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Wednesday, August 18, 2021

A Magazine for the Season: The Egypt and the Sudan Collection in the EES Library | Egypt Exploration Society

By Amara Thornton

In May 2019, the EES announced that they were planning to digitise the front covers of a run of early 20th century magazines in their Library. I was glad to hear it because among the titles they planned to digitise was Egypt and the Sudan magazine – a now little-known publication marketing 'Egypt', or one might say 'certain visions of Egypt', to (mainly) British tourists.

Covers of some of the issues of Egypt and the Sudan magazine in the EES Special Collections

I'd initially come across the magazine as I was writing my book Archaeologists in Print: Publishing for the People (free pdf download available). Originally I thought it was in some way connected to another publication – the imperial periodical African World (although it's clear to me now, having seen the EES's full run of the magazine, that this is not the case as per below). The two are similar though in that both promoted archaeological work amongst other fields and opportunities in Egypt and with a fairly overt imperial dimension.

The earliest issue in the EES's collection of Egypt and the Sudan magazines is from 1924, and this issue makes clear that the magazine's origin lies in another periodical – an English weekly illustrated newspaper called The Sphinx. The Sphinx has its own fascinating history– and readers of this post will be interested to know that the American University in Cairo is digitising issues of The Sphinx now held in its Special Collections.

The Sphinx, established in 1893, was only published during Egypt's "winter season" – running roughly November through April or May. For the 1923-24 season, Egypt and the Sudan was promoted as the 'Special Tourist number' of The Sphinx, a supplement for the paper's subscribers put together at the behest of the "Egypt Promotion Association" – established in 1907 by King Fuad to encourage and sustain tourism to Egypt.

Cover of the first issue of Egypt and the Sudan magazine

There are lots of ways to assess the contents of this magazine, not least of which is the fact that it was being published during a period of still extant British colonial involvement in Egypt, and the magazine was very much catering towards a wealthy international expat and tourist community. This was facilitated via a London office, "The Egypt Travel Bureau", located at No 60 Regent Street, where travel could be booked, tickets to sites acquired, and a selection of relevant maps, books and magazines could be obtained. It had interior decor heavily influenced by "the Empire period of Ancient Egypt", with Roger Breval's specially commissioned paintings on the walls, and electric lights bright enough, as the manager J. W. Farley declared, to mimic the sunlight of Egypt. It's worth noting at this stage too that the magazine is not only useful for understanding travel to and through Egypt and Sudan (also under British colonial administration), but additionally travel beyond Egypt to Palestine and Iraq, both at this point under British Mandates.

Photo of the Egypt Travel Bureau in London, Egypt and the Sudan (1931, p.38)

But one of the things I noticed when came across Egypt and the Sudan was how it acted as a venue for women's writing. At least ten women had articles published in Egypt and the Sudan in the interwar period. Among them are Henriette Caroline (Vulliamy) Devonshire, writing as "Mrs R. L. Devonshire"; the socialist suffragette Margaret Travers Symons. Gladys Peto, a graphic designer, author and British expat resident in Egypt contributed writing too, plus her black and white illustrations appear in various issues in the 1930s. The American tennis star Helen Jacobs wrote (unsurprisingly) on "Tennis in Egypt".

Contents of the 1929 issue of Egypt and the Sudan magazine 

Perhaps the most interesting issue from the perspective of women contributors, is the one published for the 1929 season. It features articles from Winifred Brunton, Margaret Murray and Julia Chatterton, three women who (alongside their contributions to this issue) were interpreting Egypt for British audiences through art, music and literary translation.

Brunton's article, "An Archaeologists' Camp" describes the 'typical' experience of life on site, drawing on the excavation that she was then undertaking with her husband at El Badari. Right from the outset, she begins with a claim that incapsulates the colonial context in which she had developed as an Egyptologist and was, in content and tone, designed to present a then-familiar narrative to prospective visitors: "The archaeologist possesses Egypt in a sense in which no other being possesses her, by right of discovery". By this time, her "modern portraits" of ancient Egyptians were circulating both through London exhibitions and as prominent features in the two books she edited: The Kings and Queens of Ancient Egypt (1926), and The Great Ones of Egypt (1929).

Cover of the 1929 issue of Egypt and the Sudan magazine

Julia Chatterton was a noted composer and, drawing on her experience living in Egypt with her husband during and after the First World War, was becoming known for her skill on the Egyptian darabuka drum. Her article in the 1929 issue of Egypt and the Sudan, "The Land of Legend and Romance", took as its subject Egyptian street performance and street life – snake charmers, jugglers, conjurers and salesmen. Some of her photographs also feature in this issue and other issues. The following year, as I have previously documented, she composed the music to accompany a chronological series of tableaux for a fundraising event at London's Hippodrome Theatre commemorating Flinders Petrie's 50 years in archaeology, and her article "The Music of Egypt" appeared in the 1930 issue of Egypt and the Sudan.

Margaret Murray's article "The Lure of the Past", describes the fascination of historical and archaeological research in uncovering human experience in the past – that transcendent experience that links past and present. A few years before, she had translated a few ancient Egyptian poems and songs which were issued as a slim volume from the London-based publisher Arthur Stockwell. Murray translated these in a way, she wrote, "to reproduce the spirit of the poems" while keeping them accessible to non-specialists – to bridge the chronological gap between 20th century reader and the ancient Egyptians who wrote and repeated them.

You will eventually be able to read some of the articles from the 20th century travel magazines held in the EES Special Collections for yourselves - the EES has recently announced a new project to complete the digitisation of the cover and contents of the magazines from the 1920s to 1970s (with some full issues scanned), led by EES volunteer Guilherme Borges Pires, who will also be analysing the contents. I for one am looking forward to what is to come.

Further Reading

Brunton, Winifred. An Archaeologists' Camp. Egypt and the Sudan 1929. The Tourist Development Association of Egypt.

Chatterton, Julia. The Land of Legend and Romance. Egypt and the Sudan 1929. The Tourist Development Association of Egypt.

Farley, J. W. Egypt in London. Egypt and the Sudan 1931. The Tourist Development Association of Egypt.

Murray, Margaret. The Lure of the Past. Egypt and the Sudan 1929. The Tourist Development Association of Egypt.

Murray, Margaret. 1926. Egyptian Poems. London: Arthur Stockwell.



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