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Egypt–Saudi Arabia relations are the relations between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Historically, they could also be considered as extending several centuries back to the relations between earlier regimes in Egypt – the highly autonomous Egypt Eyalet in the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Egypt – and the earlier manifestations of Saudi/Wahhabi power in the Arabian Peninsula (Emirate of Diriyah).

Egypt–Saudi Arabia relations
Map indicating locations of Egypt and Saudi Arabia


Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia and Egypt are both highly influential countries in the Arab world, with Egypt being the most populous Arab country and Saudi Arabia being a member of the G20.

According to a 2013 Pew global opinion poll, 78% of Egyptians express a favourable view of Saudi Arabia, with 19% expressing an unfavourable view.[1]



19th centuryEdit

Muhammad AliEdit

Between 1811 and 1818 Ibrahim Pasha, son of Muhammad Ali of Egypt, governor of Egypt, led a campaign against the Emirate of Diriyah – as the First Saudi State was known – on behalf of the Ottoman Sultan. Ibrahim conquered Hejaz and Nejd and brought that first Saudi state to an end.

20th centuryEdit

Gamal Abdel Nasser eraEdit

In the years immediately after the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 relations between Egypt and Saudi Arabia were cordial, driven by mutual suspicion of the Hashemites reigning in Jordan and (especially) Iraq at the time, and continuing from an anti-Hashemite alliance formed by King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia, King Farouk of Egypt and President Shukri al-Quwatli of Syria after the foundation of the Arab League in 1945. Subsequently, Nasser and King Saud of Saudi Arabia co-operated to limit the reach of the Baghdad Pact, which they felt was designed to increase the influence of Hashemite Iraq. As a result, the two countries signed a bilateral military pact in 1955, and worked to successfully prevent Jordan from joining the Baghdad Pact. Egypt came to have extensive involvement in the Saudi army, economy and education system. However the alliance was undermined by Saudi anxieties about the Egyptian government's promotion of anti-monarchical forces in the Arab World (including the uncovering of an Egyptian-style Saudi Free Officers Movement and increasing labour unrest). Egypt's increasing shift towards the Soviet Union, and efforts by Iraq and its western allies including the United States to drive a wedge between the two countries.[2] By 1958 this deterioration in the relationship had led to King Saud offering a bribe of £1.9 million to Abdel Hamid al-Sarraj, the head of Syrian intelligence at the time and later Vice-President of the United Arab Republic, to secure the assassination of Nasser.[3]

Thus under President Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt, backed by the Soviet Union, came to represent the Non-Aligned Movement and pan-Arabism,[4] and was a nominal advocate of secularism and republicanism. The Saudis by contrast were strong supporters of absolute monarchy and Islamist theocracy, and were generally close to the governments of the United Kingdom and United States. This meant that the Saudi-Egyptian rivalry was one of the many threads of the Arab Cold War, which was manifested for example in the North Yemen Civil War, in which a Nasserist[citation needed] military junta headed by Abdullah as-Sallal overthrew the pro-Saudi Yemeni monarchy.

Anwar Sadat eraEdit

Egypt was also opposed by Saudi Arabia when it became the first Arab country to make peace with Israel.[5] However relations between Egypt and Saudi Arabia warmed considerably during Sadat's rule, with the Saudis playing a key role in persuading Sadat to carry out the expulsion of 20,000 Soviet military advisers from Egypt in 1972.[6][7] The Saudis also doubled the amount of money they sent to Egypt in subsidies in the early 1970s to $200 million a year, bought French Mirage fighter jets on the Egyptians' behalf to reduce their reliance on Soviet military technology, and offered low-interest loans to Egypt. In 1973 The Egyptian and Saudi governments also co-ordinated the Yom Kippur War with the OAPEC oil embargo against Israel's western allies, leading to the 1973 oil crisis.[7]

Hosni Mubarak eraEdit

Unlike the situation at the time of Nasser, Mubarak's Egypt – a conservative dictatorship closely allied with the United States – no longer represented an ideological or political polar opposite to Saudi Arabia. Nevertheless, there remained a rivalry between the two countries, both aspiring to preeminence in the Arab World in general and among the Arab allies of the US in particular. This rivalry manifested itself, for example, when U.S. President Barack Obama made a major tour of the Middle East in 2009, soon after assuming power. The Saudis resented Obama's choice of Cairo as the venue for making a key policy speech, and State Department officials made an effort to mollify them by following up the Cairo speech with a high-profile Presidential visit to the Saudi capital.

During the 2011 Egyptian revolution, Saudi King Abdullah expressed support for Hosni Mubarak. "No Arab or Muslim can tolerate any meddling in the security and stability of Arab and Muslim Egypt by those who infiltrated the people in the name of freedom of expression, exploiting it to inject their destructive hatred. As they condemn this, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its people and government declares it stands with all its resources with the government of Egypt and its people."[8] He condemned the "people who tried to destabilise the security and stability of Egypt."[9]

21st centuryEdit

After the 2011 Egyptian revolution, relations between the two countries greatly deteriorated.

