"as in Africa he had had to put on a burnous and sit in a Mosque"

 Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798 in order to prevent Great Britain from having access to India, and to protect France's own trade links in the region. Although his battles on land were successful, the advances made by the French army were undermined by defeats at sea to the British navy under Admiral Nelson. Although the French were eventually forced to withdraw, Napoleon's abilities as a general helped secure his rise to power upon his return to France.

Inspired by Alexander the Great before him, Napoleon made an effort to appeal to Egyptian culture and expectations. On the anniversary of the Prophet Mohammed's birthday in 1798, and having warned his army to respect Egypt's religion and customs, Napoleon dressed in a turban and kaftan to celebrate the festival, organising military parades and praising Mohammed. Yet the Egyptians were unconvinced as to his sincerity and revolted against French rule.

 The French invasion of Egypt led directly to the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, and from there to the deciphering of hieroglyphics. The stone was discovered in Rashid (Rosetta) when the French army passed through. After the British expelled Napoleon from Egypt the stone passed to the British army, and then on to the British Museum in London, where attempts were made to decipher it. However the French scholar Jean-François Champollion, working with a copy of the Rosetta Stone, was the first to make sense of the hieroglyphics, publishing his findings in 1822.