In his gripping memoirs, Karim Thabet — special media advisor to King Farouk — claims that the first Arab summit in modern history was the product of casual talk between him and the king of Egypt.
It took place in the resorts of Inshas, approximately 60 kilometres east of Cairo, on 28-29 May 1946.
The Arab League was barely a year old, and Farouk wanted Inshas to build upon a very successful meeting that he had just wrapped up with King Abdul-Aziz Al Saud near Radwa Mount in January 1945.
The two leaders had decided to defend Palestine and create a united front that could ward off European dictates in the Arab world, and ambitions of the Hashemite royal family, then ruling both Iraq and Jordan.
That of course did not deter King Farouk from extending an invitation to the king of Jordan and regent of Iraq, Emir Abdul-Illah, given that the monarch was still a child. Both they and the rest of the Arab leaders were invited as founding members of the League of Arab States.
King Abdul-Aziz apologised for health reasons, sending his son Emir Saud in his stead, while Syria and Lebanon were represented by their recently elected presidents. Just one month prior to the Inshas Summit, Syria had declared its independence from the French Mandate.
King Farouk waited on the tarmac to receive his Arab guests, dressed in royal attire. Lebanon’s president, Bechara El Khoury, was supposed to land just minutes before his Syrian counterpart, Shukri al-Quwatli.
A technical delay with the Lebanese plane led to the landing of the Syrian one first.
Farouk affectionately grabbed al-Quwatli by the arm and said: “Stand here and let’s welcome Sheikh Bechara together.”
When El Khoury got off the plane, he saw the king of Egypt and the president of Syria waiting for him at the red carpet.
Farouk joked: “This delay was no accident. It seems that Lebanon wanted to see both Syria and Egypt to be present at its welcome.”
El Khoury smiled politely, but al-Quwatli did not appreciate the joke. He turned to the king and said: “There is no difference between Syria and Lebanon, Your Majesty. If Lebanon prospers then so do we. If they fall, we fall.”
That was the mood at the first Arab Summit in Inshas, 77 years ago.
Since then, much has changed, both within the family of Arab nations and the world at large.
Here is a breakdown of Arab summits since 1945: where they succeeded and where they went horribly wrong.
Beirut Summit (14 November 1956)
Called for in emergency mode to address the Tripartite Aggression on Egypt after the 1956 nationalisation of the Suez Canal, this summit was skipped by President Gamal Abdul Nasser, who was busy in Cairo fighting off the British, French, and Israeli armies.
Four years earlier, Nasser and his colleagues had toppled King Farouk, the man who had initiated both the Arab League and its summits.