Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘nationalized Suez Canal


23 Vintage Photos of Egypt’s Golden Years

Egypt cinema in the 1900s was the third largest in the world, Cairo was a city that foreigners dreamt of spending their holidays exploring.

Egyptian music flourished and shook the world, Jews, Muslims and Christians lived together as neighbors, and women had freedoms that were unheard of in many other countries.

Egypt was a place of liberal spirits, unhampered by sectarian and ethnic prejudices.

The rights of men, women and children were championed.

A woman reading a magazine in the 1950s

All that has changed.

Often Egyptians may forget the Egypt that used to be. Here are 23 photographs of vintage advertisements and other images that will teleport you to Egypt’s ‘golden years’ and show you an Egypt you may have forgotten ever existed.

(These photographs are available thanks to ’Vintage Egypt. Click here for more)

1. “The Japanese do not respect women.”


This magazine cover of Egyptian actress Shadia in 1961 after a trip to Tokyo has her boldly declaring that Japan does not respect women. A lot has changed: in 2013, Egypt was ranked among the ‘worst places to be a woman.’

2. “Let’s just kiss and play”

An advertisement for children's toys at Omar Effendi, a popular department store, in 1948.

Kissing of any kind in Egypt is nowadays frowned upon. Once upon a time, ‘love’ was freely expressed on the silver screen. This is almost unheard of today.

3. Cairo or Rome?

A Vespa advertisement from 1950 showing the Cairo Citadel.

Women driving cars in Cairo face numerous problems today: not only is the traffic suffocating, but the cat-calls and the harassment that many endure while in the comfort of their cars has become a daily occurrence for many. Imagine a woman driving a Vespa (motor cycle) in the middle of Cairo.

4. Skirts, school and the open air


Recently, a young woman was harassed at Cairo University for wearing a pink sweater and black pants and not covering her long blonde hair. Yet, decades ago, skirts attracted little to no such harassment.

5. A Jewish department store…in Egypt?


Benzion department store was founded in Cairo by Moise Levy de Benzion, a Sephardic Jew who had lived in Egypt. Benzion’s legacy, however, ended while he was in Europe during World War II.

Benzion was captured and killed in a camp by the Nazis. Shortly after his death, the government ran the department store until it shut down several years later.

The idea of a Jewish department store in Egypt will likely surprise many: a few years ago Sainsbury’s was forced to shut down over rumours that the owner was Jewish spread like wildfire in Egypt.

6. “Let’s head to the beach…in speedos!”


Swimwear fashion has changed worldwide. Men and women in swimsuits enjoying the sand and the water at a public beach in 1964. You do not want to see what a public beach looks like these days.

7. BEER!


Alcohol advertisements are no longer in existence in Egypt today. Last year, alcohol was almost completely banned from the country by the now-removed Islamist government.

8. The man who united the Arabs


Gamal Abdel Nasser was hailed during his reign as the man who stood up against imperialism and the man behind the idea of ‘Pan-Arabism.’ He attempted to adopt a ‘socialist (Nasserist)’ economic policy in Egypt and attempted to unite the Arabs in a scheme similar to the European Union.

9. Are you sure this is Assiut?


These are groups of Egyptian women at a political rally in Assiut. Not a single woman was wearing the veil or a baggy dress, yet they were considered to have been dressed appropriately and were not attacked for their fashion.

10. The Egyptian Female Revolutionary

Egyptian women volunteer to bear arms in 1956

Egyptian women volunteered in 1956 to bear arms in resistance to a joint Israeli-French-British attack, after Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal in what became known as the 1956 Suez Crisis. Today, Egyptian women do not participate in the military (unless its in an administrative role).

11. Military propaganda existed in 1957 and it still exists today

1957 Military Propaganda

If you drive around Cairo today, you’ll find plenty of similar propaganda: soldiers holding children, a child with a flower, and many more.

12. Turning over the page to a bright future


This piece of propaganda shows a man with the Egyptian Eagle on his arm turning over the page to a bright future that hails “justice,” “democracy,” “elections,” and the “military”.

