By Rodney Wilson (auth.)
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Extra resources for Banking and Finance in the Arab Middle East
Much of the population of the city was Christian rather than Muslim, and even many of the Arabs were either Christian immigrants from the Levant, or members of the Egyptian Coptic Church. Similarly Port Said was an international town, and most of its wealthy residents likely to use modern banking services were foreigners, normally involved with the Canal either directly or indirectly. Cairo in contrast was essentially Arab and Muslim, although the foreign community grew substantially in number in the 1890s when attempts were made to establish a local textile industry, which soon failed owing to European competition and an absence of tariffs.
For its part the attitude of Bank Misr towards foreign interests grew more tolerant once it became firmly established and self-confident, and its original strident nationalistic character gradually mellowed. In addition the Bank saw the need to bring in foreign expertise if it was to expand the range of activities of the Misr group, as in many fields there was a lack of suitably qualified Egyptians. Therefore foreign partners were sought from 1932 onwards, although Egyptian control was maintained in all ventures, with just one exception.
They began to take over some of the jobs which had formerly been carried out by foreigners, either expatriates from Europe serving in the area for short stays, or more permanently resident foreign nationals, such as those living in large numbers in Beirut, Alexandria and Cairo. In the field of banking and finance many young Arabs already worked for the foreign banks represented in the Middle East even in the closing decades of the nineteenth century, but most did not rise above the lowest clerical positions, and many were employed as messengers and in other similar menial tasks.