Anwar Sadat, the firebrand revolutionary who rose to Egypt's presidency after the death of Gamal Abdel Nasser, brought Arabs and Israelis closer to peace than ever before, sharply divided the Arab world and, shaking off Moscow influence, forged a close, though informal, alliance with the United States.
Of peasant stock, and proud of what he calls 'village ethics,' Sadat showed an uncanny knack for well-timed, bold initiatives at numerous fateful stages of his rule.
But his pragmatism provoked anger in other Arab nations -- they called it expedience -- and inside Egypt itself, his popularity waned as Islamic fundamentalism increased. Sadat recently cracked down on dissidents -- political, religious and in the media.
His two most extraordinary acts as leader of the most powerful and populous Arab nation, were the decision to go to war against Israel in October 1973 and the sensational step of deciding to go to Jerusalem personally in search of peace in November 1977.
Sixteen months afterwards, in March 1979, the first peace treaty between Israel and any Arab state was signed. Sadat declared the Middle East was irrevocably headed toward peace and there could be no retreat.
The majority of Arab states and the Palestinians, some denouncing Sadat as a traitor, broke off diplomatic relations with Egypt, suspended economic aid to it and moved the Arab League headquarters from Cairo to Tunis.
Equally humane, and not less sensational, was Sadat's decision in March 1980 to give refuge to the late Shah of Iran, at a time when the world had turned its back on him and the self-styled 'king of kings' needed urgent surgery to remove a cancer-infected spleen.
The move provided Sadat's opponents, including the regime of Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran, with more grist for their anti-Sadat propaganda mill. But Sadat called them dwarfs with trembling knees, incapable of taking action and said his sheltering of the shah 'reflected the true face of Islam, a religion of love and tolerance.'
Sadat's Jerusalem visit sanctioned him as a master of 'shock diplomacy' and was variously compared to man's landing on the moon or Daniel in the lion's den.
The precedent-shattering trip kicked off round after round of peace negotiations in Cairo, Jerusalem and Europe as well as a summit between Sadat and Prime Minister Menachem Begin in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia on Christmas Day 1977.
But it was only in the seclusion of Camp David and with the direct intervention of Pesident Carter, that Sadat and Begin managed to work out a twin framework for peace, one Egyptian-Israeli, and the second dealing with the Palestinian problem, on Sept. 17, 1978.
The framework's failure to ensure total Israeli withdrawal from occupied Arab lands and resolve the Jerusalem question fueled the fury of Arab radicals. Five of the radical states had already broken off relations with Egypt following the Jerusalem visit. Even moderate Arabs expressed strong reservations.
Sadat repeatedly maintained that peace with Israel should be the first step toward an overall settlement, but the Palestinian issue of a homeland was never resolved.
The treaty, however, opened the way for the Israeli withdrawal from Sinai -- about two thirds of the desert were evacuated by Jan. 25, 1980 - and the establishment of normal relations between the two countries, including the exchange of ambassadors and the opening of the common border.
Moderate Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia, retaliated by breaking off diplomatic relations with Egypt and suspending economic aid to it. Sudan, Oman and Somalia were the only Arab states that maintained embassies in Cairo.
Sadat turned his attention afterward to a resolution of the Palestinian problem through an autonomy scheme for the 1.2 million Arabs who inhabit the occupied Jordan West Bank and Gaza Strip.
But Arabs condemned the scheme and the Palestinians refused to participate in the negotiations, because it fell short of their demand for independence.
Israel's policy of establishing settlements in the occupied lands and its annexation of East Jerusalem furher complicated the negotiations, forcing Sadat to suspend them repeatedly. A May 1980 deadline for reaching an autonomy agreement lapsed without tangible progress being made.
Peace with Israel made it possible for Sadat, who expelled more than 15,000 Soviet military advisers in 1972, to forge a close relationship with the United States.
America provided Egypt with 35 Phantom fighter-bombers and pledged about 40 more advanced F-16s as well as 300 M-60 battle tanks, and poured billions of dollars into the impoverished Egyptian economy.
Sadat offered the United States facilities at Egyptian ports and airfields to protect the region against Soviet expansion, and at least two joint exercises were held by the Egyptian and American air forces.
It was Sadat also who rushed to get America off the hook when Ayatollha Khomeini's regime took hostages and demanded the shah's extradition to Iran.
Sadat offered the Shah shelter and the Pahlavi family came to Egypt in March 1980 and after the Shah died in July 1980. Sadat gave him a state funeral worthy of kings. The Shah's family, including his son Reza, the pretender to the peacock throne, continued to reside in Cairo.
Besides the trip to Jerusalem, which was his most outstanding political move, Sadat's other three thrusts were aimed at the Soviet Union or left-wing critics at home.
In May 1971, he suddenly cracked down on political opponents, many of them extreme leftists, who made the mistake of belittling him and then maneuvered to unseat him.
Then in July 1972, Sadat suddenly expelled about 15,000 Soviet military personnel from Egypt, and four years later, angry because the Kremlin refused to supply promised weapons and reschedule debts, Sadat abrogated the Soviet-Egyptian Friendship and Cooperation Treaty.
Sadat's relations with the Soviet Union later deteriorated even further as he blamed 'communists' backed by the Kremlin and Libya for inspiring the disturbances.
At the same time, tension between Sadat and Libyan strongman Moammar Khadafy rose sharply, culminating in a six-day border battle in July 1977 when the Egyptian president vowed to teach Khadafy 'a lesson he'll never forget.'
Sadat took power in in September 1970 after Nasser's death, but few diplomats took him or his warnings of war seriously. His critics poked fun at him when he called 1971 the 'year of decision' in the Arab-Israeli conflict and then failed to make it so.
He explained it was the 'international fog' caused by the Indo-Pakistani war of December 1971 that had prevented him from taking a war decision, and soon jokes about fog became rampant -- only to be dispelled when his forces brilliantly crossed the Suez Canal and attacked Israel in the Yom Kippur War.
Sadat was born Mohammed Anwar Sadat Dec. 25, 1918, in the Nile delta village of Abul Kom. His father was a civilian clerk with the Egyptian army, His mother a Sudanese.
Sadat's father moved to Cairo while he was still young, and the young Sadat enrolled as a cadet at the military academy at Abbassiya. One of his classmates was Gamal Abdel Nasser.
'We were young men full of hope,' Sadat wrote later. 'We were ... united in common detestation of the existing order of things. Egypt was a sick country.'
But after World War II, Sadat was cashiered from the army for plotting with the Nazis in World War II and later jailed for two years for anti-colonialist activity.
In the 1950s, he was a member of a secret society of young militants led by Nasser nine 'free officers' that led the coup, forcing King Farouk to abdicate July 22, 1952.
Sadat and his men had occupied the Cairo broadcasting station during the coup, and at dawn the future president, reading the first military communique in polished and articulate Arabic, informed the people of the ouster of Farouk.
For the next 18 years, Sadat was a loyal second fiddle to Nasser.
Nasser died Sept. 28, 1970, after suffering a heart attack and Sadat, then vice president, became interim president for 17 days until a national referendum elected him to the highest post by a 90 percent vote.
Sadat lacked Nasser's charisma, but he eased the government reins at home and quietly reduced the country's ambition for United Arab World leadership.
In one pledge he never faltered: Israel must return all lands captured since the June 1967 war and restore the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people.
Americans were captivated with Sadat, who called Henry Kissinger, 'my friend.' After the cease-fire ending the Middle East and world leaders practically everywhere began to listen to Anwar Sadat.
President Richard Nixon came in 1974, and Kissinger almost always began and ended his Middle East diplomatic shuttles in Egypt.