During the French Campaign in Egypt, from July 1798 to September 1801, a full postal service was planned and put into effect, intended to enable the inhabitants of the country to correspond easily among themselves (Order No. 2929 of the Commander in Chief, dated at Cairo the 15th Messidor of Year 6 = 2nd August 1798), but it seems that in fact this service was exclusively for the benefit of the expeditionary army, either for official correspondence or for an exchange of personal messages between military personnel. The circulars, postal tariffs, timetables, etc, had been translated into Arabic for the use of the native population, following the instructions of General Bonaparte, but this effort did not produce the positive result expected. This attempt to give Egypt a well-organised postal service which would ensure, with the maximum of security and despatch, the movement of government and private mail, was unable to survive because of the lack of qualified personnel and backup organisation. This failure certainly did not cause any complaints from the subject people, who were illiterate in the substantial majority and drawn in on themselves both politically and economically; they preferred in any case the use of word of mouth to the pen. Only the European businessmen and their consular offices corresponded with Europe regularly and their presence in the port of Alexandria facilitated the formalities inherent in the dispatch and receipt of foreign postal bags.

With the accession of Mohammed Aly in 1805, a postal service for the purposes of the State was organised in the interior of the country. It was composed of a certain number of routes for messengers on foot, circulating between the capital, Cairo, and the chief provincial towns. They relayed from one station to another, the distance being calculated so that one relay handover was completed each hour. In Lower Egypt (north of Cairo) they were daily, so that letters could be exchanged in 24 hours between Cairo and Alexandria. Between Cairo and Middle Egypt, Upper Egypt and the Sudan, the relays took place once a week or once a month,

No service for the general public existed and foreigners, whether diplomats or businessmen, greatly deplored this lack. From the beginning of the last century there were established in Egypt "agents achemineurs", or "forwarding agents" - Escalon Frères & Cie in Alexandria [See "Les Achemenees ou Forwarded Français" by L. Dubus, Yvert & Tellier, Amiens, 1944; and "Les Acheminees ou Forwarded d'Egypte" by Jean Boulad d'Humières, in the Journal Philatélique Suisse, pages 9, 10 and 11], Regny & Cie at Alexandria, Briggs & Co. of Alexandria, Samuel Shepheard at the British Hotel in Cairo, Nazio & Cie in Alexandria, Stef. di Gni. Popolam in Alexandria, the Egyptian Transit Company in Cairo and Suez, Thomas Waghorn (Note 2), etc., etc. - for the conveyance of mail, against payment of course, but they did not handle correspondence exchanged within the country itself. Their main object comprised ensuring the arrival by the best and speediest means of mail destined for abroad, originating from within Egypt, or in transit through the country.

One cannot consider them as the forerunners of the Egyptian postal system. Always liberal towards foreigners, Mohammed Aly from 1821 took into his care the transport of private mail for Middle Egypt, Upper Egypt and The Sudan, against the payment of charges. For Middle Egypt they varied between 10 and 30 paras for each dramme or dirhem (= 3.12 grammes); for Upper Egypt the scale of charges varied from 3 piastres and 25 paras [40 paras to a piastre] to 6 piastres and 3 paras per dramme. In spite of this arrangement, the foreigners complained of the lateness of their mail; they attributed it to the wilful negligence of the head of the postal service, who was not happy about the arrangements made in their favour by the authorities.

Correspondence to and from Europe was conveyed by the intermediary of consuls, ships' captains and by the foreign post offices which had been set up in Alexandria and Suez from 1831. As to the consuls, they were not enamoured with their tasks, which took on greater proportions with the increase of the numbers in the foreign colonies. So they were very pleased when, in about 1820, a certain Carlo Meratti, a native of Leghorn who had been established in Alexandria for several years, opened private post offices in Alexandria and Cairo for the transmission of mails originating from, or destined for, Europe. Against a modest payment, he took upon himself the dispatch and receipt of mail.

