Mohammed Thabit: Egyptian Traveller

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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, each time, he published an account of his trip for the benefit of the Egyptian people and the rising generation of a new country. He also illustrated his books with many photos.

He went around Australia and New Zealand:

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He visited Fiji:

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And India:

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He went to America:

To Africa:IMG_5610IMG_5609

He always went around the Middle East:

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As well as pictures there are also descriptions. His words are, unfortunately, sometime a little bit dull. He describes the history, cities, animals and foods of the places he visits in great detail. But he is a little light on personal reflection and meetings with people.

There are a few snippets to pick out, though. He talks about the people’s entertainment in Iran and the musicians in Iran who, he says, play a songs that remind him of the music of the Upper Egyptian Fellahin.

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The story he tells in most detail about himself, though, comes from South Africa. He arrives on the boat at Cape Town and is told that refugees could not stay in South Africa. He says that he is not a refugee but a tourist and that he works for the Egyptian government. The officials tell him that they do not like Egyptians and that he can stay on the ship or he can wait for the next one back East. If he waits for the one going back, though, he would have to stay in a refugee camp. Not particularly wanting to go to England, he stays in the camp (/prison) in South Africa where he is treated very badly.

He departs South Africa with a very bad impression of the country. When he finally returns to Egypt he asks a man he knows in the British embassy, who tells him that the South Africans consider Egyptians “coloured” and so inferior.

He says: “It’s amazing that we are silent and do not demand an end to this disgrace, or at least respond in kind and ban their citizens from entering our country in the same way they do with us… But no, let us just feel proud that we are generous to our guests, even if they restrict us and refuse to recognise our rights.”

By the end of his career he had published 6 books of travels.

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