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Muhammad Ali Tried To Westernize Egypt


Muhammad Ali, also known as Muhammad Ali Pasha, was an Ottoman Albanian commander and governor who ruled Egypt in the early 19th century. His reign had a profound impact on Egypt, as he implemented various Westernization reforms aimed at modernizing the country and bringing it in line with European powers. This essay will explore the different ways Muhammad Ali tried to westernize Egypt, including his military and economic reforms, educational and cultural policies, and political centralization.

Military And Economic Reforms

One of Muhammad Ali's main goals was to create a strong and modern military, capable of defending Egypt against external threats and expanding its influence in the region. To achieve this, he established a professional standing army, modeled after European armies, which he trained and equipped with modern weapons and tactics. He also built a navy and introduced conscription to ensure a constant supply of soldiers. These military reforms allowed Egypt to assert itself in regional politics, as demonstrated by its successful invasion of Sudan in the 1820s and its defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the 1830s.
In addition to his military reforms, Muhammad Ali also implemented significant economic changes aimed at modernizing Egypt's agriculture and industry. He introduced new crops and irrigation systems to increase agricultural production and promote trade, while also encouraging industrialization by establishing factories and importing modern technology from Europe. These reforms helped boost Egypt's economy and put it on a path towards modernization, though they also had some negative consequences, such as the displacement of traditional industries and the exploitation of labor.

Educational And Cultural Policies

Muhammad Ali also recognized the importance of education and cultural reform in modernizing Egypt. To this end, he established a modern education system, based on European models, which emphasized the teaching of science, mathematics, and engineering. He also founded the Al-Azhar University, which became a leading center for Islamic studies, and promoted the study of Arabic literature and history. These educational reforms helped create a new class of educated Egyptians, who could contribute to the country's modernization and development.
At the same time, Muhammad Ali also sought to promote Western cultural values and practices in Egypt, as a way of demonstrating its modernity and sophistication. He encouraged the adoption of European-style clothing, architecture, and social norms, while discouraging traditional practices and customs that he viewed as backward. While these cultural reforms helped modernize Egypt in many ways, they also led to significant social and cultural tensions, as many Egyptians felt that their heritage and identity were being threatened.

Political Centralization

Finally, Muhammad Ali implemented significant political reforms aimed at centralizing power and creating a strong, centralized state. He abolished the traditional feudal system, which had allowed local elites to wield significant power, and replaced it with a centralized bureaucracy, modeled after European states. He also established a new legal system, based on European models, which emphasized the rule of law and the protection of individual rights. These political reforms helped strengthen the Egyptian state and establish it as a modern, centralized entity, but they also led to some abuses of power, as the central government often used its authority to suppress dissent and maintain control.


In conclusion, Muhammad Ali's efforts to westernize Egypt had a significant impact on the country, both positive and negative. His military and economic reforms helped modernize Egypt's military and economy, while his educational and cultural policies created a new class of educated Egyptians and promoted Western cultural values. At the same time, his political reforms centralized power and created a strong, centralized state, but also led to some abuses of power and social tensions. Overall, Muhammad Ali's legacy as a reformer and modernizer remains controversial and debated, but his impact on Egyptian history and culture is undeniable.

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