The previous page included feudalism, imperialism, and traditionalism. Did Egypt achieve democracy and elections? Well…

13. The Star of the East (of the Orient)


When Om Kalthoum (Um Kulthum) died in 1975, heartbreak erupted across Egypt, the Arab World and the globe. Decades after her death, she is still regarded as the greatest female Arabic singer in history.

14. The Cairo Swimsuit Competition


For a woman in Egypt to wear a swimsuit these days, she has to be at a private beach, a private pool, or at a private residence. Imagine what would happen if we re-introduced the Cairo Swimsuit Competition.

15. Who needs Coca-Cola when we have ‘Egypt Cola!’

Egyptian Cola Advertisement: 100% Egyptian

At some point in history, Egypt was not only producing cars and appliances, but also its own version of Coca-Cola.

16. Clearly, Coca-Cola won


‘Egypt Cola’ no longer exists: we now have Coca-Cola and Pepsi!

17. The First Arab Car


Like the Coca-Cola, Egypt also decided to produce automobiles (Ramsis). While the industry did not end up surviving, it does show the potential future economic capabilities of Egypt.

18. Who is our beauty queen?

A 1956 Beauty Competition

This is an interesting article. It proclaims “Seven Queens in the Republic!” We rarely hear of Miss Egypt these days. In 1954, Miss Egypt Antigone Costanda won the coveted Miss World title.

19. Soap, please?


Have you been to Tanta recently? If someone were to replicate this advertisement today, it would likely be torched.

20. This isn’t a desert: it’s Cairo


Cairo was not always a concrete jungle.

21. Vogue (Casino Palestine)

Vogue model Tatjana Patiz at a Cafe in Cairo in 1992

The early 1990′s were perhaps Egypt’s last few ‘good’ years before rapid economic and social deterioration. While this does not show much, it is an enjoyable photograph of a world-wide famous model, Tatjana Patitz, enjoying herself with some locals at a cafe.

22. The beacon of light

Cairo University in 1960

Education in Egypt in the mid 1900′s was considered to be among the best in the world, and especially in the Arab world. Queens, Kings, Princes and Princesses would all travel to Egypt for education.

23. Some things never change


If there is one thing that has not changed, it’s Egypt’s smoking culture. The biggest shift has been the move away from cigarettes and towards shisha (Houka)However, Egyptians are still known for their smoking habits decades after this advertisement.

BONUS: Is that a…camera?

A 1951 magazine page

(Many of these photographs are available thanks to ’Vintage Egypt.’ Click here to see more)

An entire century for Nothing: Nothing to show for in the Middle-East

Since 1918, after WWI, and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire and the partition of its territories, the Arab people developed high hopes for independence…Only to be subjugated by the western colonial mandated powers of France and England.

France and England had decided to split the Arab territories among them in 1916, way before the war ended in 1918,  France was to be mandated over Syria and Lebanon, and England over Iraq, Jordan, and Palestine. England was governing Egypt since 1988.

France dispatched troops, commanded by General Gouraud, to militarily crush in 1920 the first Syrian independent State under Faisal of Hijaz.  Syria defense minister Yussof Al Azmeh knew full well the imbalance between the two forces, but he decided to take a stand: “The worst shame is not to even try to confront aggression…”

Worse, England promised a Jewish State in Palestine in 1917, a document that the new Communist Bolshevik revolution divulged to the world. The US, the Soviet Union, France and England voted in 1947 to partition Palestine into two States: Jewish and Palestinians. Though the Palestinians represented 60% of the total population living in Palestine, they were offered only 40% of the land.  An unfair partition that they refused.

Israel imported weapons from the Soviet Union via Czechoslovakia and defeated the haphazard Arab armies in 1948. The armistice was to resolve and find a “definitive solution” to the Palestinian case.

After Israel was voted in as a Sate by the UN in 1948, Israel resumed the war and committed genocides to pressure the Palestinians to vacate their villages and conquered more lands.  Up to this date, 2012, Israel is still proceeding to transfer all Palestinians from all Palestine.

