britain remained in Egypt from that event in 1882 through the start of WW1, in what has come to be known as the veiled protectorate, “veiled” because there was no legal basis for it, “protectorate” because that was the official term applied to the continuing British military presence following the outbreak of WW1. With the entrance of the Ottoman Empire into WW1 on the side of the Central Powers, Britain unilaterally declared the protectorate of Egypt and compelled Egypt to declare itself independent of the Ottomans. Just a few years after the close of the war, Egypt unilaterally declared itself independent of Britain. Nevertheless, Britain’s military remained, a situation not “normalized” until a 1936 treaty granting that permission to Britain, in order to provide security for its primary link to its great colony, India. 1953 was the year the decolonization wave finally broke for Egypt, and the revolution cast out the British “advisers”, in that mighty tide of colonial revulsion following the close of the Great War of the 20th Century, divided by some into WW1 and WW2. It could not have been stopped, but the British managed to make it seem preventable. Rather than leaving it as an incontestable surrender to the supremacy of the goddesses of fate, they managed to make it look like a bungled administrative bureaucratic mistake. Well, it was that, but it was also the other; and so the history stands.5 6
From Independence to the Arab Spring…
Independence as the Republic of Egypt was declared June 18, 1953 with General Muhammad Naguib as President; but he was forced to resign the following year by General Abdel Nasser, generally acknowledged as the true leader of the independence movement. Nasser assumed power June 1956, the British completed their withdrawal from the canal zone and Nasser raised the Egyptian flag over the zone June 18, 1956. A few weeks later in July, Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, and the Suez Crises ensued.
Nasser ruled in Egypt until his death in 1970. His era is remembered among Egyptians as a time of increasing prosperity, growing standards of living, and the flourishing of culture and the arts.
Anwar Sadat walked onto the world stage in 1970 as the 3rd president of Egypt following the death of Abdel Nasser; and ruled Egypt from 1970 until his assassination in 1981. Sadat was a key man in the 1952 revolution and a key confidante of Nasser and his vice-president twice. He grew into a giant of a man, both renowned and reviled, but enshrined with a Nobel Peace Prize for his bold endeavors for world peace. His kind is missed.
Hosni Mubarek held onto power from 1981 for thirty years, until his people refused it to him any longer in the Arab Spring, 2011.
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Muammar Gaddafi is featured on the front of this banknote. Gadaffi was 27 years old when he led a bloodless coup d’etat, abolished the monarchy, and established the Libyan Arab Republic in 1969.
The Mawlai Mosque in Tripoli is featured on the back of this banknote.
Muammar Gaddafi was oriented nationally towards socialism and internationally towards Pan-Africanism. He had the good fortune of coming to power at the beginning of Libya’s surging oil-based wealth, and the passing of the the international leader of the pan-African movement, his next-door neighbor, the King of Algeria.
The great Mosque of Algiers is depicted on this banknote above. The mosque was built in 1018, the minaret in 1322, and the whole modernized since then.
The sea going galley was primarily powered by oars which can bee seen in the water mid-ship. Sails were available and used in favorable winds.
The Algerian victory over the invading Spanish in the 1775 Battle of El Harrach is commemorated in this banknote.
Also known as the Algiers Expedition of 1775, The Spanish Empire had expended considerable resources preparing for the seizure of Algiers. The intent was to teach to Ottoman rulers that the Spanish Empire would not be intimidated and would not back down. The Spaniards had the year before successfully resisted a British backed Ottoman siege in Morocco.
The Spanish expedition was huge. 300 ships, consisting of about 70 warships and 230 transport ships, carried 22,000 men and considerable war material to the shores of Algiers. But the Algerians were ready. Having been informed by spies of the impending campaign, the developed their plan.
The Spaniards poorly selected a landing ground full of dunes. Shortly after disembarkation they found their cannon mired in the sand. Light Algerian resistance soon fled the scene however, and the Spaniards completed their disembarking. The Algerian flight was a ruse, Once the Spanish army was free of their ships, an experienced Algerian army charged toe Spaniard, including a camel charge of experienced desert warrior tribesman and the Spaniards were completely overwhelmed. They fled to their ships leaving behind 3,000 dead and many weapons of war. The Algerian losses were 300.
