Literary and Artistic Cafés in Cairo
شميس،عبد المنعم. قهاوي الأدب و الفن في القاهرةالقاهرة: دار المعارف، ١٩٩١، الطبعة الأولى، ١۲٨ص.
Shumays, ‘Abd al-Mun‘im. Qahawi al-Adab wa-al-Fann fi al-Qahirah. Cairo: Dar al-Ma‘arif, 1991, 1st edn, 128pp.


Literary and Artistic Cafés in Cairo 

قهاوي الأدب و الفن في القاهرة

Through historical accounts, descriptions and stories, this book addresses the role of cafés in the literary and artistic life in Cairo from the late nineteenth century until the mid-twentieth century. As such, it offers an enjoyable journey into the Arabic popular culture. The author’s information is based on various descriptions of Egypt in the nineteenth century, stemming from observations and oral sources. In particular, Afandiyyah Café, Hay al-Hussain Café and al-Busta Café are depicted as major literary and artistic centres. Furthermore, the book introduces the literary genres practiced in these Cafés such as popular gests, storytelling, and poetry contests.

What distinguishes this book from others on this topic is its literary descriptive style of people and places. The author provides a vivid portrayal of the clients of these cafés, during the transition from the later Ottoman period to modern times and a varied and arresting presentation of Cairo. While focusing on sensational stories, he narrates the city’s literary and social landmarks. 

Two weaknesses are to be noted in this book. Firstly, it lacks any referencing and the author leaves his information undocumented. Secondly, he does not provide any bibliography or index which makes his information unverifiable. When he cites an oral source he does not specify the identity of the source and the context of the information. Obviously, the author does not rely only on his memory. Often, he mentions dates and names in a manner that shows his reliance on secondary literature. That said, even a good historian would benefit from the observations of the author. 

Abdessamad Belhaj
Belhaj, Abdessamad. “English abstract of 'Literary and Artistic Cafés in Cairo'". Translated by Abdessamad Belhaj. In Cities as Built and Lived Environments: Scholarship from Muslim Contexts, 1875 to 2011, by Aptin Khanbaghi. 105. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014.
Muslim Civilisations Abstracts - The Aga Khan University
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