Sunday, January 29, 2012

Three old postcards from Cairo

I haven't written much about the Middle East. (As you might imagine, my ephemera bins are not overflowing with old magazines from Lebanon, receipts from Syria or clipped recipes from Iraq.)

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)
Oldest Church in Cairo
St. Georges Church
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.

Here are some sites where you can read more about the Church of St. George and Coptic Cairo:
But what about those etchings on the left side of the postcard? A closer look:

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.


  1. hello,
    The view taking for the historic city is taken from its eastern side, you can see in the back the two minarets of bab Zuwaila, and the mosque in the front with the two domes is Um al-Sultan Shaaban mosque

  2. hallo
    can u sacn the photo on a higher resolution
    the church is either one of 2 churches
    st sergius in coptic cairo
    or the hanging church still in cptic cairo
    i would tellfrom the crowns of the columns
    sio it willbe better to sacn it on a higher resolution

  3. Wow, these old postcards from Cairo are truly fascinating! It's incredible to think that the interior of the Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha has remained virtually unchanged over the decades. The cursive script on the front of the postcard adds a touch of elegance, making me imagine what it would have been like to walk through its grand halls. The etchings on the postcard pique my curiosity, and though it's difficult to decipher, I can definitely see the letters "C," "A," and "O," which further enhances the mystique of this captivating city.