Time warp: Roundabout Egypt

A new bi-weekly feature taking select articles from the rich archives of 'The Jerusalem Post' from 75 years ago.

By THE POSTMAN
February 17, 2011 20:43
3 minute read.
The Palestine Post

Palestine Post 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

This morning (Saturday) at precisely eleven o’clock, the Fifteenth Agricultural and Industrial Exposition was inaugurated in Cairo by Prince Mohamed Aly Hassan, representing the King of Egypt.

The posters proclaiming “Sunny Egypt” are prone to exaggerate a bit. At least, during this week we have been comfortable in heavy coats. But the sun co-operated this morning and the balmy atmosphere added much to the gay scene at the Fair grounds. Half an hour before the appointed time, Egypt’s great and near-great began to filter in and to take their places in front of one of the principal buildings, the cotton exhibition. Leading from a drive to a throne-like chair was a red carpet. The Prince arrived – the national anthem was played by a band from a nearby pavilion – a few speeches followed – guns boomed – and the Exposition was declared open.

In view of the fact that agricultural exhibits will be stressed in our own Levant Fair, it was particularly interesting to see how Egypt displays her wares. The keynote of the Exhibition is cotton, all other exhibitions being of very minor importance. To inspect the cotton pavilion alone would require half a day – after which one would have a wide knowledge of the subject, for the charts, machinery, raw and finished products, represent not only Egypt’s, but the world’s cotton industry. Cotton from South Carolina is side by side with the Nile River product.

One wanders through rooms, down corridors, into alcoves, all of which are dedicated to cotton. There is a section devoted to the biology and physiology of the cotton plant, the botanical section, the insect pests section and countless other sections. Cotton in various stages is displayed under glass and enclosed in glass. There are maps, charts, statistics and proclamations declaring that cotton is as important to the balance of world finance as gold.

WAX MUSEUM

More to the popular taste, perhaps, are the rooms in which the story of Egypt’s own cotton growing is told by means of fascinating miniature rural scenes as well as excellent life-size wax figures. Towards the end, the wax figures become a bit confusing, and we were just about to examine what appeared to be a wax ear, when the man moved. In one large room an entire cotton field, including the tent of the foreman and fourteen wax cotton pickers, is reproduced. In another, agricultural implements made to scale are shown beneath miniature scenes depicting the farmers at work with the particular implement. In the centre of this room, a group of life-size figures are baling the cotton.

The rest of the vast display includes an array of ancient Egyptian looms; old Coptic and Syrian pieces from the 12th and 15th centuries; and, of course, a wide variety of modern fabrics.

In the other buildings, one sees displays, many of them more elaborate, of citrus fruits, dates, barley and other products of the soil.

Inevitably, the Palestinian will leave the Exhibition making comparisons between what he has seen here and what, according to present plans, he may see at the Agricultural section of the Levant Fair.

Our little show will, doubtless, be like a country fair in comparison to this elaborate, finished, luxurious achievement of Cairo. And yet it will be more representative of the soil and those who till the soil. For it will be the farmers who arrange it and they who will be among the enthusiastic spectators. The Cairo Exhibition is of higher academic interest and one feels that the spectators will not get any closer to their agricultural products than the polished glass cases permit.


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