2011 Jeddah airport protestEdit

On 9 April 2011, hundreds of Egyptians gathered at the Saudi embassy in Cairo to protest mistreatment of Umrah pilgrims by Saudi Arabian Airlines and King Abdulaziz International Airport authorities in Jeddah.[10] They wanted the Saudi ambassador, Hisham Nazer, to exit the country immediately. The protesters argued that the airport did not arrange enough flights back to Egypt in time for Eid ul-Fitr after thousands were stranded in the country. They also expressed disgust over how Saudi Arabian Airlines officials treated pilgrims at the airport, and protested that Saudi officials had meddled in Egyptian affairs during the revolution.[11]

2012 Saudi Arabia embassy lock-upEdit

A protester outside the Saudi Embassy in Cairo holds up a flag saying "Down with Military Rule"

On 28 April 2012, Saudi Arabia announced the closure of its Cairo embassy and its consulates in Alexandria and Suez, following Egyptian protests over the detention of the Egyptian lawyer Ahmed al-Gizawi in Saudi Arabia.[12][13]

Earlier in April 2012, al-Gizawi was detained shortly after his arrival in Saudi Arabia which some believe was because he defamed King Abdullah by filing a lawsuit in a South Cairo court against Saudi monarch King Abdullah on behalf of Egyptian citizens held without charge in Saudi prisons.[14] Saudi authorities said he was arrested at the King Abdulaziz International Airport near Jeddah on 17 April for possession of 21,000 Xanax anti-anxiety pills, which are banned in the country.[13] They expressed doubt that he intended to go on a pilgrimage, as he was not wearing the typical white pilgrim dress (Ihram).[12] According to his wife, he was sentenced in absentia to a year in prison and 20 lashes after he arrived for a pilgrimage (Umrah).

An estimated 1,000 Egyptian protesters demonstrated in front of the Saudi embassy in Cairo on 27 April, demanding the release of al-Gizawi and of the other Egyptians held in Saudi jails.[13] Following the protests Saudi authorities announced the closure of the Saudi embassy and other consulates in Egypt. Egypt's head of military council, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, said Egypt is working to heal the rift with Saudi Arabia over the surprise decision.[13] Observers said that it is the worst fall-out in relations between the two countries since Saudi Arabia severed its ties with Egypt in 1979.[12]


Soon after the embassy incident, Saudi Arabia announced that they would return ambassador Ahmad Abdulaziz Kattan and his envoy to Egypt after feverish efforts by Egyptian politicians, fearing the loss of aid, to gain back Saudi favor.[15] King Abdullah said that he could "not allow this passing crisis to go on for long".[16]

On 10 May 2012, ambassador Kattan announced that the kingdom agreed to provide US$500 million in aid to Egypt and will deposit an additional US$1 billion at the country's central bank as part of the $2.7 billion support package they had agreed in 2011.[17] Saudi Arabia will also export $250 million worth of butane to Egypt, which has faced ongoing shortages of the fuel,[18] as well as US$200 million to help small and mid-sized firms. The donation was part of a move by multiple Gulf states to send a large aid package to Egypt.[17]

Visit of MorsiEdit

Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi's first official visit was to Saudi Arabia in July 2012,[19] although he was the presidential candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose views are not fully aligned with those of the Saudi government.[20] Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi stated that Saudi Arabia is a pragmatic country and that whoever the president of Egypt is, Saudi government is aware of the fact that it has to maintain good relations with this country.[20]

Relations after anti-government protests and subsequent Morsi overthrowEdit

Saudi Arabia supported the 2013 Egyptian coup d'état and the subsequent military rule in Egypt.[21][22]

In April 2016 King Salman of Saudi Arabia made a five-day visit to Egypt, during which the two countries signed economic agreements worth approximately $25 billion and also made an agreement to "return" Tiran and Sanafir, two Egyptian-administered islands in the Gulf of Aqaba, to Saudi control. The announcement of the transfer of the islands provoked a backlash in Egypt, in both social media and traditional media, including outlets which had been firmly supportive of the Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.[23]

Recently, ties between the two countries have become strained over differing stances on the Syrian Civil War and the very limited involvement of Egypt in the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen.[24]

