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22 Pages

The First Egyptian Student Mission to France under Muhammad Ali

In March 1826, Charles X’s sloop La Truite, with Captain Robillard commanding, docked in Alexandria. Accompanied by his first and second mates, the captain proceeded to Cairo for an audience with Muhammad Ali. The French party was then escorted on a sight-seeing tour of Guizeh and Sakkara, rounding off its visit with a full-day’s inspection of the new artillery barracks at Abu Za‘bal where General Boyer, who for the past two years had been drilling the Viceroy’s recruits along Western lines, greeted his compatriots with a makeshift but creditable parade consisting of two of his choicest detachments. However Captain Robillard’s mission had nothing ostensibly martial about it, for his orders were to carry back with him to France the first contingent of forty-four Egyptian subjects-all civilians-to be sent by Muhammad Ali to pursue their studies in Paris. On 13 April, La Truite, laden with its cargo, set sail for its month-long voyage to Marseilles.1