Gamal Hamdan (Arabic: جمال حمدان) (February 2, 1928 - April 17, 1993) was an Egyptian scholar and geographer. Among his most prominent books are The Character of Egypt, Studies of the Arab World, and The Contemporary Islamic World Geography, which form a trilogy on Egypt's natural, economic, political and cultural character and its position in the world.
Hamdan was born in the Qalyubia Governorate on February 2, 1928. His father, a teacher of Arabic language, had been discharged from Al Azhar educational institution on charges of participating in demonstrations in the Egyptian Revolution of 1919.
At the age of eight, he joined the primary school. He then moved to the prestigious Tawfiqiyya secondary school, which had a nationwide fame for its high educational standard and sports facilities. There, he became aware of his love and innate talent for geography.
Having completed his secondary education in 1944, with distinction, ranking sixth on the list of graduates nationwide, he joined the Department of Geography at the Cairo University. Faculty of Arts.
At the age of twenty, he obtained his B.A. with Distinction.
He was soon appointed a staff member at Faculty of Arts, where he was granted a scholarship at the University of Reading, UK to obtain his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees. There, he was a student of the eminent English geographer, professor Austen Miller.
Hemdan’s M.A. thesis entitled "Population of the Nile Mid Delta: Past and Present" was highly commended by his professor. He believed that the thesis was eligible for a Ph.D. In 1951, Hemdan returned to Egypt to collect his scientific data.
In 1953, he obtained his Ph.D. Honours, Grade I. Back in Cairo, he was appointed a teacher at the Department of Geography, Faculty of Arts, Cairo University. Upon his return, Hemdan found out that many changes were taking place in the Egyptian society, following the 1952 Revolution, and he was looking forward to positively contribute through his intellectual and scientific efforts to the development of Egyptian society.
However, with his rare, high sensitivity, Hemdan found out he was unable to cope with some negative social aspects affecting his academic career, and he decided to withdraw in silence from the hustle and bustle of public life and abandon his academic career. Although Hemdan lived, physically, in voluntary almost hermit-like seclusion, yet he was most productive as a thinker and scholar. Apparently, this self-imposed positive solitude provided for him the right atmosphere for unceasing, uninterrupted and free meditation, research and innovation.
The works produced during his solitude vividly show his exceptional talent, not only as a geographer but also as a social scientist. To Hemdan, geography was a tool to induce and take inspiration from the spirit of place to reach an accurate scientific definition of its characteristic. He thought of geography both as a science, art and philosophy, and advocated what he called "Living Geography" i.e. everyday geography. If adequately defined, the pattern, nature, conditions and laws relating to life in that place will be thoroughly identified.
Major viewpoints and thoughts
Hemdan’s intellectual and geographical achievements constituted the most important accomplishment of the Egyptian geographical school, that stresses Egypt’s uniqueness and singularity in terms of time and place, of geography and history. In his works, he adopted a multi-disciplinary approach, encompassing geography, history, sociology, politics and culture.
Hemdan’s writings clearly manifested a unique wealth of knowledge, an immense power of meditation and observation and a distinct, devoted love of Egypt. His was the connoisseur’s love of the components of a unique gem. Utilizing these exceptional resources, Hemdan could delineate and interpret the Egyptian personality as influenced by location and geographical considerations.
Hemdan left behind a rich legacy of writing in both Arabic and English languages, including seventeen books in Arabic and eight in English, in addition to several articles in Arabic, published in newspapers, magazines and other publications.
It is worthy of note that he had a futuristic outlook in his writings. He predicted several events, which, he thought, were compatible or incompatible with the facts of geography. Chief of these was his prediction of the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
His encyclopedic work The Personality of Egypt, the most outstanding of his intellectual achievements, was the product of ten years of dedicated efforts, during which time he used 245 Arabic language and 691 foreign reference books in several languages. In this prestigious book, he elaborately expounded the constituent factors making-up the Egyptian personality since the early days of the Pharaohs. To him, Egypt was the central chapter of the book of geography, that turned into the opening chapter of the book of history, maintaining all through a coherent civilization across history. Egypt, to Hemdan was a unique unrepetitive geographical anomaly. Apart from the “Description of Egypt”, which appeared in print during the French Expedition to Egypt, this book remains an unprecedented scientific masterpiece on Egypt.
