Born into a family of 13 children in 1918, Anwar al-Sadat grew up
among average Egyptian villagers in the town of Mit Abul Kom40 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...