Gamal Abdel Nasser was one of the most interesting figures in twentieth century Middle Eastern politics. The second president of Egypt, Nasser took over after his forces overthrew the monarchy in the 1950s. Nasser was a powerful figure who cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood and sought to unite Arab people throughout the region. In some ways, he was successful, and his career in office in Egypt brought about significant changes.
One of the most important elements of the Nasser presidency was his nationalization of the Suez Canal. Nasser understood the power of land and oil in the region, and he wanted the state to have the ability to exploit this for gain. By nationalizing the Suez Canal and winning political support through his actions, Nasser was able to consolidate a movement around him. He led a Pan-Arab movement supporting the establishment of more alliances. In fact, Egypt entered into an alliance with Syria as a result of Nasser’s ideology. Likewise, he set his sights on modernizing the country and the region. Through his use of selective socialism, Nasser was able to bring about many different reforms that sought to enhance the practical quality of life for people in his country. This, he thought, would help to win him the brought support of these people in a contentious region and era.
Nasser was so popular that even after he resigned when Egypt lost its war with Israel, the people demanded that he come back to office. He did, and his influence was felt well beyond Egypt. Many of his supporters and ideologues started their own political movements around the region. This sparked a period of civil war through the Arab world and ironically undermined the Pan-Arabism that Nasser was so famous for supporting. Ultimately his death by heart attack ended his run as one of the most powerful men in the Middle East.