Last modified: 2014-02-05 by ian macdonald
Keywords: egypt | africa | hawk | eagle of saladin |
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image by Željko Heimer
image by Željko Heimer
Flag and coat of arms adopted 4
On this page:
Description: Horizontally divided red-white-black flag with
the emblem showing the so-called eagle of Saladin
in the middle of the white stripe.
The emblem in the middle of the white stripe is
sometimes pictured with different colours. Some flags seen in Cairo
have the emblem as gold, white, gold; or red, white, black; or light
gold hatching, white, dark gold hatching; or white, white, white with
two gold vertical lines to divide the three parts. The artistic licence
regarding the representation of these arms is very high.
Use: on land, civil and State flag, at sea, civil ensign.
Colour approximate specifications (as given in Album des Pavillons):
Source for the images: Album des Pavillons;
CorelDraw clipart gallery for the emblem.
Based on a photo of the flag (not necessarily the most reliable of evidence),
the eagle occupies 17/20 of the height of the white stripe, but there are
apparently no official dimensions and I am reliably informed that flags do vary.
Christopher Southworth, 16 April 2005
Based on photos at the
Egyptian Presidency website, almost all show the obverse side, but some of
them shows the reverse:
22 May 2004,
19 February 2004,
4 March_2002. It seems that the eagle always faces towards the hoist.
Antonio Gutierrez, 16 April 2005
The protocol manual for the London 2012 Olympics (Flags
and Anthems Manual London 2012) provides recommendations for national flag
designs. Each NOC was sent an image of the flag, including the PMS shades, for
their approval by LOCOG. Once this was obtained, LOCOG produced a 60 x 90 cm
version of the flag for further approval. So, while these specs may not be the
official, government, version of each flag, they are certainly what the NOC
believed the flag to be. For Egypt: PMS 186 red, 116 yellow and black. The
vertical flag is simply the horizontal version turned 90 degrees anti-clockwise,
but the eagle remains upright.
Ian Sumner, 10 October 2012
From the State Information Service Website
"The first national flag of modern Egypt was established by a
Royal Decree in 1923 when Egypt gained
conditional independence from Great Britain in 1922. The color was
green with a white crescent and three stars in the middle.
In 1958, a Presidential Decree established a new flag for the United Arab Republic which comprised a merger of Syria and Egypt. The new flag had three colors: red, white with 2 green stars and black. The flag was rectangular in shape and the width was one-third of its length.
[Editor's note]: the flag of the period 1952-1958 is strangely omitted.
In 1972, the Law was amended to change the flag. The stars were removed from the flag and replaced by a golden hawk.
In 1984, the hawk was replaced by a golden eagle or the eagle of Saladin, the Ayubbid Sultan who ruled Egypt and Syria in 12th Century, the same Saladin of the Crusades.
The color red refers to the period before 1952 Revolution which brought a group of army officers to power after deposing King Farouk, then King of Egypt. This was a period characterized by the struggle against the British occupation of the country. The white symbolizes the advent of the 1952 Revolution which ended the monarchy without bloodshed. The color black symbolizes the end of the oppression of the people of Egypt at the hands of the Monarchy and British colonialism.
Rules Governing the Hoisting of the Flag
The national flag is hoisted on all governmental buildings on Fridays, official holidays, on the inauguration of the People's Assembly session and other occasions on which the Minister of Interior orders that the flag be hoisted. The flag is hoisted daily on border posts and customs buildings. It is also hoisted on Egyptian consulates and embassies overseas on the National Day and other national occasions, as well as during the visit of the President to the country hoisting the diplomatic mission.
Penal Provisions for Contempt of the Flag
Abusing the flag in any way is a criminal offense and is punishable under law as it implies contempt of the power of the state. Penal provisions also govern abuse of foreign flags or national emblems of other countries."
Quoted by Dov Gutterman, 13 January 1999
Section 3 of Law No. 144 and Section 1 of Law No. 145 dated 4/5 October 1985
established the eagle and flag.
Christopher Southworth, 16 April 2005
All Egyptian flags, from the Ottoman era until now are displayed
in one line in the
Dov Gutterman, 13 January 1999
The only legislation I have found was is the "Law No. 144 of 1984" that
contains a provision about the size and other elements about the flag, which is
briefly mentioned at
http://www.sis.gov.eg/En/Story.aspx?sid=1265. I also checked the Egyptian
Organization of Standardization and Quality (EOS) and the only standards they
have about flags is the way the materials are made at
As for the Constitution, it says:
"(Article 186) The law shall prescribe the national flag and the provisions relating thereto, as well as the State emblem and the provisions relating thereto." http://www.cabinet.gov.eg/AboutEgypt/Egyptian_constitution.aspx
Zachary Harden, 3 January 2012
It seems that the Arab Republic of Egypt will get a new Constitution,
as the draft constitution was approved overwhelmingly during this week’s
referendum. This is what the constitution says about the symbols:
Constitution of the Arab Republic of Egypt
Chapter Six – General and Transitional Provisions
Section One – General Provisions
Article 223: Flag
The national flag of the Arab Republic of Egypt consists of three colors black, white, and red with the eagle of Saladin in golden yellow. The emblem, decorations, insignia, seal and the national anthem are defined by law.
Desecration of the Egyptian flag is a crime punishable by law.
Source: The Arab Republic of Egypt Draft Constitution 2013 - New Constitutional Document After Amending the Suspended 2012 Constitution. http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/images/publications/20131206EgyptConstitution_Dec.pdf.pdf (Retrieved, 17 January 2014)
The description is an improvement of the previous constitution of a bit more
than a year ago where the symbols article read:
2012, December 26
Constitution of the Arab Republic of Egypt
Chapter Two: General Provisions
Article 221: The National Flag, the State’s emblem, decorations, insignia, seal and the National Anthem are defined by law.
