In June 1959, Emperor Haile Sellassie of Ethiopia paid a visit to President Gamel Abdel Nasser of the United Arab Republic, during which the two leaders aired matters of acute strategic importance. Several issues, some touching the very heart of ancient Ethiopian–Egyptian relations, were in the stages of culmination. These included a bitter dispute over the Nile waters (some four-fifths of the water reaching Egypt originates in Ethiopia1), the emergence of an Arab-inspired Eritrean movement, Egyptian support of Somali irredentism, the Ethiopian alliance with Israel, the future of Pan-African diplomacy, and Soviet and American influences.2 Both leaders did their best to publicly ignore their conflicts. They were able to use a rich, though polarized, reservoir of mutual images in their speeches to emphasize the dimensions of old neighborliness and affinity.3 In a joint announcement issued during the farewell party of 28 June, they even underlined a common policy of non-alignment. Though they hinted at the issues mentioned earlier in all their public speeches, they refrained from referring to one culminating historical drama.4 On that very same day, in the main Coptic church of Cairo, the Egyptian Coptic Patriarch Kyrillos VI had ceremonially appointed the head of the Ethiopian church, Abuna Baselyos, as a patriarch in the presence of Haile Sellassie and Egyptian officials. In so doing, he declared the Orthodox Ethiopian church autocephalous, and for the first time since the early 4th century, the Ethiopian church had become independent of the Egyptian church.