Scotsabroad's Weblog

June 9, 2008

Champagne Glass Stories

Filed under: Cairo — scotsabroad @ 2:29 pm



 We ventured back Downtown at the weekend looking for the Shaar HaShamayim Synagogue and wanting to visit one of the last belle epoque department stores named Sednaoui. The synagogue’s edifice is described ‘like something out of a Cecil B. de Mille movie’ in the Rough Guide. Needless to say we were the only visitors to the synagogue and the atmosphere did not encourage you to stay.  It is heavily guarded and we needed to hand over our passports to gain entry. These were not returned to us until the end, having had our details recorded in some ledger by the policemen on duty, and we wonder if our interest in wanting to visit the synagogue will have any consequences! No photography was allowed which was a pity. I wanted to try and capture the very beautiful doors and the carved palm trees that are unique symbols of Egyptian Jewry. The building itself is only used for services twice a year.

We then headed for the Ezbekiya Gardens and a look at the derelict Continental-Savoy Hotel. The gardens were planted in the 1870s by the former chief gardener of Paris. It was once a 20 acre park but has now been reduced to a few flowerbeds, a dilapidated bandstand and some old banyan trees clinging on for dear life. The city has invaded on all sides. The Savoy was brilliant but again I was not allowed to photograph the interior. I especially wanted a picture of the reception area where the counters were thick with dust. You could imagine the rich and famous checking in, porters fussing over guests and a few glasses of champagne being drunk.

We visited Garden Groppi’s spacious patio for refreshments and then it was off to look for the department store. I had read that the store had magnificent sculpture. A ceiling is suspended above the arms of a scantily clad Atlas that had been dignified  in later years. I don’t know for certain because I read the map wrong and we ended up looking on the wrong street and for the wrong place, a shop called Senouhi. With help we were shown into an apartment building and a very old lift, escorted to the 5th floor and to a door with a sign that read Senouhi. This did not feel like the entrance to a vintage John Lewis. We tried the door and it was locked. Back in the lift, we thought, and freedom. No. Our escort knocked on the door for us and a man quickly answered. We apologised about intruding and my inept following of our Rough Guide but were ushered in to what turned out to be a wee Aladdin’s Cave of antiques, fine arts and crafts run by a very eccentric old lady of European origin. It was basically her flat with the front two rooms turned into a shop. She had been operating for 50 years and had some wonderful objects and stories to tell. Shona noticed some ice cream dishes in a case that turned out to be champagne glasses. She selected the one above. I wonder what stories it could tell. Did it come from the Savoy across the road? Had they once been bought from Sednaoui? A very beautiful object for 40LE. I would very much like to have had the money to buy a few of the original paintings cluttering out her shop. We never made it to the department store but we were very content to have had this wee shopping experience. Cheers Cairo.

Apologies for causing any anxiety by not updating the blog for a while or speaking to you on Skype. Our connection was suspended due to using up our download allocation. Too many episodes of Robin Hood and Life on Mars watched last month. We wanted to say how much we enjoyed the visit to Cairo of Shona’s cousin Dawn and her lovely mum while on holiday from Nairn. About a fortnight ago we met and went out for a meal to Barry’s. It was great to hear all about their positive experiences travelling around Egypt and they are welcome back anytime. Last weekend was taken up with me escorting a few bus loads of children up to Alexandria for a cricket festival. It is now hot and we are all drinking a lot.




  1. We’re looking fwd to seeing you and joining you on some of your trips around the city. It sounds great. And with Green and Black’s chocolate melting in our pockets.

    Comment by Alistair — June 11, 2008 @ 11:11 am | Reply

  2. Lo.vely story and beautifully written

    Comment by linda — June 14, 2008 @ 3:16 pm | Reply

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