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In the House of Muhammad Ali

In the House of Muhammad Ali: A Family Album, 1805–1952

Hassan Hassan
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    In the House of Muhammad Ali
    Book Description:

    This remarkable memoir of a junior member of the former royal family constitutes a unique chronicle of life before 1952 among the members of Egypt’s ruling class. It provides fascinating insights into the lives not only of the rulers themselves, from Muhammad Ali to King Fuad and King Farouk, but also of royal wives, cousins, aunts, uncles, and associated personalities. In the House of Muhammad Ali is a personal memoir from the inside; it is thus an important document for future scholars. But the book will delight the general reader every bit as much as the historian. It is a charming and evocative account of a time and a social class that no longer exist, written in the author’s inimitable style—a style that reads almost like a conversation: "She emanated a gentle quietude which was like a screen between one and the exterior world. A dim sort of luminosity seemed to surround her, as if she lived in a gray, limbo world of her own—also conveyed perhaps by the fact that she had very poor and limited eyesight." Prince Hassan’s gift for characterization is matched by an extraordinary eye for detail. His descriptions of houses, palaces, and gardens—many of them no longer in existence—are at the same time precise and evocative. The book thus also makes an important contribution to the history of Cairene urban geography. But most valuable of all, perhaps, are the illustrations. Some seventy-five photographs, most of them never published before, have a poignancy that readily leads the viewer into the world they depict. The people in them are clearly defined, richly varied, and above all interesting. At least of equal value are the pictures of palaces, gardens, and riverfront that document aspects of Cairo that vanished long ago. The experience of reading this memoir is akin to discovering a lost generation.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-241-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    Elizabeth and Robert Fernea

    Hassan Aziz Hassan is a descendant of Muhammad Ali, the ruler who a hundred and fifty years ago attempted to bring Egypt out of its Ottoman past and into the modern world. Prince Hassan is also a painter of note, whose works are found in private art collections around the world. His painterly eye for detail and for shapes and images is evident in these memoirs of his youth, which begin in his early childhood and end in 1952, when he was twenty-eight years old. Hassan was our friend when we lived in Egypt during the 1960s. His intellect and...

  5. Preface
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  6. Prologue
    (pp. xix-xx)

    The First World War was the cause of my father’s exile from Egypt and his meeting my mother in Spain. An ardent nationalist, he was obliged by the British authorities, then occupying the country, to choose a foreign land as his home. He decided on Spain, a neutral country, where he was followed by quite a few other Egyptians who were also considered undesirable, among them the ‘Prince of Poets,’ Ahmed Shawqi. There he fell in love with my mother, a beautiful Spanish girl with black hair, big reddish-brown eyes, and a splendid complexion. She was endowed with a wonderfully...

  7. Chapter 1 Muhammad Ali 1769–1849
    (pp. 1-8)

    Passions, theories, reasons all pop up like Jacks-in-a-Box as soon as someone steps out of a teeming crowd to make his own way in life and, eventually, if powerful enough, to condition the lives of others too. When it is on a scale that upsets the already dealt hand of the superpowers, one can imagine the commotion that it can create—in Muhammad Ali’s case, with a chain reaction that makes it almost impossible today to open a book on the international history of the period without coming across his name. For it was he who would reanimate a country...

  8. Chapter 2 Shubra and San Remo
    (pp. 9-26)

    The Palace of Shubra is situated on the northern outskirts of Cairo. The palace consisted originally of a large park reaching down to the Nile, carefully planted in extremely diverse sections: some were formal gardens, others were fruit groves of mangoes, guavas, and citrus trees. Muhammad Ali took an almost childlike delight in seeing orange trees in fruit and could not bear to have them picked; only the ones that fell to the ground were collected. In my childhood the place had been abandoned for many years and some of the lands sold and set back to agricultural use. The...

  9. Chapter 3 Marg
    (pp. 27-110)

    My father had four sisters, of whom the youngest was Princess Ziba. She emanated a gentle quietude which was like a screen between one and the exterior world. A dim sort of luminosity seemed to surround her, as if she lived in a gray, limbo world of her own—also conveyed perhaps by the fact that she had very poor and limited eyesight. I felt quite drawn to her but never got to know her well. To judge by appearances, she did not have the active kindness of Aunt Aziza, or the beauty and mind of Aunt Iffet, or the...

  10. Chapter 4 Palaces and Houses
    (pp. 111-138)

    Prince Youssouf Kemal was a great hunter, and his hall at Matariya, as well as a drawing room on the right of the hall, were filled with his trophies. From the top of the grand staircase two giraffes looked down over the balustrade into the hall, which was furnished in comfortable leather couches where Prince Youssouf would often sit after luncheon with one or two of his gentlemen. In the drawing room there was a hippopotamus with a wide gaping mouth, and when I was a child Prince Youssouf would pick me up and pretend to put my head into...

  11. Chapter 5 Turkey and England
    (pp. 139-148)

    The ship glided silently into the bay of Izmir. The sky was overcast, and the water dark gray with patches of deep green. Hills enfolded in an irregular movement the city of Izmir, or Smyrna, and its spacious bay. On the waterfront, as one approached land, one could see grim warehouses and modern buildings painted a bluish gray; but beyond the conventional modern city, little cobbled streets wound their way upward between picturesque wooden houses until they reached the crest of the hill, surmounted by its imposing castle.

    On the other side of the hill I was to find some...

  12. Chapter 6 Cairo
    (pp. 149-184)

    The flying boat splashed down on the Nile at Rod al-Farag gurgling and spluttering on the brown waters; it finally calmed itself to a grudging silence and we were allowed to land.

    A little group of persons was waiting for me, among them—standing half a pace back from the others—my mother, looking at me with anxious eyes. I did not notice anyone else, but went straight to her. After I had embraced her, she kept on scrutinizing my face and then my left hand, where I had had a scar since childhood. Later on she told me she...

  13. Epilogue
    (pp. 185-186)

    If, by any chance, someone swept away by my enthusiastic description of the region of al-Marg should have the curiosity to visit the place, I must dissuade them from doing so. First, to reach it, you have to pass through a series of modern slums that overshadow some of the pleasanter buildings of a previous era. From there, after crossing the railway lines to where the Blunt domain used to be, with its handsome groves of mango trees, nothing remains; this is no more than a shabby suburb of other suburbs. On reaching the forest of Marg, you will find...

    (pp. 187-192)
  15. Index
    (pp. 193-196)