Tick-Tock to Apocalypse: June 1 1967

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There is no money

Mafish Floos” the manager of BankMisr across from Groppi in Heliopolis declared with an air of resignation before ordering the gates of the stately building shut. It was just past 1 PM, too early for the bank to close. But the branch had simply run out of money. In most countries this event would cause a near riot, or at least a run on the bank. But not in Egypt of June 1967. People just left the branch in reasonably good spirits. The lack of funds was due to a glitch in the armored car transport, but it came on the same day that US banks had refused a $50M credit extension to the United Arab Republic.

Meanwhile, in the rest of Cairo, the spirits were high, and there was a certain giddiness in the air. Thomas Brady of the New York Times reported that school boys were returning home from schools with new songs about the eminent liberation of Palestine. Um Kalthoum was hurriedly recording a song for Sawt al ‘Arab, Nasser favorite propaganda arm for the region, and soon to be the voice of alternate reality for them as well. Brady reported on the prevalence of loudspeakers blaring martial music at various street corners. His reporting understated the cheerful but manic energy that ruled the streets. Whatever revelations lay ahead were invisible to a people on the brink. Those who suspected that the entire episode might end badly kept their opinions to themselves, or whispered them furtively only to those closest to them.

— Maged Atiya



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