The post, operating with regularity and security, was quickly appreciated by the public and was very widely used. It extended its field of action, organised a regular service between Cairo and Alexandria, and installed its head office in Alexandria, in the old Place des Consuls, later renamed Place Sainte Catherine. Meratti died in 1843, when the business passed to his nephew, Tino Chini, another printer from Leghorn, who put his brother Amero Chini into the Cairo office which was established in the Rue Neuve, in the Mousky.

Communications with Europe having become more regular and, with the number of foreign colonies having considerably increased, Tino Chini brought into the business several compatriots to maintain the proper functioning of his postal service, and notably to strengthen the delivery service. Among them, Giacomo Muzzi, from Bologna, born in 1823, became his aide and adviser, and later his associate and the director of the enterprise, thanks to his lively intelligence and great energy. More enterprising than Chini, he knew how to give wings to the modest post of Meratti, which in a few years became a solid institution to which its owners gave the name of Posta Europea, or European Post. It gained rapidly in importance, replacing the government post in the favour of the public.

Giacomo Muzzi was the fourth and last child of Joseph Muzzi who, having spent a large fortune, died of grief, leaving the child at an early age to its feeble and suffering mother - and in destitution. Abandoning school, the young Muzzi took work as a typographer to help his family. Blessed with good qualities and a strong will, he quickly became one of the most active and skilful typographers in his town. Having established himself in Florence, he had many ups and downs and, immediately after his marriage to a young Florentine woman he embarked for Egypt. That was in 1846.

Upon arrival in Egypt he took up the profession of typographer and got to know the family of Tito Chini, who offered him the management of his printing works at Alexandria and a job in what was to become the Posta Europea. That was how Muzzi began in 1848. The competition from the government post had greatly discouraged Chini. However Muzzi, although very much affected by the terrible cholera epidemic of 1850, and by the grief caused by the death of his young wife, succeeded in surmounting his troubles by reactivating and reorganising his business, which became competition for the State postal service. In 1854 the railways started to develop in Egypt. The Posta Europea followed their extension. When the line from Alexandria to Cairo reached Kafr el Zayat, on the Nile, the Posta Europea opened offices at Atfe and Rosetta in 1854, and then later at Damanhour and Kafr el Zayat in 1855, and finally at Tanta, Benha and Birket el Sab in 1856, following the progress of the railways. In 1856 an agreement was made for five years with the Egyptian Transit Administration, which governed the railways, for transport of Posta Europea mail from Alexandria to Cairo, and vice-versa, for an annual payment of 72,000 piastres (18,000 francs).

This gave a monopoly to the Posta Europea and there were fines for infringement. From 1857 other offices had been successively opened at Damietta, Mansoura, Mehalla, Samanoud, Zagazig and Zifta. The line from Cairo to Suez across the desert was opened in November 1858 and it was probably then that the Suez office was opened. From 5 March 1862, the monopoly given in 1856 was transformed into an official postal monopoly for a period of ten years, by an edict of the Viceroy. This edict also allowed the Posta Europea free carriage of its mail bags on the State Railways, against which the Posta Europea management undertook to transport all government mail free of charge. The government thereupon ended almost completely its own postal service in Lower Egypt and the directors of the Posta Europea found themselves facing a task they felt unable to cope with, in spite of the substantial size of their establishment. They therefore approached the Italian Postal Service in Turin who sent them Vittorio Chioffi, a young Milanese whom Chini and Muzzi found to be an experienced organiser and the capable colleague they needed. With the increasing government and private mail, the office work involved in collecting postage charges was rapidly becoming too burdensome. So in 1863 Muzzi considered introducing a system of prepayment by means of postage stamps, a method which had proved its worth in many foreign countries.

Tito Chini died in 1864 as a result of a carriage accident. His heirs no interest in his business and Muzzi, upset by the death of his benefactor, left the business at the first opportunity. However, sustained and led by Vittoria Chioffi, they were given the impetus anew to study their great project. On 7th June 1864, Muzzi sent a note direct to the Viceroy of Egypt, Ismail Pasha, explaining the various advantages which fulfillment of his project would bring, especially the reduction of postal charges to a uniform rate of 1 piastre (40 paras/25 centimes) per 10 grammes, for any destination in Egypt for prepaid letters, and 2 piastres for letters not prepaid. To this end he asked for "the authority to issue at his own expense postage stamps bearing the engraved august portrait of Your Highness, or your monogram, according to your wishes, to facilitate the payment of charges by the public for the delivery of mail".