Source: http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/egypt-s-draft-constitution-translated (Retrieved, 22 February 2013)
Jos Poels, 18 January 2014
Smith ([smi75b] and [smi80]), says that the colors represent:
The derivation of red and black as being from the ancient Egyptians would have to be pseudo-history that is attributed to the ancient Egyptian view of their land. You had the red land, the desert, and Kemet (spelled by using the hieroglyphs KMT), the black land - the land which was farmed. It was called that because the annual flood of the Nile would deposit the rich black silt on the fields. Hence, the name of the nation was Kemet. The actual attribution of using those colors specifically by the ancients is quite speculative....as speculative as saying that green was the color of the Hittites or blue was the color of the Greeks. While they may have used those colors, we really can't say nor can we say why they used those colors.
Calvin Paige Herring, 12 January 1999
The Pharaohs ruled Egypt for over 2500 years, so it is of course possible that some of them used red and black as colors. But I think it is pretty easily demonstrated that these colors are from fairly recent vintage.
During First World War, Arabs in the Hejaz (the Red Sea coast of the Arabian peninsula) rose up against the Ottoman Sultan, with the help of the British, who were fighting the Ottomans at the time. The revolt was headed by the Hashemite dynasty of Mecca, and their banner was red, white, green, and red. Jordan is the last state left with a Hashemite ruling king, and thus its flag is closest to the original model. The colors are intended to correspond to the early Islamic dynasties of the first half of the middle ages, though I forget which colors correspond to which; this is probably an "invented tradition," as the use of flags by such dynasties is anachronistic.
The Hashemite revolt was the Arab world's first embrace of European-style nationalism, but it was largely unsuccessful, mostly due to lack of Western support. The Arab-speaking areas of the old Ottoman empire were mostly divided up between France and England, though the British did install Hashemite princes as local rulers in the areas they controlled. Even in the Hejaz, the Hashemites were driven out by the Wahabi Saudi dynasty, which, then as now, was less concerned with Arab nationalism than in its doctrine of religious fundamentalism.
Nevertheless the flag was remembered as associated with Arab nationalism, even if the Hashemite dynasty was not. When the next phase of Arab nationalism began, in the aftermath of Second World War, it was dominated by pan-Arabist parties like the Ba'ath party and military strongmen who set up republics. Although this wave of nationalism swept away the Hashemite king of Iraq, most of its leaders used a red-white-black banner derived from the original Arab revolt. Egypt adopted a red-white-black flag at this time, though not identical to the current model. The fact that this flag adoption coincides with the adoptions of very similar flags by Syria, Iraq and (I think) Yemen and Libya (Qadaffi's all-green flag didn't come in till later) seems to prove false the idea that said colors are inherently Egyptian. In fact, the Egyptian regime that made this flag choice is the same one that would later participate in the short-lived experiment of the United Arab Republic, a brief union between Egypt and Syria. This project shows aspirations beyond mere Egyptianism.
Since this tide of Arab nationalism did not result in Arab unity, as the failure of the UAR helped show, it is not surprising that the current Egyptian government ties the color scheme to purely Egyptian ideologies. However, I think this helps demonstrate the dangers of taking "official" descriptions of flags at face value. A historical approach can be more fruitful in determining the reasons for flag design, even if those reasons are no longer in favor with the regime that flies the flag. While we certainly should not ignore current beliefs about the meaning of flags -- especially if those beliefs are held by the bulk of national populations -- it is important that we do not let governments rewrite or erase chapters of history, because without that history we cannot understand current conditions properly. (Think of Orwell's "We have always been at war with Eurasia...")
Josh Fruhlinger, 11 January 1999
image by Graham Bartram
According to Whitney Smith's Flags Through the Ages and Across the World [smi75c], the symbol placed in the middle of the Egyptian flag is the so-called eagle of Saladin, based on the eagle carved on a wall in Cairo. Saladin (Salah al-Din Yusuf) (1138-1193) was the first Ayubid Sultan. He ruled over Egypt, Hejaz, Syria and Mesopotamia. He captured Jerusalem to the Latins in 1187 and signed with them a peace treaty in 1192. The use of the Saladin eagle on Arab flags is modern, however.
Some flags seen in Cairo has the emblem as gold, white, gold; or
red, white, black; or light gold hatching, white, dark gold hatching;
or white, white, white with two gold vertical lines to divide the
Graham Bartram, 29 June 2000
The inscription on the ribbon is Jumhuriyat Misr al-Arabiya (Arab Republic of Egypt).
Even thou both the inscription of the
former coat of arms Al-Jumhuriya
(Al-Arabiya Al-Misriya) and Jumhuriyat Misr Al-Arabiya
are translated to the same "Arab Republic of Egypt", there is a big
internal political difference between the two. In the first (old) way
- the Republic is first Arabic and then Egyptian, in the newer
version it is first Egyptian and then Arabic.
Dov Gutterman, 18 October 1999
The Egyptian flag is not a simple mirror image on the reverse. You
need to look closely, but if you do you will find that the writing
beneath the eagle and shield reads the correct way round on both
sides of the flag.
Graham Bartram, 29 June 2000
image by Ivan Sache, 4 February 2006
The Africa Nations Cup in football takes place in Egypt. During the
matches played by the Egyptian national team ("The Pharaons"), the
stands of the stadiums are full of national Egyptian flags waved by
eager supporters. There are several variations in the colours of the
coat of arms - beside the two official versions, it appears outlined in
black and white or in red. Moreover, several supporters use a flag
without the coat of arms, that is a simple horizontally divided
Ivan Sache, 4 February 2006
This is similar to what I once saw in Syria (one of
the several versions used)
Marcus E.V. Schmöger, 5 February 2006