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The flag above represented the Kingdom of Libya from Independence in 1951 until the 19969 coup d’etat that brought Muammar al-Gaddafi to power. Upon the demise of Gaddafi in 2011, this same flag was restored to represent the Republic of Libya.
The images above are from banknotes of our country. Select an image for its story.
The land is old, truly old. In olden days, the world was considered as eruba, the land upon which the sun sets, Europe, asusa, the land upon which the sun rises, Asia, and, libya. Libya was the vast unknown territory south of the Great Sea, around which was civilization.1
Tripoli is the capital city and figures prominently in history.2
The European colonial era…
The European colonial era for Libya extended from 1910 when Italy invaded and commenced its territorial claims, through WW2 during which Britain and France assumed administration, until 1952 when Libya became independent.
Libyan infrastructure advanced considerably under Italian rule, particularly in the 1930s, until it was interrupted by war.
From after the Great War to the Arab Spring …
Following the Great War of the 20th century, that which spanned from 1914 to 1945, the recently formed United Nations, the UN, the present manifestation of Woodrow Wilson’s dream of a League of Nations, declared that Libya should be, and shall be, an independent state, prior to January 1, 1952. A constitution was created establishing a federal system with separate parliaments for each of three main constituting regions, British administrated Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, and, French administrated Fezzan. A King was chosen by national assembly in 1950, King Idris I. And so it was that on December 24, 1951, Libya declared its independence; and it was not significantly contested.
Oil exploration and development advanced rapidly under the King’s rule; and Libya’s wealth advanced commensurately.
A small group led by 27 year old Muammar Gaddafi staged a coup d’etat on September 1, 1969, abolished the monarchy and established the Libyan Arab Republic. Gaddafi was an advocate of Pan-Africanism.5 6 7 When neighboring leader, president of Algeria Kwame Nkrumah a leader in the pan-african movement, passed away in 1972, Gaddafi became the most prominent and outspoken leader of the movement, calling for a United States of Africa. In 2008, surrounded by 200 leaders in Africa, Gaddafi was proclaimed King of Kings8in 2008, and died in the uprisings associated with the Arab Spring in 2011.
Since the Arab Spring…
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Ibn Khladun,1 a brilliant mind that surveyed the world’s histories and tendencies and organized them in a system of thinking2 that influenced all those that have followed after. Born in Tunisia, he is brought before us on this banknote from that same country.
Selected somewhat randomly3 by me, from among his numerous contributions, is his theory on taxation.4 He argues for low taxation, such as the people are happy to pay, so as to maintain economic incentive. He observed that early dynasties receive large revenue from a relatively small tax percentage assessment whereas aging dynasties receive smaller revenue from increasingly larger percentage tax assessments; this illustrating the negative impact of taxation on productivity. He says governments expenditures should be wise and productive.
The date prominently featured on the back of our banknote is 600 years after Ibn Khuldun (1332-1406), thus, has nothing to do with his story. It is however, significant in Tunisia’s story. It is the date of the so called bloodless coup5 in Tunisia when El Abidine Ben Ali came to power, the same who fled his country into exile at the commencement of the Arab Spring in 2011. 6
Images of peace and happiness adorn the front and back of this 2013 banknote of Libya. The banknote, the 1st new issue since the Gadaffi era, was issued February 17, 2013, the 2nd anniversary of the Libyan revolution.
The people’s jubilation is unmistakable. The flags the people are flying are the clue to the people’s celebration. The tricolor red black and green bearing the white star and crescent was the original flag of Libyan independence, and once again, after 42 years, was their flag, the flag of Libya, their country.
1951 – 1969 The flag of The Kingdom of Libya from 1951 independence until the 1969 coup d’etat that brought Gadaffi to power.
1969 – 1972 The flag of the Libyan Arab Republic from 1969 – 1972 under Gadaffi.
1972 – 1977 The flag of the Federation of Arab Republics 1972 – 1979 under Gadaffi.
1977 – 2011 Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya under Gadaffi.
1977 – 2011 Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya under Gadaffi (the flag has a revised aspect ratio)
2011 – present Libya after the Arab Spring.
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Morocco. On his right hand is the mediterranean and on his left is the atlantic. situated at the northwest corner of africaour country’s uunique positiin , if geography is destiny then moroccos unique posotioning amd unique culture lends support to the throry that geography is destiny. the known world on his right hand and the unknown workd on his left and the pillars of hercules, the ancient remains of the eworlds of the gods in his lap.