The 50 and 60’s witnessed a series of military coup d’etat in Syria and Iraq.

After Nasser of Egypt managed to nationalized the Suez Canal in 1956, he was viewed as the sole legitimate leader of the Arab States. Governments of Arab States flocked to Egypt to demand unity with Egypt under Abdel Nasser in order to stop the rapid successions of unstable rules, and have a legitimate President, by popular demand.  Nasser could unsettle any government by just taking the radio airwaves and dictating his wishes…

The north Yemeni government, visiting Nasser for discussion, was put in prison under the pretense that the Prime Minister Mohsen Al Aini was a Baathist. Nasser would not deal with political parties, within or outside in the Arab World.

After Nasser, the Arab States were ruled by dictators and absolute monarchs for many decades, such as Saddam Hussein, Hafez Assad, Qadhafi, Bourguiba of Tunisia, Algeria of Boumedyen, and Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Jordan absolute monarchies…

If you read the documents and Arab newspapers in the 20 and 30’s you realize how the Arab People and their intelligentsia were far literate, had comprehensive knowledge, read a lot and were far more aware of the dangers…than our current generation. There were plenty of political parties and they did discuss issues very extensively.

A century later, the discussions are rare, replaced by banners, posters, short sentences, slogans, no ideas developed and commented…

Each one of the successive 5 generations vowed that:

This generation will be different from the older obsolete generation. This generation will see to it that true independence from foreign powers and true self-autonomy will be accomplished. This generation will defeat Israel and return the Palestinian refugees in their State back to Palestine. This generation will establish democracy, freedom of expression, freedom of gathering…This generation will set the feet of Arabs on the Moon and compete technologically with the western nations…”

Every generation got more and more impatient, more edgy, more humiliated, and more inclined for military resolution to their problems…This time around, the war will settle the entire problem, once for all, only to be defeated in no time, and another round of military coup to replace the previous lousy one…

Every generation experienced worse kinds of indignities, subjugation  repressions, humiliation, and getting poorer and poorer, standard of living diminishing by generation, as the birth rate exploded, and the destitute searching for a loaf of bread before going to bed…

An entire century has gone in flame, a total waste, people in abject indignities, totally disoriented…

If the US thinks that the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers is an unfathomable terror, it must rethink its foreign policies in the Middle-East: A retribution for a buckled century is tearing at the heart and mind of the Arab people.

It had crossed the mind of Israel to attack the Twin Towers even in the 70’s, if the US failed to totally support their policies.  The idea of attacking the Twin Towers by commercial airplanes was not new. And the idea was disseminated to many groups, and the underground of World Trade Center was bombing in 1998.

The total impunity that Israel enjoys from its continuous apartheid system, and constantly covered by the US in the last 6 decades, is not a small matter to ignore and blame terrorism on radical obscurantist Moslems…

The Arab Spring uprising was targeting the little people around the world since the traditional western media refused to cover the real story in the Arab World, and preferred to wallow and sink deeper in the same frame of mind, of doubting the potential of the “Arabs” for progress, development, mass peaceful democratic movements…

Unless the international community demonstrates justice and fairness in dealing with the Arab people, “terror” attacks by radical jihadists will resume unabated  regardless of many times military drones are dispatched to decimate Al Qaeda leaders.

Note: Jean Lacouture in “A century for nothing” recounts his meeting with General Giap, the leader who defeated both the French and US forces in Viet Nam. Asking his opinion on the 9/11 attacks, Giap reflected for a while and said: “Interesting. The US is indeed vulnerable. Never crossed my mind…”

Attacking inside US territory never crossed the mind of Giap for good reasons: The people in North Viet Nam were united under one resistance national movement, had a homogeneous culture, they enjoyed the backing of another superpower the Soviet Unions, and they have already defeated the French armies, and were confident to beat the US invasion…

General Giap had all the necessary connections from many groups who high-jacked planes and conducted “terrorist attacks”, and the US of the 70’s was wide open to all immigrants and very lenient and welcoming...Giap could have transferred violent activities to inside the US, but it never crossed his mind…for good reasons.




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