Died: September 28, 1970, Cairo
Spouse: Tahia Kazim (m. 1944)
Presidential term: June 23, 1956 – September 28, 1970
Children: Khalid Abdel Nasser, Hoda Abdel Nasser, Mona Gamal Abdel Nasser
Nasser was an icon of Arab nationalism and a pivotal figure in the modem history of Middle East. Armed with his Pan-Arab idealism, he rose to become the greatest political leader of the Arab world. He gave the Egyptian people a sense of nationhood and unprecedented pride, and had the courage to challenge western dominance of the Middle East.
Nasser helped General Neguib overthrow the corrupt King Farooq on July 23, 1952. Neguib resigned in November 1954 leaving the power in Nasser’s hands. In November 1954, he nationalized Suez Canal, and built the Aswan High Dam on the River Nile to produce hydroelectric power. Soviet Russia provided monetary and technical help. He adopted Arab socialist philosophy as the national policy.
At the Bandung Conference in Indonesia in April 1955, Nasser was treated as the leading representative of the Arab countries and emerged as a key figure of the newly-established Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
Nasser adopted the ‘positive neutralism’ as his foreign policy regarding alliances with the Soviet Union and the West in relation to the Cold War. He suffered a major blow when the Arabs were beaten by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967. He offered to resign but the people took to the streets to demonstrate their support for him. Modernizing the Egyptian military remained his primary aim until his death.
“My countrymen, my blood spills for you and for Egypt. 1 will live for your sake and die for the sake of your freedom and honor. Let them kill me; it does not concern me as long as I have instilled pride, honor and freedom in you. If Gamal Abdel Nasser should die, each of you shall be GamaI Abdel Nasser… Gamal Abdel Nasser is of you and from you and he is willing to sacrifice his life for the nation.”
— Speech on October 26, 1954, after Nasser was shot at by an opposition member at a huge public gathering.
His funeral procession through Cairo, on 1 October, was attended by at least five million mourners. His flag-draped coffin was attached to a gun carriage pulled by six horses and led by a column of cavalrymen. All Arab heads of state attended.