As Egypt had the earliest modern banks in the Arab Middle East, it seems appropriate to examine its financial institutions in detail, even though initially they were foreign rather than locally owned. It was in any case the rapid penetration of foreign banks which eventually resulted in moves to found indigenous institutions, whose business practices correspond to those found in the West. That Egypt should be the instigator of modern banking in the Arab Middle East is not altogether surprising, as the country boasted the largest number of educated people, had considerable commercial dealings both internally and externally, and possessed an economic and financial sophistication not found elsewhere. Despite the fact that nationalism in Egypt was strong even in the early nineteenth century, foreigners took most of the initiative in financial dealings, and there was a marked absence of local competition.1 It was only in the 1920s that a belated attempt was made to emulate European banking practices and establish a wholly indigenous institution.
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