“The harmonium was kindly played by Mrs Smith”

A few years ago I picked up unusual and almost unique set of volumes. It was a more-or-less full run of “Sudan Church Notes” from 1907-1914. ┬áIt was a monthly publication designed to inform people about the activities of the Anglican Church in Sudan. ┬áNeedless to say this was a specialist interest journal and not…

A Soviet Geography of 1950s Cairo

In 1956, the theatre critic Mohammed Mandur went on a cultural mission to Romania with several other Egyptian writers. Expecting to find an iron curtain and secret police everywhere he was pleasantly surprised to see a thriving state and welcoming people. In so far as their struggles were the same: against the old colonial powers,…

The Flower of the East

I have recently got back from a trip to Cairo, during which I picked up a few curious publications. One of them is this edition of Zahrat al-Sharq (The Flower of the East). On the cover are “Four soldiers who represent the Indian forces who have joined the forces of the Empire in the war…

The Affliction of Young and Old: Drinking and Playing Dice

In 1911 Youssef al-Khouri Boutros Yazbek had a problem and that problem was vice. He was so worried about it that he decided to write and publish a play, which he called “The Afflication of Young and Old: Drinking and Playing Dice”. In his introduction he explains his motivations. “I have been thinking about our…