The Italians of Egypt: Return to Diaspora

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


From the beginning of the nineteenth until the middle of the twentieth century Italians constituted one of the prominent resident foreign communities of Egypt. Attracted by the economic opportunities and the political safe haven that the country offered, this presence was part of a broader movement of migration that included other Mediterranean peoples, Greeks, Maltese, Cypriots, Jews and Levantines, which was. facilitated by the modernising policies of Egyptian rulers and the expansion of European influence in the Middle East. Over time the Italians of Egypt would become a well-established if heterogeneous community, the nationals of a European state (although not formally established until 1861) but sustained by a rich local associational life that developed its own particular identity. Often cast as a colony, and therefore implicitly an extension and instrument of Italian state power and influence, this chapter argues that the Italians of Egypt are better conceived within a diasporic framework which recognises both their attachment to an Italian homeland but also with their locally-rooted character, framed by local community institutions and associations. In the period after 1945 under the impact of significant political and economic changes in Egypt, not least the 1952 Revolution, much of the Italian population of Egypt departed, some to ‘return’ to their titular homeland, others to resettle elsewhere. In this reconfiguration, what had been an element of the Italian diaspora in Egypt now became a new diaspora of Italian Egyptians scattered globally that sought to maintain their collective sense of identity and keep alive the memories of life in Egypt.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDiasporas of the Modern Middle East
Subtitle of host publicationContextualising Community
EditorsAnthony Gorman, Sossie Kasbarian
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
Number of pages32
ISBN (Print)9780748686100
Publication statusPublished - May 2015


  • diaspora
  • Italians
  • Egypt

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