Over the issue between Saudi Arabia and Egypt on Sanafir and Tiran, talks between Yitzhak Molcho from Israel and Sameh Shoukry, the Foreign Minister of Egypt, were leaked according to the Middle East Monitor.[25] The Muslim Brotherhood is linked to the "Middle East Monitor".[26] The Middle East Eye leaked the audio.[27] Muslim Brotherhood supporters are connected to the "Middle East Eye".[28] Eric Trager noted that the tape was leaked by an agency run by the Muslim Brotherhood.[29] In 2019, Saudi Arabia pledged an amount of $7 million for developmental projects in Egypt.[30]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Saudi Arabia’s Image Falters among Middle East Neighbors Pew Research Global Attitudes Project. 17 October 2013.
  2. ^ Podeh, Elie (1995). "Ending an Age-Old Rivalry: The Rapprochement between the Hashemites and the Saudis, 1956-1958". In Shmuelevitz, Aryeh; Susser, Asher (eds.). The Hashemites in the Modern Arab World: Essays in Honour of the Late Professor Uriel Dann. Abingdon-on-Thames: Frank Cass. pp. 85–104. ISBN 9781136301643. Retrieved 2 September 2014.
  3. ^ Niblock, Tim (2006). Saudi Arabia: Power, Legitimacy and Survival. Abingdon-on-Thames: Routledge. p. 41. ISBN 9781134413041. Retrieved 2 September 2014.
  4. ^ Dawisha, Adeed (2002). Arab Nationalism in the Twentieth Century: From Triumph to Despair. Princeton University Press. pp. 2–14.
  5. ^ Pace, Eric (8 October 1981). "Anwar el-Sadat, the Daring Arab Pioneer of Peace with Israel". The New York Times on the Web Learning Network. Retrieved 14 May 2012.
  6. ^ Nibloc, Tim (2006). Saudi Arabia: Power, Legitimacy and Survival. Abingdon-on-Thames: Routledge. p. 60. ISBN 9781134413041. Retrieved 2 September 2014.
  7. ^ a b Bronson, Rachel (2006). Thicker than Oil: America's Uneasy Partnership with Saudi Arabia. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 113–123. ISBN 9780199741175. Retrieved 2 September 2014.
  8. ^ Aboudi, Sami; Fuchsurl, Martina (29 January 2011). "Update 1 – Saudi King Expresses Support for Mubarak". Reuters. Retrieved 31 January 2011.
  9. ^ العاهل السعودي" يدعم مبارك ويدين "المندسين [Saudi King Shows His Support for Mubarak, Condemns 'the Infiltrators']. CNN (in Arabic). 29 January 2011. Retrieved 31 January 2011.
  10. ^ Abdul Aziz al-Suwaigh (14 September 2011). "Umrah pilgrims and Jeddah airport". Arab News. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
  11. ^ "Egyptian protesters demand expulsion of Saudi ambassador". Egypt Independent. 9 April 2011. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
  12. ^ a b c Egyptian protests over detained lawyer shut Saudi embassy, BBC News, 28 April 2012.
  13. ^ a b c d "Saudi recalls Cairo envoy in blow to Egypt ties". Thomson Reuters. 28 April 2012. Retrieved 3 May 2012.
  14. ^ El-Gizawi case to be transferred to Saudi pre-trial committee", Ahram Online (1 May 2012).
  15. ^ Kareem Fahim (5 May 2012). "Saudi Ambassador Returns to Egypt". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
  16. ^ "Saudi ambassador to return to Egypt". Yahoo!. Associated Press. 5 May 2012. Archived from the original on 1 July 2012. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
  17. ^ a b "Egypt gets $1 bln from Saudi as ties warm". Reuters. 10 May 2012. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
  18. ^ Sarah El Deeb (10 May 2012). "Egypt secures financial aid from Saudi Arabia". Philly. Associated Press. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
  19. ^ Goldschmidt Jr. (10 October 2013). Historical Dictionary of Egypt. Scarecrow Press. p. 371. ISBN 978-0-8108-8025-2. Retrieved 8 September 2014.
  20. ^ a b Allam, Abeer (26 August 2012). "Saudi Arabia: In a restless realm". Financial Times. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ Brand, Laurie; Stacher, Joshua (25 April 2016). "Why two islands may be more important to Egyptian regime stability than billions in Gulf aid". Retrieved 27 April 2016.
  24. ^
  25. ^ "New leak expose Israel's involvement in Egyptian-Saudi island swap scandal". Middle East Monitor. 10 February 2017.
  26. ^ "Middle East Monitor (MEMO)". The Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Watch. 17 July 2016.
  27. ^ MEE staff (10 February 2017). "REVEALED: Egypt consulted Israel in Red Sea islands transfer". Middle East Eye.
  28. ^ The National staff (19 June 2014). "Muslim Brotherhood, its UK connections and media attacks on the UAE". The National.
  29. ^ Trager, Eric (11 February 2017). Twitter Missing or empty |title= (help)
  30. ^ "Saudi fund signs three agreements to grant aid to Egypt". Saudigazette. 10 July 2019. Retrieved 6 August 2019.