Might this not be the most exotic place on earth? Situated on the northwest corner of Africa, Morocco bears the southern half of the pillars of Hercules, the edge of the known world the portal to the vast unknown. The northern is Gibraltar. On her right hand, she watched as the nations of old ebbed and flowed in the great Sea, the Mediterranean. To her left lay infinite, the edge of the world, Atlantis. It is no wonder that Morocco has produced such a unique ad beautiful culture. and then more added
although so close to Europe and washed by the Mediterranean,
Casablanca, Marrakesh, the place the sun sets, the west. Is this the most romantic place in the world? the most exotic on earth? Northward it gazes upon the pillars of hercules1, Gibraltar beyond and its own northernmost prominitory. easteward it ponders placidly the Mediterranean, the cradle of western covilization, westward its showres are wave washed by the might atlantaic, an ocean incomprehensible to the mere mediterranean dwellers on its right hand. The pillars of Hercules to the ancients were the edge of the knwon world. to the right they contemplated the rich unfolding kaleidioscope of civilizations in the medieranea. to the left? there the would gaze in quietude and wonder on the infinite unknown. Platosaid that Atlantis was out there.
blue tiles buildings, yellow dunes, whitecapped oceans and mountains
The westmost land, westward from the middle west and the near west, the land where the sunsets, the sacred land, the land of God.. deriving its name form marrakesh, and the magrihb, the west.
distnat from rome and constantiople, though influences by these empires, morocco developed on its own, its own culture, its own cultural ties, its own government its own lifestyle.
different from other mediterranean dwellers, the earl morrocons watched the sun set evey day over an ocean, seemingly infinite. who can doubt that adventurers aroce amng them who dared that sea, wo went forth, mostly never returning, but some did, with tales. perhaps it was moroccon borne tales that Plato heard and recorded under the heading Atlantis.In the 16th century, Ottoman invaders from Algeria attempted to add Morocco to their empire, thus threatening the country’s independence. They, too, were thwarted, leaving Morocco virtually the only Arab country never to experience Ottoman rule. 2
Morocco’s isolationism in the era of European wars4
world wars era and early 21st century
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The city of Algiers, the eponym of our country Algeria, is a city of many names, many masters.1 It’s prominence has endured through a procession of empires due to its enviable situation as a seaport for eager traders. A recent writer observed that, with a little encouragement from its present overlords, Algiers would be the San Francisco of the Mediterranean.2
The city of Algiers is also known as Alger la Blanche, “Algiers the White”, for its renowned white buildings climbing up the steep slope of the Atlas Mountains from the seaport to the pinnacle. A 19th century illustration is reproduced below. Alger la Blanche, is of course, French, and the titling hearkens back to the era of French dominance from 1830 until independence in 1962.
“Algiers” means the islands, in Arabic. It is named for the four islands just off this east facing shore on the western edge of a large bay of the Mediterranean. From ancient times it has beckoned traders as an ideal natural harbor.3
“Algiers” is a shortened form of an earlier name signifying the Islands of the sons of Mazghana, recalling the influence of the noble Berber peoples in times past.
In the Greek era, the town was known as Icosium, meaning the twenty, and was explained as the town founded by twenty of the companions of Hercules. Hercules had visited the Atlas mountains during his celebrated Labors. during the celebrated Labors of Hercules. It’s easy to see why. Four islands just offshore on the western edge of the bay of alondro made for an beautiful natural harbor since the days of old. The town changed hands over the centuries many times as political dominions rose and fell. The natural harbor continued to be the attraction of empires
The name Algiers, the islands, in arabic was adopted in 1529 when Spaniards were expelled by the Ottomans. The Ottoman Turk corsair Barbarossa ruled the region largely autonomously from Constantinople; and, in time, turned Algiers into the chief base for the notorious Barbary Pirates, which continued for three hundred years.
Numerous attempts by multiple countries were made to dislodge the pirates. The fledgling United States of America paid tribute money to the Barbary Prirates for a time. The first war of that young country was against the same to end the practice. But it was the French who finally brought the age of the Barbary pirates to a close when they took Algiers in 1830.