Main Prizes and Merit awards
Dr. Gamal Hemdan won several scientific prizes and merit awards including:
State Incentive Prize for Arts and Letters, 1959. State Merit Prize for Social Science, 1986. Scientific Criticism Award, by the State of Kuwait, 1986. Order of Merit of the First Class for Science and Arts, 1988. In line with his full dedication to science and his almost ascetic attitude to formalities, he refused to break up with his self-imposed solitude. Apart from the first prize awarded to him in 1959, he refused to receive any of the other prizes.
Hemdan died on April 17, 1993. His works had a far-reaching impact on the entire field of social sciences that was almost tantamount to a revolution in geography. With his unique literary style, Dr. Hemdan turned the science of geography into a universal, encyclopedic social science. Taking geography as an access road to other branches, he skilfully used this multi-disciplinary approach to study Egypt’s location, history, culture and future.
His body was found with its lower half burned, everyone thought that Dr.Hemdan died of his burns, but Dr.Yosef ElGendy "Giza health inspector" proved in his report that the deceased did not die from asphyxiation by gas, and the burns are not the cause of his death, because it did not reach the degree of causing death.
Close people to Dr.Hemdan discovered the disappearance of some of the drafts of the books he was about to finish, and on top of it was topics about Judaism and Zionism, knowing that the fire that broke out in the apartment did not turn up books and papers D. Hamdan, which means the disappearance of the drafts by the active and until this moment no one knew the cause of death, nor where drafts of the books about the Jews.
Everybody was surprised when the former intelligence chief "Amin Howeidi" said he knew about how Dr.Hemdan died, and he assured that he had the evidence that confirmed that Dr.Hemdan was killed by the Mossad 'Israeli intelligence'.
- Studies on the Arab World, Cairo, 1958.
- Patterns of Environments, Cairo, 1958.
- Study on Urban Geography, Cairo 1958.
- The Arab City, Cairo 1964.
- Arabs'Oil, Cairo, 1964.
- Colonisation and Liberation in the Arab World, Cairo, 1964.
- Anthropology of Jews, Dar el-Helal Publications, Cairo, 1967.
- Egypt's Identity, Dar el-Helal Publications, Cairo, 1967.
- The Strategy of Colonisation and Liberation, Cairo, 1978.
- Introduction to "Cairo" by Desmond Stewart, translated by Yehya Haqqi, 1969.
- The Contemporary Islamic World, Cairo, 1971.
- Between Europe and Aisa, A Study in the Geographic Counterparts, Cairo, 1972.
- The Arab Republic of Libya, A Study in Geopolitics, Cairo 1973.
- 6 October War in the International Strategy, Cairo, 1974.
- The Suez Canal, Cairo, 1975.
- New Africa, Cairo, 1975.
- Egypt's Identity, A Study in the Genius of the Place, four volumes, Cairo, 1975-84.
- Population of the Nile Mid-Delta, Past and Present, Reading University, June 1953, 2 volumes.
- Khartoum : Study of a City, Geog. Review, 1956.
- Studies in Egyptian Urbanism, Cairo, 1960.
- Evolution of Irrigation and Agriculture in Egypt. A History of Land Use in Arid Regions, Ed. L.
- Dubley Stamp UNESCO, Paris, 1961.
- Egypt : the Land and the People, A Guide Book to Geology, 1962.
- Pattern of Medieval Urbanism in Arab World, Geog. Review, April 1962.
- A Political Map of the New Africa, Geog. Review October 1963.
- The Four Dimensions of Egypt.