Scotsabroad's Weblog

April 12, 2010

Arab Music Institute

Filed under: Cairo — scotsabroad @ 2:35 pm

The lads set off this morning wanting to visit the home of Saad Zaghoul but found it closed. We jumped back on the metro for a couple of more stops, to Nassar, hoping that we would find the Arab Music Institute open for visitors. It wasn’t, but the boys worked a superb charm offensive on the staff and the place was unlocked and illuminated. Walking in to the foyer was an experience. Once through the beautiful wooden doors you stand on a cool,  geometrically designed stone floor and look up at the green glass chandeliers and painted dome. Doors and passageways lead off in all directions. King Fuad built the place in 1923 to honor the music and musicians of the Middle East. It was neglected in the 70s and 80s but it has been beautifully restored. We are taken up a winding staircase to the Abd-Al Wahab Museum. A famous Egyptian composer and philosopher it seems. The main thing that makes man happy is to find love inside his house and respect outside it. The boys enjoyed the museum. We were hurried somewhat through the rooms by an ever-present key holder, but had time to look at various musical instruments used in the Orient and the Middle East and personal artefacts from Abd-Al Wahab’s life. A nice touch was having switches beside the instrument cases. When pressed, some music, using this instrument, was played. Bizarrely, there was even a set of bagpipes in a case but the music was a wee bit tame and muted. It did lead to a question from the guide, discovering that we were from Scotland, Do you know William Wallace? We don’t know Mel Gibson personally, was all I could say. In Abd-Al Wahab’s room we get a glimpse of what his home would have been like. Favourite ties,  a platinum disc from EMI, glasses,  a turquoise telephone, a desk and a clock. He died in the rocking chair next to his favourite piano. Lesley Lababidi says, his wife did not change the clock or  the calendar after his passing… twelve o’clock on May 3rd 1991. The clock was a few minutes slow. The Rough Guide describes as the man who composed the music for Egypt’s National anthem, ‘Biladi, Biladi’ and linked to the birth of the Egyptian film industry in the 1930s.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8Zj6zmtIZ8

Finally we are led downstairs as the doors are locked and lights switched off. That’s it we think. Not bad for 5LE. However, we are led to what looks like a backstage theatre area and are invited to walk out on to the stage of the music theatre. They can’t be bothered to put the lights on for us but we walk around the aisles, still able to see the opulence and imagine patrons, finely dressed, the smell of tobacco smoke, all enjoying a performance and sneaking a look at the royal boxes on either side of the stage, one for him and one for her. Then we are asked to leave. 

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