European Colonial Algeria…
The city became the administrative center of the French colonial empires in North and Africa. In the dark days of WW2, Algiers served as the Allied forces headquarters in North Africa. In the darkest days, when Germany was occupying France, the city was the provisional capital of the French people.
Algiers is built on the slopes of the Sahel Hills, which parallel the Mediterranean Sea coast, and it extends for some 10 miles (16 km) along the Bay of Algiers. The city faces east and north and forms a large amphitheatre of dazzling white buildings that dominate the harbour and the bay. The city takes its name (Arabic: “The Islands”) from several small islands that formerly existed in the bay, all but one of which have been connected to the shore or obliterated by harbour works. Pop. (2008) 2,364,230; (2007 est.) urban agglom., 3,354,000. 4 One can imagine early sailors, as your sailing west and see four islands on the other side of the north opening by, that is the best harbor i the region. And so the trading posy grwa dn became known as the four islands.
Algiers is the capital. white buildings ascending steeply from the white capped shores in triangular fashion as a lightnouse, unintended homage to its ancient roots as a safe haven and vaulble enriching trading post amongst our forebeares.
1962 is said to be the year that France declared Algeria to be independent, whatever that means.
The Arab Spring…
Algeria, while experiencing unrest, did not see the radical upheavals to its system of governance that occurred in numerous brethren Arab States.
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back to Map of Africa, click on images below for banknote stories, read further below for some historical background
The name Tunisia is eponymous with its major city Tunis, as is its neighbor, Algeria, with Algiers. Tunis is said to be derived from the verb meaning to encamp, to rest, to lie down. And this is readily understandable to any journeyer who’s had this kind of conversation: Let’s aim for that mountain peak today. We’ll rest the night just shy of the ridge, or just over the ridge in the shade from the wind. We’ll encamp and lie down there, and get a fresh start in the morning. In plan view, in two dimensions at sea level, the conversation would be, we’ll aim for that point today and encamp on the lee side, out of the current and the wind. The ancients were expert astronomers, thoroughly conversant with latitudes, and it is unlikely that they did not understand this point was the northernmost point of Africa in the Great Sea. At the least, they understood it as a point, and appreciated it as a fine encampment.
Carthage grew up on this spot. Yes, that Carthage. The Carthage of legends, the Carthage of epic movies, the Carthage of Hannibal, the center of the Phoenician Empire. A mighty empire was managed for centuries from this campsite on the northern edge of the African continent. No doubt they needed a good right’s rest.
The Romans rose and fell, but not before they conquered Carthage, converted to Christianity, and Carthage had produced Tertullian and Augustine, whose writings altered the course of human thought and whose death dates plagued secondary school students in the after centuries.
The Battle of Carthage 698 AD marked the end of the Roman era as administrated from Constantinople. The Arabs were on the rise, took over the Mediterranean coasts and occupied Carthage, and the land converted to Islam.
From Independence to Revolution
The European colonial era officially closed for Tunisia on March 20, 1956 with independence from France. The following year, Tunisia became a republic, only the second in the modern Arab world, and elected as president, Habib Bourguiba, who continued in office for thirty years until he was removed from office in what was been described as a bloodless coup d’etat.1 His successor, El Abidine Ben Ali, became president November 7, 1987, and continued in office for twenty four years until fleeing the country in the Arab Spring.
The Arab Spring2 may be said to have begun in Tunisia. It was in Tunisia, December 17, 2010, where the street vendor poured gasoline over himself and set himself on fire.
Mohammed Bouazizi died January 4, 2011. Standing before a government building in the middle of the midday street, he emptied a canister of gasoline over his head and cried out, “Then how am I supposed to make a living?”, and then lit the match. He was the prime breadwinner for his widowed mother and six siblings. Twenty-six years old and out of a job, he was selling vegetables from a sidewalk cart. Authorities, that had harassed him previously, had that morning confiscated his cart and scale for failing to present a permit. He went to the government office to protest and beg to get the equipment of his livelihood returned, but no one would listen. Reports vary, but it is said that no permit was necessary and that harassment by authorities was frequent, verbal, and occasionally, physical. One can hear the desperation and anger in his voice as he yells at a faceless government building, “Then how am i supposed to make a living?” The match he lit ignited a fire across many nations as his deed gave expression to the economic dilemma they all felt; and in shared grief of this young man’s unnecessary death, the multitudes rose up as one, uniting in defiance of the inhumane authoritarianism of their various governments.
