Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Alexandria, 50 years ago

Foreign Policy magazine is, for the most part, little more than a conservative propaganda organ. But every now and then, they do publish something well worth looking at.

Such a gem is the new photo essay Once Upon A Time In Egypt, which consists of a few paragraphs of background and nine black and white photographs, taken in Alexandria in 1959.

To quote directly -
The late 1950s marked the end of an era in Alexandria that had begun in the late 19th century, when the port -- then the largest on the eastern Mediterranean -- emerged as one of the world's great cosmopolitan cities. Europeans -- Greeks, Italians, Armenians, and Germans -- had gravitated to Alexandria in the mid-19th century during the boom years of the Suez Canal's construction, staying through the British invasion of the port in 1882 and the permissive rule of King Farouk in the 1930s and 1940s. Foreign visitors and Egyptians alike flocked to the city's beaches in the summers, where revealing bathing suits were as ordinary as they would be extraordinary today.

The photographs are like something out of a time machine. The women seem a bit chubby by the standards of today, when the starving refugee look is all the rage, and the swimsuits are very tame, although they were daring at the time.

But remember this is Egypt. The Egypt that was.

And if you read to the end of the introduction, you'll learn that the girl on the far left of the first photograph, Odette Tawil, would 40 years later marry Elie Moreno, the man who took these photographs. Is life not strange?

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