Fifty years after his death, former Egyptian Gamal Abdel Nasser still lives in the memory of many Egyptians and Arabs. He was labeled as the ‘Last Arab‘ and a symbol of resistance in the age of decolonization. Yet he was also a master in communication, using his charisma and powerful speeches to mobilize and even influence policies.
“Irfa‘ ra’sak ya khuya” (lift up your head, my brother), is what Nasser used to say in speeches. He did not just address leaders and policy makers, but also the regular Egyptian, translating national and macro goals of nation-making into micro expressions for the local population.
Here are a few memorable quotes and speeches by the former president:
Suez Crisis Speech, 1956
“We feel that we are strong, we feel that the world has changed,” Nasser said following the invasion of Egypt in 1956 by Israel, the United Kingdom and France. This speech was particularly famous for its use of humor and direct insults against colonial powers, which was the first act of its kind for a leader of a new independent country.
“They want to insult us? Well, we can also insult them…can’t our papers also insult the Queen and their Prime Minister,” he said.
Nationalization of the Suez Canal, July 26, 1956
This is considered to be one of Nasser’s most famous speeches, which summarizes very well his visions, strategies and foreign policy.
“Brothers,” he addresses Egyptians, “it is impossible that history should repeat itself… We are eradicating the traces of the past. We are building our country on strong and sound bases….This Canal is an Egyptian canal. It is an Egyptian Joint Stock Company. Britain has forcibly grabbed our rights, our 44% of its shares.”
“We shall build up industry in Egypt and compete with them. They do not want us to become an industrial country so that they can promote the sale of their products and market them in Egypt. I never saw any American aid directed towards industrialization as this would cause us to compete with them. American aid is everywhere directed towards exploitation,” he added.
Nasser’s Speech After 1967 War Defeat
The metaphors in this speech are important to highlight, which reveal Nasser’s skills in using metaphors in the right context and turning a moment of defeat into an opportunity for pushing forward his goals and aims.
The first metaphor is ‘no matter how dim the light is’, and another one is ‘an individual is a tool in the hands of popular will’ to shed light on the revolution, as well as referring to his other achievements such as the High Dam, noting that it was built ‘spread fertile greenery over the desert’.
He also uses metaphors when he refers to soldiers to overshadow the pain of the event, noting that these tournaments ‘will remain a torch of light intact in our history’.
However, it is also significant to add that this is one of the few speeches where Nasser speaks with a somber tone and less face expressions, giving a more dramatic effect to an audience that was not accustomed to seeing him in such a position.
Nasser on the Muslim Brotherhood
This video has been circulating widely over the last few years due to Nasser’s comments on the Muslim Brotherhood and the veil, revealing the tremendous changes that have happened overtime on the issue of giving women the freedom to wear the veil.
In the speech, Nasser notes that the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood asked Nasser to impose the veil on every woman and girl in the street, leading to laughter among the audience and mockery of the idea, as one yelled, “let him wear the veil first!”
“I told him, ”you have a daughter in the school of medicine, and she’s not wearing a veil, If you are unable to make one girl – who is your daughter – wear the veil, you want me to impose the veil on 10 million women all by myself?” he continued in his speech.