Recreating the Exposition du Caire: 1892

In 1891 four artists in Cairo got together to put on the first Art Exhibition in Cairo. The French Paul Philippoteaux, the Greek Theodore Ralli,  the English Felix Moscheles (also a pioneer of Esperanto) and the Russian Mr. Bogdanoff formed a committee and invited artists who were resident in Cairo or just travelling through to…

The Adventures of Mrs Charles: The Lover of Heliopolis

In 1919 Mrs Ruby Dora Charles went through the legals proceedings the British Consular Court in Cairo to divorce her husband. There is a file in the National Archives at Kew which holds a record of the evidence brought in the court-case. The file contains the story of a woman who, from 1917 to 1919…

Turn of the Century Arabic Romance Novels

  Recently, I have been looking at quite a lot at the early 20th century Arabic cultural production in New York. I recently translated a very short speculative-fiction story that satirises the prohibition movement in America. It first appeared in a New York based magazine called al-Akhlaq. About a month ago I came across a…

“A Damned Nuisance”: The Necessity of Colonial Guilt

In September of this year Bruce Gilley published an article called “The Case for Colonialism” in the Third World Quarterly. Soon, an argument that was previously confined to the pages of The Spectator or Niall Ferguson’s latest book was again, apparently, a topic for debate. Nigel Biggar published an article in The Times saying people should stop…

Pictures of Tutankhamun

This winter, Christina Riggs is curating an exhibition of Photographs of the excavation of Tutankhamun’s tomb in Lincoln. It goes along with her book, Photographing Tutankhamun (coming out next year) and her blog of the same name. The colonial dynamics of the time were played out through the excavation. The boy king was discovered in 1922,…

African Literature in African Languages

Leiden library has recently been selling a collection of books for 1 Euro each. I was passing through recently and managed to pick up a few. The majority of them seem to come from the collection of the scholar of African linguistics K.F. de Blois. Among several grammars, dictionaries and journals of African languages, he…

Yes, Ladies! The Man is a Cad…

  Maurice el-Milick was born in Tunis in 1899 to the lawyer Albert El-Milick. At some point in the 20th century they moved to Egypt and Maurice got a job as a Maths Professor. Throughout his twenties he published prolifically both works of mathematics and of literature. He even seems to have written a scientific…

1917: Lenin and the Russian Revolution, Third World Style.

In 1968, in Cairo, a new journal started. It was called Afro-Asian Writings and was designed to be a continuation of the Afro-Asian Writers conferences that had been held every few years since the first one in Tashkent in 1958. Its headquarters were at 104 Qasr al-Aini Street in Cairo (Nida Ghouse has written a…

Boycotting Elections: 1931-style

A new constitution was ratified in Egypt in 1930 that put most of the power in the hands of the King. It was Ismail Sidqi of the “People’s [al-Shaab] Party”, the palace ally, who most supported and benefited from this constitution. His rival Wafd and Liberal Constitutionalist parties, who had done rather well out of the parliamentary politics…

A Pub Crawl in Ottoman Cairo

OUP have just published Joseph Ben Prestel’s book Emotional Cities, which compares Berlin and Cairo 1860-1910. In it, there is a chapter that details Egyptian worries about the corrupting power of the new Ezbekiyya district, with its bars, music halls and theatres. People worried that all this entertainment was leading people astray and seriously affecting the rationality…

An Egyptian in Ireland in 1920: Liberation and Censorship

1919-20 was a eventful time in Ireland’s ongoing independence struggle. For a young Egyptian called Ibrahim Rashad, whose own country was also fighting for independence from the British, it was an amazing time to be there. His memories are collected in a curious book, which he privately published with the help of the poet Susan…

1930s Egypt and the War on Drugs

A few years ago I remember looking through the Egyptian Drug Smuggling files in the British National archives. They were full of zany schemes to get drugs across the border and dubious kingpins. One of the most memorable plan was the attempt to smuggle walnuts full of Hashish from Istanbul, just because it seemed such…