Glamorous Cairo of the 1920s. Visual references, please?
October 15, 2013 6:02 PM   Subscribe

Help! I need to know what high society Cairo looks like in the 1920s - the sophisticated, opulent, and fashionable - people and settings. More parties and interiors than architecture. It's really important that the references be of Egyptian people, not travelers visiting from abroad bringing their own style with them. But, if it was fashionable for the well-heeled to import furniture and clothing styles from Europe, that's important too. What does a party look like, and how would it differ from a party set in Paris or London? The things that are different are the things that are important. My best resource so far is the Egyptian Royalty pool on Flickr. That and Indiana Jones is all I've got. It's for a painting. Thanks!
posted by Lou Stuells to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Mainly exteriors here. The site has a lot of Cairo history.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:49 PM on October 15, 2013

I had a little success with Google Images searches for 'site:eg 1924', 'site:eg 1925', etc. For example, here's a page with a tiny picture of "Unveiled Egyptian women at fund-raising party in the early 1920s." It's slightly past the 20s, but this may be helpful too: 18 minutes of film footage of Alexandria and Cairo in 1930.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 8:12 PM on October 15, 2013

From what I've read, '20's Egypt was still very British, even people who were ethnically Egyptian of the higher classes would have been very heavily influenced by British fashion and social mores, but it really depends on the specific people if they would dress in traditional clothing (which was much the same for hundreds or thousands of years) or if they would have adopted western clothing. Wealthier people would have more interaction with Westerners, and be more influenced by them. Obviously, decor and furniture would be more Egyptian, with Western touches, but clothing would be mainly British. There is lots of fiction set in imperial Egypt for reference. Shepheard's Hotel was a fashionable location.
posted by catatethebird at 9:28 PM on October 15, 2013

This page from the library of Alexandria has many photos, although the site is in Arabic and difficult to navigate. Since it's not letting me provide a direct link to the most relevant album I saw, here are directions: In the right-hand menu of this page, under حكام, you can click the little المزيد next to the two arrows, then click on الملك أحمد فؤاد الأول (١١٠٢). Rows of images will appear. At the top, click the left-hand arrow to go to the next page, then the top row (علي باشا إبراهيم (٤٣)) has photos from some fancy parties and official celebrations held in the 1920s. You can zoom in on the photos by clicking the magnifying glass.

You can also try the L'Egypte d'Antan website, which collects a bunch of old photos, though unfortunately not very large or high-quality. There's also the Zamaaan blog, which has old family photos from across the region. The Antika Facebook page has tons of old photos, though a lot of the album titles are in Arabic, and many are of old movie stars, singers, etc., not the exact kind of thing you're looking for.

I found a couple of Egyptian movies that show fancy parties set in that general era, though not the 1920s exactly. The links go to those specific scenes.

Leila, set around 1897
Cairo 30, set in 1933 - though the movie was made in the 60s, and it looks to me like the makeup/hairstyles depicted are influenced by that time
posted by LNM at 9:58 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

Shepheard's Hotel in Cairo was the place to go in the 1920s. You could look there for pics, like these.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:36 AM on October 16, 2013

> Cairo 30, set in 1933 - though the movie was made in the 60s, and it looks to me like the makeup/hairstyles depicted are influenced by that time

Yeah, I wouldn't take any movie made decades later as a reference—there's just no telling what they got wrong out of ignorance, indifference, or just wanting to do things differently. But those websites are great!
posted by languagehat at 6:55 AM on October 16, 2013

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