Scotsabroad's Weblog

April 21, 2009

Post Nasser’s Car

Filed under: Cairo — scotsabroad @ 7:19 pm

nasserscadi

Although extremely fond of our 1981 Mercedes, I would have no hesitation trading it in for this 1957 American Classic Cadillac. It hangs from the ceiling in Cairo’s Hard Rock Cafe but the car was not owned by the likes of Elvis or Rod Stewart. A former owner was none other than President Nasser. If Nasser’s ghost sometimes returns to sit at the wheel, behind the car’s blacked-out windows, his view of modern day Cairo might not be what he had in mind when he tried to construct a socialist-orientated  Egypt.

Being on holiday, and a weekday, we ventured downtown today to try, once more, to visit the Post Office Museum. The Museum is housed in the Central Post Office off Midan al-Ataba. To buy a ticket we had to enter the main post office and pay for them at the commemorative stamp counter. We then had to exit the main post office and enter the museum through another door marked, ‘L’Organisme Nationale des Postes.’ On the second floor, having climbed a wonderful stairway, is the museum. Lesley Lababidi gushes about this museum so we were all just a little bit disappointed with the experience. Initially it looks as if it will be another hidden treasure, like the Railway Museum, but it did not have the same charm and high interest exhibits. Some things did get our attention: the stuffed pigeon and a map detailing how they were used to communicate between cities and countries during the Mamluk period. We had just seen evidence of this last week in Taba. There were also some lovely models and an amazing collage picture made up entirely from various post-marked stamps. You can just make out what the stamps represent.

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While heading for lunch we came across one of the wonderful belle epoque department stores in the vicinity of Midan Ataba. We went looking for this last year but ended up somewhere else buying an antique champagne glass. Sednaoui is still operating as a single grand store, although sadly a shadow of it’s former self. We went inside to see a magnificent building, all glass chandeliers, brass lifts, a spectacular glass ceiling and dust. This must have been the equivalent of Jenners but it now looks very Soviet Russia. The boys bought a very cheap rug from a large selection of seconds piled on the ground. This could only be Cairo. The streets were busy and vibrant today in the heat and it felt good to be back. We made our way out of town on the metro.

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This is the coloured glass ceiling up close.

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From his Cadillac Nasser would surely still recognise a lot of this incredible city and feel it’s heart beating. Cairo is not living in the past, it is not a themed venue, nor is it a museum. The American University in Cairo’s Practical Guide’s preface has a wonderful paragraph, Cairo’s magic contradictions – its minarets and Malboro signs, its vastnessand surprising intimicy, the dust of its past and the cacophony of its present – can be best savoured step-by-step. Certainly more enjoyable than trying to drive through it.

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1 Comment »

  1. We thoroughly enjoyed reading of your latest wanderings through Cairo. You should sometime bring them all together in an up-to-date guide. By the way Jenners, now under the House of Fraser, is also on the way down
    Marion and Alistair

    Comment by Marion and Alistair — April 26, 2009 @ 6:32 pm | Reply


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