For On the Nile we wanted an old photo of tourists dining in a tomb, which, of course, was the only place to eat in mid 19th-century Egypt. We couldn’t find one so we had to do without. This morning, searching for something entirely unrelated I came across the image above, which is fabulous (click to enlarge). Just look at the amount of booze – four bottles of what looks like bubbly for six people. No wonder two are out cold and the guy at the back looks like he’s about to collapse face first into his companion’s lap.
And then there is also this image of tourists dining in a temple. Once again, the booze is to the forefront and there is some splendid headwear on show, particularly the elderly lady’s hat, which looks like a pigeon caught in a fishing net.
More delving through online photographic archives, this time over at the Australian War Memorial site. The riches to be found there are amazing and I’ll be posting a bunch of finds from the archives in the coming weeks. First though, a handful of random images that I’m posting for no better reason than they are lovely photographs. They are all from 1942 and show Australian nurses and soldiers off duty and relaxing in Cairo.
Rollerskating was hugely popular at this time and Cairo had several purpose-built rinks.
A pingback linking to this site alerted me to a fascinating post over at the Sydney Living Museums website. It concerns a new book containing correspondence between Dora Sheller and her son Leslie Walford, one of the leading figures in Australian interior design until his death in 2012. In 1929 Dora Walford, a glamorous Sydney socialite, set off on a honeymoon voyage to England, stopping off in Cairo from late December 1929 until the first week of January 1930. She was well-heeled enough to stay at the top hotels, notably Mena House and Shepheard’s. The photo below is Dora on the steps to the tea gardens at Mena House.
Dora spent Christmas at Shepheard’s and kept hold of the printed and tassel-corded menu for the Christmas Eve dinner at Shepheard’s Grill, with a beautiful cover showing a masqued ball in full swing.
The Sydney Living Museums post helpfully translates the belt-busting menu:
Blinis with caviar
Tomato soup (served in a cup)
Quail in puff pastry (named for the writer George Sand)
Chicken breast in a rich cream sauce ‘Russian style’
Indian salad (lettuce, cress; a dressing of red wine, vinegar, spices)
Mandarin sorbet with Chantilly cream;
‘Chocolate shoes’ – a novelty chocolate biscuit shaped like a shoe
Chocolate Yule log
A few days later Dora dined at the Mena House and, again, she kept the menu.
Consommé garnished with finely diced carrot, turnip, green beans, truffle &c;
Turbot with a tomato sauce
Roast premium cut of lamb cooked with sage
Bresse chicken in a very rich casserole sauce
Ice cream bombe
After getting through all that, you’d imagine Dora wouldn’t have to eat again until she reached England. However there was a trip into the desert – which may have just been across the road to the Pyramids – for which the Mena House provided a picnic that was transported on its own trolley, as seen in the photograph below, which shows Dora’s husband Eric Sheller and son Leslie.
All these items come from the Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection, Sydney Living Museums. You can read more here.