'Soldiers! Forty centuries behold you!'- Napoleon Bonaparte, July 1798. To his army before the Battle of the Pyramids.

Egypt the Land of the Pharaohs has always fascinated humanity long after its demise. At crossroads of civilizations, it has drawn generations of scholars, archeologists, and tourists over centuries. It has lured and seduced conquerors blindly attracted by its riches and greatness. Be it Darius the Persian, Alexander the Macedonian, Caesar the Roman or Napoleon the French, all empire builders who stepped on its soil were mesmerized by the mystery and majesty of the land. Each saw them as walking in the steps of the Great Ramses and the sacred gods of war and fertility that humbled the mightiest of conquerors. Was it not Napoleon who allowed Champolion to come to Egypt and decipher the Hieroglyphics that were to reveal what is much known today of the history of ancient Egypt? The ambitious French general yet to become Emperor was to declare his admiration and humility at the foot of the Pyramids with the famous comment: “Soldiers Forty Centuries behold you”. Modern Egypt equally has been at the forefront of some of the great accomplishments that were to shape the history of the Middle East in the 20th Century. The construction and nationalization of the Suez Canal first dug by Persian King Darius 1st an event that was to be celebrated officially by President Anwar Sadat in the early Seventies and in the presence of Iran’s then Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi. The same President Sadat was to make his historical visit to Israel as the first Muslim leader of the Arab world to make peace with an old foe.

The Last Shah of Iran’s first wife Princess Fawzia of Egypt was briefly Queen of Iran and ultimately Egypt was also to become for the Shah, Shahbanou Farah and their family a last ride in exile where the last ruling monarch of Iran was buried. At crossroads of Empires and era’s it is therefore not strange that Egypt, Persian and France have kept over the centuries strong ties and mutual fascination. An exhibition in Paris’ Grand Palais entitled Les Trésors Engloutis D’Egypt aka The Sunken Treasures of Egypt has been the setting for a timely meeting between two representatives of the former Imperial Houses of France and Persia: HIH Princess Napoleon Bonaparte and HIM Shahbanou Farah Pahlavi of Iran. The Former reigning Empress of Iran and the descendent of the French Emperor were the VIP visitors of this exhibition that opened on December 9th 2006 and will continue till the 16th of March 2007 (see Author's notes).

An occasion however in this article to remind in pictures of historical ties between Egypt, Napoleonic France and Persia and of some interesting parallels between the Napoleon and Pahlavi Dynasties at the heights of glory and ultimate downfall albeit for very different reason’s: One due to War the other a Revolution…

About the Expo: Nearly 500 unique items of the Egypt of the Pharaohs to that of its conquest by Alexander the Great are being exposed at the Grand Palais in Paris. Discovered during underwater excavations undertook over a period of ten years by French Franck Goddio, founder of the European Institut of Underwater Archeology, these items bring to life an era that spreads from the Pharaohs, the Persian conquests to that of Alexander the Great and the Greek conquests followed by that of the Roman Empire, Christian Era and the Rise of Islam. Giant Statues, coins and crockery testify of the importance of three legendary locations: the ancient port of Alexandria, the lost city of Héraklion and Canope.

PHOTO 1: Shahbanou Farah Pahlavi and HIH Princess Napoléon Bonaparte ©Point De Vue Images du Monde


PHOTO 2: EGYPT-FRANCE-PERSIA CIVILIZATIONS AT CROSSROADS: (Top L-R) Tehran Coronation 1967, David’s Portrait of Napoleon Crowning Josephine Empress at Notre Dame Cathedral 2nd Dec. 1804. (Below L-R) Napoleon Campaign in Egypt, Crown Prince of Iran greeted in Egypt for marriage proposal to Princess Fawzia (1938)

PHOTO 3: Beheaded Egyptian Statue identified as being that of Darius the Great, King of Persia & Pharaoh of Egypt, discovered in Susa by French archeologists in 1972. It was also Darius who dug the canal from the Nile to Suez ©Forgotten Empire British Museum

PHOTO 4: Top (L-R) Al Rifai Mosque. Napoleon in Egypt by Jean-Léon Gérôme. Below (L-R) Napoleon’s Tomb at Les Invalides in Paris. Shah of Iran’s tomb at the Al Rifai Mosque Egypt.

PHOTO 5: (L-R)Napoleon crosses the Alps depicted by David in 1800. Uncle Napoleon the most popular TV Hit in Iran before the Revolution. ©

Author’s notes:

Official Website: Grand Palais Expo on Egypt at open until the 16th of March 2007.


Darius Kadivar is a Freelance Journalist, Film Historian, Writer, Media Consultant and contributes from Paris, France.