The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Posts tagged cocacola
The Coca-Cola Bottling Plant

PR documentary, from the late 1940s or the early 1950s at the latest I would guess, on Coca Cola's bottling plant in Egypt. There's some great footage of upper class social club type people at the beginning and at the end, with a very modernist exposé on the state-of-the-art bottling facilities at the plant. If anything watch the last few minutes when the whole social club breaks into song.

It's worth remembering that the Coca-Cola Company, which built the Egypt bottling plant in 1945, faced an Arab-wide boycott between 1967 and 1979. Some Arab countries had started a boycott of Coca-Cola as early as 1951, while Coca-Cola for a while did not want to anger Arabs by doing business in Israel, earning the condemnation of the likes of the Anti-Defamation League, which launched a campaign in the US accusing the company of anti-Semitism. The anger of the American Jewish community forced Coca-Cola to open a Tel Aviv franchise in 1966, which resulted in an Arab League boycott in 1967. Aside from Egypt where Coke returned in 1979, most Arab countries were Coke-less until 1991 -- the contexts respectively being Camp David and the launch of the Middle East peace process with the Barcelona conference.

Coca-Cola continues to be the subject of frequent rumors because of the brand's strong identification with the US. I remember one when I arrived in Egypt in 2000, alleging that if you read the Coca-Cola label in a mirror it spelt out, in Arabic, "la Mohammed la Mekka" -- i.e. No Mohammed No Mecca". I tried it and must admit it's true there was some resemblance! Naturally, it's a coincidence.

This is not a dig at Coke (like most people my age I drink plenty of the stuff, although I've cut down as I started to have to think about things like empty calories - I can't stand Diet Coke) but the spread of bottled soft drinks in countries like Egypt has greatly reduced the number of traditional beverages that were once ubiquitously sold on the street.