The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Of printing in Cairo and Flaubert's cards

Friend-of-the-blog and fellow gentleman flaneur Matt Hall has a new piece at PRINT magazine about Cairo's hectic printing district alongside Mohammed Ali St, which is where one gets business cards and other office stationary. The article is not online (you can get a copy of the mag through the link above though) but Matt has some extra material up on this blog he contributes to:

An excerpt:

When Flaubert travelled to Egypt in 1849 in the guise of an oriental adventurer, the famous novelist accompanied his friend Maxime du Camp to the summit of great pyramid. Precluding any sense of a pioneering accomplishment, Flaubert reached the summit at dawn only to find pinned to the capstone… a business card.

The light increases. There are two things: the dry desert behind us, and before us an immense, delightful expanse of green, furrowed by endless canals, dotted here and there with tufts of palms; then, in the background, a little to the left, the minarets of Cairo and especially the mosque of Mohamed Ali (imitating Santa Sophia), towering above the others. On the side of the Pyramid lit by the raising sun I see a business card: ‘Humbert, Frotteur’ fastened to the stone.

The card gave a Rouen address, Flaubert’s hometown. It had been placed there as a gag by Maxime.

My own contribution to the wonders of Egyptian business cards will be a lot less literary. I recently found this one, for an upholsterer, while cleaning out my desk:


Flaubert might have approved.