World Post Day is celebrated every year on October 9th, which marks the anniversary of the establishment of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) in 1874 in Switzerland, with more than 150 countries observing the event.
In a country as old as Egypt, reputed for its 7,000-year-old record of civilisation, it is only to be expected that a postal service began long before many other nations became familiar with the concept.
The Egyptians’ use of mail dates back to the time of the Pharaohs. As seen on temple walls, ancient Egyptians used to send messages inside and outside the country with workers either walking along the Nile banks or tracing the footsteps of horses. The first document which indicates the use of mail in the Pharaonic times can be traced back to as early as 2000 BC during the rule of the 12th Dynasty. It was in the form of a letter left behind by a father to inform his son of the importance of writing and the future that awaits him in the governmental service.
During Egypt’s Ptolemaic era, the mail had two levels of service: “the quick service” which transferred the mail of the king, ministers and state employees via horses and the "slow service" which transferred mail among employees all over the country.
After the Islamic conquest of Egypt, the Arabs paid special interest to the mail and used it to report the state news to their ruling caliphs. They used several means to deliver their messages. Often they would resort to people delivering them by hand on horseback while at other times, they would make use of well-trained homing pigeons, also known as messenger pigeons, to ensure privacy and secrecy.
Under Muhammad Ali, who was keen to establish modern systems in all branches of the state, officials discovered that there was a lack of communication among different institutions. This was behind the idea of setting up a governmental mail entity to provide communication between the administrative body located at Cairo Citadel and all branches of the state in Upper and Lower Egypt. Hence, it became the nucleus of the government mail system.
Modern Egypt Post was established in 1865, almost 10 years before the UPU was created in the Swiss capital, Bern. This allowed Egypt, as one of the pioneers in the establishment of the UPU, to host the 10th UPU conference in Cairo, where it also celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Egyptian Post.
The modern postal service began when Carlo Meratti, an Italian living in Alexandria, established a post office to send and receive mail to and from foreign countries as early as 1821. Meratti took the responsibility of sending and distributing the letters for a fee. After Meratti's departure from Egypt, his nephew, Tito Chini, took over from his uncle with a friend, Giacomo Muzzi, and both upgraded the project, naming it the Posta Europea in 1842.
Sharing the ambitious outlook of his grandfather, Muhammad Ali Pasha, Khedive Ismail who was greatly concerned with modernizing Egypt, purchased the business from Muzzi on October 29th, 1864. The Egyptian government offered Muzzi the position of general manager of the post and on January 2nd, 1865, the private Posta Europea was transferred to the Egyptian government. This date is noted as Egypt’s national Post Day.
After the July 1952 revolution, a separate budget was allocated for the post, giving it the right to direct its surplus revenues toward improving and boosting the postal service.
At its beginning, Egypt Post was affiliated to the Ministry of Occupations, after which it was transferred to a number of ministries. But in 1999, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology was established to supervise the National Post Authority.
For more than 150 years, Egyptian mail has been able to keep up with international developments in order to expand the scope of its services. And in spite of the spread of the social media which has made it easier for people to deliver their messages in no time at all, people still cannot do without the postal service. In addition to its regular activity of transporting postcards, letters, and parcels, Egyptian Post sells stamps, steamboat tickets, debt and shares coupons, stamped papers, and telegraph and telephone services in return for fees. It also provides savings accounts and money transfer facilities.