This detailed note was backed up by the personal intervention of the Consul-General of Italy at Alexandria. The Viceroy immediately realised the importance of this suggestion and of the institution which the Posta Europea had become. In his wish to annex to his government all the business capable of helping the progress of the country, he decided to re-purchase the monopoly, although the concession still had eight years to run. Ismail Pasha gave the order to bring to an end this operation as quickly as possible and at any price. It was the French banker, Dervieu, of Alexandria, who settled matters, paying compensation of 950,000 francs, which Giacomo Muzzi and the heirs of Chini accepted.

The Deed of Sale of the Posta Europea was signed on 29th October 1864, and a representative of the Dervieu bank formally took over the business by Minutes dated 2nd January 1865. The same day, ownership of the Posta Europea passed to the State and Muzzi, who had been nominated Director-General of the new administration of the Postes Egyptiennes, with the title of Bey, took charge on behalf of the Egyptian Government. The Posta Europea had ceased to exist and the Postes Egyptiennes had been born. It was in fact an act of nationalisation, as we would say today, with a private monopoly transformed into a State Administration. The nationalisation had been negotiated on a basis of free discussion and achieved by private contract accepted by both parties seeking mutual satisfaction. This is the opposite of what usually happens nowadays, when the undertaking to be nationalised is seized when it is prosperous but having no means of looking after its interests. The project of introducing postage stamps as the means of prepaying charges was not abandoned after this transfer of control. Its realisation was announced for 1st January 1866, when the first issue of postage stamps was made with the full authority of the legal position of the new Postal Administration.

A tariff dated 1st January 1860 - the original is in the Postal Museum in Cairo - enumerates the different postal charges, separately for each town of despatch, for the transmission of letters, newspapers and packets, also the registration fees. It is stated in the tariff that the charges had been in force since 1856, but that they had been reduced by one third for letters whose weight exceeded two units, in order to encourage users having a great amount of correspondence.

These tariffs can be considered as applying from 1856 for single and double weight letters, in other words for the most part of the mail. But we should point out that the Atfe and Rosetta offices do not figure in the tariff. They will, no doubt, already have been closed by 1860; however a letter is known to have originated from Atfe dated 16th August 1864.

The cachets used in stamping the letters handled by the Posta Europea are generally found struck in black, but sometimes in blue, green or grey-green; this not of great importance and varies according to the town and the period. There are four different types for Alexandria and Cairo, and two different types for the other towns. Up to 30th June 1863 they were struck on the front only of the envelopes, at the despatching office. From July 1863 (that is, with cachet types V and VI) they were additionally applied to the back of the envelopes, by the receiving office, as was the practice with foreign postal administrations.


Type 1 - Double oval, centre blank, size 37-38mm x 15-16mm; for Alexandria and Cairo. Used from the outset, to the end of 1849.

Type II - Double oval, size 52-54mm x 22-24mm; in the centre, by means of a date-block, the day and the month (but not the year), for Alexandria and Cairo. In use from 1st January 1850 to the end of 1860. These dated cachets can be found with the dates reversed, ie, with the day of the month placed either first or second. The full date of the envelopes hand-stamped with these two types of cachet will need to be looked for in the text of the letters. When they are written in Arabic, this date is more often than not, expressed in the Muslim calendar, so reference to a conversion table is necessary to obtain the date in the Gregorian calendar.

Type III - Double oval with blank centre, size 42-46mm x 16-21mm, except for Galiub, which measures approximately 35 x 20mm. The date would be handwritten in the centre. Used from 1st January 1857 to 30th June 1863 by the offices at Atfe, Benha, Birket El Sab, Damanhour, Damiata, Galiub, Kafer-Zayat, Mansura, Mehalla, Samanud, Suez, Tanta, Zagazik and Zifta.

Type IV - Double circle, 28mm diameter, with the full date in the centre in three lines by means of a date-block, for Alexandria and Cairo. Used from 1st January 1861 to 30th June 1863.