Like wildfire, in almost spontaneous combustion, protests in other nations erupted. January 14, 2011, ten days after Mohammed Bouazizi’s death, the President of Tunisia fled the country into exile. By the end of February, rulers in Egypt and Libya and Yemen had been forced from power. Essentially all of North Africa and the Arabian peninsula were engulfed in the conflagration. It’s been called “biggest transformation of the Middle East since decolonization.”3
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Morrocco 20 Dirhams Banknote, Year 2005 – Face and Back
King Mohammed VI is featured on the front of the 2005 series banknote. Born the oldest son to Hassan II, Mohammed was named Heir Apparent and Crown Prince on the day of his birth in 1963. On July 23, 1999, he ascended the throne upon the death of his father and reigns as king to this day.
Beyond him is the gate of the Chellah, often referenced as bab callah, or similar, “bab” being an Arabic word for gate. Chellah is an ancient fortress in Rabat, about 3 kilometers up the River Bou Reg from the Kasbah illustrated below. The gate can be seen in this photo in Google earth.
Featured on the back of this banknote is the Kasbah of Rabat, on the Atlantic ocean at the mouth of the River Bou Reg. A kasbah, with various similar english spellings from the Arabic noun such as qasaba and qasbah, is a citadel or fortress or the central fortified part of a town. In Morocco it frequently refers to multiple buildings in a citadel or behind a defensive wall. Sometimes they were built on commanding hills for defense. Often they were built at the entrance to harbors, such as ours here at Rabat in Morocco. This was built in the 12th century. It has recently been added to the World Heritage list. The Kasbah can be seen in this Google earth image.
Sudanese 2 Pound Banknote Year 2011 – Face and Back
Musical instruments and musical scores adorn this side of our banknote from Sudan.
The story of Sudan, the southern neighbor of Egypt, traces back, at the least, to the age of the Pharoahs. At the end of the colonial era, it was under British control, from which it gained independence in 1953, in the rearrangement of all things following the wars of the 20th century.
2011, the year of our banknote, is also the year of the dissolution of Sudan’s union with much of its southern populace. This dissolution was the climax of two civil wars, the first of which commenced in 1955, 2 years after independence from Britain, and the second of which commenced in 1983, 11 years after the end of the first, but widely regarded as a continuation of the 1st civil war. The South seceded and has been recognized internationally as a new nation, South Sudan.
Sudanese pottery is featured on our banknote.
Libya Tripolitania – 10 Lire Banknote – Year 1943 – Face and Back
“Issued by the Military Authority in Tripolitania” reads our banknote prominently across the obverse top center. The Tripolitanian Lira was issued in this region under British command, generally now known as Libya, during and immediately following World War 2. It was replaced in 1952 with the Libyan pound, Libya having become independent the preceding year, 1951. Tripoli today is the largest city in Libya., Benghazi being the second largest city.
Tripolitania, on the Mediterranean coast of northern Africa, is a region populated since time immemorial, and prominent since, at least, the Carthaginian empire, a great competitor of the early Roman empire. A city, on the site of present day Tripoli, was founded by the Phoenicians in the 7th century BC; and was subsequently overtaken by the Greeks and then the Carthaginians. With the defeat of Carthage in the Punic Wars, Tripolitania came under the governance of Rome until the Fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century. The 8th century Muslim Conquest brought Tripolitania under the influence of Islam, and the 15th century Ottoman Conquest brought it into the new empire.
A military coup d’etat brought Omar Gaddafi to power in 1969. Gaddafi ruled until he was overthrown in the 2011 civil war, a part of the Arab Spring.
Tripoli has an ancient heritage. Americans may recall the name in the lyric from the theme song of the Marine division of its armed forces, “..to the shores of Tripoli“. A Barbary wars fought around Tripoli were perhaps the official first armed conflict of the newly birthed United States.
Oea was founded by the Phoenenicians two thousand seven hundred years ago on the southern Mediterranean coast. Ocea, together with later rising cities of Sabratha and Leptis Magna, became known a the three cities, or Tripolis, by the Greeks and then the Romans.