Gamal Abdel NasserPresident of Egypt / Political Leader
Born: 15 January 1918
Died: 28 September 1970
Birthplace: Alexandria, Egypt
Best known as: Leader of Egypt, 1956-70
Gamal Abdel Nasser (Gamal Abd El-Nasser) led Egypt to secular independence in the 1950s and held the office of president from 1956 until his death in 1970. Nasser was an army officer who led the military Junta that deposed Egypt's King Farouk in 1952. By the end of 1954 Nasser had replaced titular leader General Mohammed Neguib as president. Nasser is remembered for his ambitious attempt to modernize Egypt and create a secular Arab empire in northern Africa and the Middle East. He promoted the construction of the Aswan High Dam (completed the year he died) and challenged British, French and Israeli forces for control of the Suez canal, nationalizing the canal in 1956. Nasser had a knack for turning military failure into political victory -- defeated by Israel in 1956 in the Sinai Peninsula and humiliated in 1967's Six Day War (June 5-11), he nonetheless emerged a hero in the Arab world and a player in the uneasy relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. He died in office in 1970 and was succeeded by Anwar Sadat.
Extra credit: The Aswan High Dam was completed the year Nasser died... Although official Egyptian publications used to list his birthplace as Beni Mor, the village of his family, current scholarship says he was born in Alexandria... Under Nasser Egypt and Syria formed the United Arab Republic (UAR) in 1958, and Egypt and Jordan were military allies, but the UAR existed in name only after 1961.
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