Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt, the reformist ideas of rulers such as Muhammad Ali and reforms in the Ottoman Empire, known as Tanzimat (culminating in the promulgation of a constitution in 1876), sent a shock through Arab intellectual and political circles. The movement is known as the Arabic renaissance or al-Nahda. It arose in Egypt, and spread to Beirut and to a lesser extent Damascus (see Arab revival), and laid the foundations for Arab nationalism, that would emerge shortly before and during World War I.
Palestinian intellectuals were influenced by Cairo through Islamic scholars such as Muhammad Rashid Rida and Muhammad Abduh, who sought to combine the Islamic belief with the existing political realities in the Middle East, including Western influences. Of great importance for the spread of the movement was the birth of an Arab printed press. Between 1875 and 1900, in Beirut alone about 40 periodicals and 15 newspapers were founded.