Freemasonry in Egypt
Freemasonry first appeared in Egypt on 1798, introduced by French Masons in Napoleon’s conquering armies. Napoleon was initiated June 12-19 1798 in the Army Philadelphe Lodge, Malta (Napoleon appointed his brothers to Masonic office: Louis was named Deputy Grand Master in 1805; Jerome was Grand Master of the Grand Orient Westphalia; the eldest, Joseph was made a Freemason at the Tuilleries in April of 1805, and appointed Grand Master of the Grand Orient of France; and Lucien was a member of the Grand Orient of France.) and he used the Craft to befriend the people by first showing every respect for their
religion and then mixing with them socially in an international brotherhood. He published pamphlets about respecting the Moslem religion and in founding the Isis Lodge, into which several eminent people were initiated.
The name “Isis” was adopted after the mysterious rites of the Priests of Isis, sister and wife of Osiris, a prominent figure in Egyptian mythology. It practised the Ancient and Primitive Rite of Memphis, named after the place where the fraternity of priests met and
which was the great school of wisdom and mysteries of the Egyptians. The Ancient and Primitive Rite of Memphis continues the Hermetic and spiritual teachings of the Ancient Egyptians. The Rite is known to practise 95 Degrees, each with their respective secrets and ceremonies.
Isis Lodge prospered under its first Master, General Kleber, until he was murdered in 1800. At this time, following the withdrawal of the French, Freemasonry seems to have gone underground.
In 1830, some Italians formed the Carbonari Lodge in Alexandria. This Lodge was altogether political and, as its activities were closely watched by the Government, its meetings were held in complete secrecy. It proved popular, however, and a further Lodge Menes, working the Memphis Rite, was founded which also prospered.
One of the most active members, of the Rite of Memphis was Samuel Honnis, he founded a number of French Lodges in Alexandria, Ismailia, Port Said, Suez and Cairo, including the Al Ahram in Alexandria in 1845. This was recognized by the Government and many Senior Officials were initiated into it, including the famous Emir Abd el Gazairi, who fought the French in Algeria and, whilst exiled in Syria, gave refuge to and saved hundreds of Christian families during the
Damascus massacres. Another famous member of the Rite of Memphis was Salvatore Zola. He also founded the first Italian Lodge to work the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite in Alexandria in 1849.
In 1836, the Sovereign Sanctuary of the Rite of Memphis in France issued a Warrant for a Provincial Grand Council in Egypt and several more Lodges were founded in Egypt under the Italian jurisdiction and others up to 1862, all of which worked in perfect harmony with the French Provincial Grand Lodge.
However, Egyptian Masons who found themselves working under such varied Constitutions, decided to have one of their own. In 1864, a Provisional Warrant (confirmed in 1866) was granted by the Grand Orient of Italy creating the Grand Orient of Egypt to work the higher Degrees and a National Grand Lodge of Egypt to work the first three Degrees.
This placed order between the many rites and Constitutions and this Masonic Authority gradually became recognised worldwide. Prince Halim (an Initiate of Bulwer Lodge of Cairo) was made Supreme Grand Commander and was succeeded by Salvatore Zola.
The Khedive Ismail, one of the greatest figures in 19th century Egypt, although not a Mason, patronised the order as a prominent humanitarian organisation and allowed his son Tewfik to be initiated.
In 1881, The Khedive Tewfik Pasha became Grand Master and held sway over more than 500 Lodges working in English, French, Greek, Hebrew, Italian and Arabic, and obtained recognition for the Grand Lodge of Egypt from most of the recognised Grand Lodges of the world. Bro. Mousa Sindaha’s research shows that The Khedive Tewfik in fact assigned his duties to Hussein Fakhry Basha, the Minister of Justice, and that the number of Lodges was nearer 56 than 500. In 1891, The Khedive Tewfik Pasha ceded his Office to Idris Bey Ragheb.
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The Ancient and Primitive Rite
"Preserving the ancient mysteries of masonry"
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