But I do have some postcards, courtesy of decades of world travel by my 20th century ancestors.
Here are three old, black-and-white postcards featuring various scenes from Cairo -- Egypt's largest city:
"Cairo - Interior of the Mosque Mohamed Ali"
The generally accepted English spelling of this place is now Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha. (It's also known as the Alabaster Mosque.) It was commissioned by Muhammad Ali Pasha al-Mas'ud ibn Agha1 and was constructed between 1830 and 1848. Situated on a summit, it is one of the most visible buildings in Cairo, and can be easily seen as one approaches the city.
This Wikipedia image of the mosque's interior, shot in 2006, was taken from an angle similiar to the one in the postcard and shows that little has changed inside the mosque throughout the decades.
None of today's postcards are dated or were sent through the mail. Other than the cursive script on the front, this one has the following text on the back:
Publ. & Copyright, Lehnert & Landrock, Cairo
Lehnert & Landrock is still around. It's a famous and prestigious bookshop and art gallery in Cairo. Its extensive website contains biographies of Rudolf Lehnert and Ernst Landrock.
"Cairo - General View"
This is another Lehnert & Landrock postcard.
I have no idea what corner of the city this is, or what that location looks like today.
Church of St. George
I might have been out of luck on identifying this postcard if a relative hadn't scrawled something on the back, because the only markings are some odd etchings on the front of the card (more on that in a moment) and the single word "FORTE" on the back of the card.
But someone, either my grandmother or great-grandmother, wrote the following in ink on the back of the card:
"Coptic Church (Christian)So that would make this a postcard from the Church of St. George, a Greek Orthodox church in Coptic Cairo. The original church building dated to the 10th century, but was destroyed by a fire. The church shown in this photo dates to 1904. There is also the Monastery of St. George, which is next door to the church.
Oldest Church in Cairo
St. Georges Church
Here are some sites where you can read more about the Church of St. George and Coptic Cairo:
- Church of St. George, Cairo, on Sacred Destinations
- "The Monastery and Church of St. George in Old Cairo," an article by Jimmy Dunn on Tour Egypt
- "Old Cairo," an article by Su Bayfield on Egyptian Monuments
To me, the four letters at the top look like BADG.
It's not clear what's written underneath. But, with a little imagination, you can perhaps see the C, A and O of the word "Cairo." Thoughts?
1. Muhammad Ali Pasha al-Mas'ud ibn Agha (1769-1849), who is regarded as the founder of modern Egypt, is buried in a tomb in the courtyard of this mosque.