Type V - Double oval, size 40 x 26mm, with the full date in the centre in three lines by means of a date-block. Used from 1st July 1863 to 14th April 1865, by the offices at Benha, Birket el Sab, Damanhour, Damiata, Kafer-Zayat, Mansura, Michalla, Samanud, Suez, Tanta, Zagazik and Zifta. Inversions in the date-block, or reversed figures, are found.

Type VI - Double circle, 33mm diameter, with the full date in the centre in three lines by means of a date-block; for Alexandria and Cairo. Used from 1st July 1863 to 14th April 1865. In the following table are summarised the earliest and latest dates so far known, for each cachet type and for each town.

I Alessandria 3.9.1847 7.4. 1848
  Cairo 25.5. 1844 1849
II Alessandria 31.GEN.1851 2.NOV.1860
  Cairo 8 GEN. 1850 29.SET.1860
III Atfe 16.8.64  
  Benha 26.9.59  
  Berket El Seb 13.1.57 7.11.58
  Darmanhour 18.1.59  
  Damiata 3.5.58 25.3.63
  Galiub 21.2.65 (3,4)  
  Kafr-Zayat 4.1.58 30.6.63
  Mansura 16.7.57 1.5.64 (3)
  Mehalla 15.4.58 23.6.63
  Samanud 17.8.57 29.6.63
  Suez 5.3.60 17.2.63
  Tanta 1.1.57 22.5.63 (4)
  Zagazik 15. 8. 58 18.6.63
  Zifta 24.5.59 24.4.63
IV Alessandria 6 GENNo 1861 5 GIUGo 1863
  Cairo 13 GENNo 1861 16 GIUGo 1863
V Benha 11 OTTBRE 63 15 MARZO 65
  Birket El Sab 19 NOVBRE 64  
  Damanhour 2 GENN 65 29 MARZO 65
  Damiata 24 LUGLo 63 21 FEBBo 65
  Kafer Zayat 4 LUGLo 63 14 APRILE 65
  Mansura 1 LUGLo 63 7 APRILE 65
  Michalla 13 LUGLo 63 15 APRILE 65
  Samanud 4 LUGLo63 29 MARZO 65
  Suez 18 AGos 63 14 APRILE 65
  Tanta 7 LUGLo 63 28 MARZO 65
  Zagazik 1 LUGLo 63 15 MARZO 65
  Zifta 25 LUGLo 63 20 MARZO 65
VI Alessandria 28 GENNo 1863 (1) 16 APRILE 1865
  Cairo 13 LUGLo 1863 18 APRILE 1865

Les Postes en Egypte- Notices published by the Egyptian Postal Administration on the occasion of the 10th Universal Postal Congress, Cairo, 1934
L'Orient Philatelique - Cairo - the following :-
La Creation du Service Postal Egyptian au XIXe siecle by Jacques Tagher, Curator of the King Farouk Library, No. 75, July 1951.
Giacomo Muzzi Bey and his Italian helpers in the Egyptian Post, by Guido Colucci, No. 62, April 1948
The First Issue of Egypt by Ibrahim Chaftar Bey, No. 59, July 1947
The Posta Europea by Mehanny Eid, No. 64, October 1948 (in Arabic)
Les Precurseurs des Timbres-Postes d'Egypte - La Poste Europeenne ou Postal Europes, 1840-1665, by Jean Boulad d'Humieres, No. 110, April-July 1963 and No. 112, January 1964
Finds in Early Egyptian Postmarks by Ibrahim Chaftar, in L'Orient Philatelique No. 127, October 1973
Les Etiquettes Interpostales et les Premiers Bureaux Postaux d'Egypte, by Ibrahim Chaftar, No. 117, April 1966-January 1967 and No. 126, January 1973
Egypt, Stamps and Postal History Peter A.S. Smith, 1999
La Posta Europea nel contesto della storia postale dell’Egitto nel sec. XIX (1820 - 1865) Luca D. Biolato, 1997
The Stamps of Egypt Leon Balian, 1998

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