Mohammed Thabit: Egyptian Traveller

Around the 1930s in Egypt an secondary school teacher in the government school-system made it his mission to travel the world and write about it. His name was Mohammed Thabit and every summer holiday he went on a new trip. Eventually he had been to every continent in the world (except Antarctica). After he return,…

The Modern Black History of Berlin

A few years ago in Word Power books in Edinburgh (now Lighthouse Books), I picked up a full run of 5 issues of the Berlin-based “Journal of Letters and Arts in Africa and the Diaspora”, Isivivane. It is named after the Zulu word for a “pyramid-shaped heap of rough stones and earth”: As this mission statement…

Entomological Society of Egypt

I have spent a lot of time in Cairo looking for old museums to visit: Agricultural, Postal, Medical, Ethnographic, etc. However, one that has always eluded me is the Entomological museum, housed in this building on Ramses Street, near the Gamal Abdel Nasser Metro station. I have been inside the building a few times but…

1952-1962 Ten Years of Broadcasting in Egypt

On 23rd July 1962, the 10th anniversary of the 1952 revolution, the Egyptian State Broadcaster published a history of the Radio and Television under Nasser. It is an official publication and one that unquestionably presents an idealised (/propagandised) version of period. Because of this, it is a fascinating document of what the aims on Nasserist…

All Female Theatre Troupes in 1910s Cairo

On 22nd April 1910 in Cairo, 6 women came together for an unprecedented performance at the Egyptian Theatre: an all-female performance of a play called “The Passion of Kings” (Gharam al-Muluk). On 4th May a critic in the newspaper al-Mahrusa wrote a long note on the event, describing his reaction. Reading through Ramses Awad’s 1979 book…

Eric de Nemès: a Hungarian Illustrator in Cairo

I first came across Eric de Nemes as a bit part player in the Egyptian Surrealist movement in the 1940s through Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath’s exhibition on the Art and Freedom Group( I got this photo from the catalogue). Nemes, they said, was the group’s most prolific book illustrator, though little was known about…

Archives of a Cairo Policeman: Bimbashi McPherson

I have been away for a while so not able to update the blog. I have more substantial things coming up but right now I am going to take the chance to tell everyone about an amazing archive I just consulted in the Bristol Records Office. It belongs to a man called J.W. McPherson. He…

The First Mediterranean Games

I don’t know about you but I had never heard of the Mediterranean Games. That was until I found the official booklet for the first ever Games held in Alexandria in October 1951. The games was apparently first proposed by the Egyptian, Mohammed Taher Pasha, who later became assistant president of the I.O.C and was…

American Missionaries in Egypt: Bamba and the Maharajah

The subject of Missionaries in the 19th century Arab world has a habit of coming back to me again and again. I have already written a blog on some copies of the journals of the Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews. In a Boston bookshop, I recently came across a copy of a history…

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…