The houseboats of Cairo.The houseboats of Cairo, moored in a crescent along one bank of the Nile, have a colourful past. The names of improvident im·prov·i·dent
1. Not providing for the future; thriftless.
2. Rash; incautious.
im·provi·dence n. ministers, hapless lovers and infamous dancers have been linked with the boats, which have played their own part in shaping Egyptian history.
Before the Egyptian revolution Egyptian Revolution can refer to:
Although their glory days are over, the houseboats seem unable to shake off the aura of their glamorous history.
From a distance with their shuttered windows, panelled sides and filigree filigree (fĭl`ĭgrē), ornamental work of fine gold or silver wire, often wrought into an openwork design and joined with matching solder and borax under the flame of the blowpipe. railings, they exude ex·ude
To ooze or pass gradually out of a body structure or tissue. a faint but recognisable whiff of decadence Decadence
portrays the downfall of a materialistic society. [Ger. Lit.: Buddenbrooks]
focal point of the declining Ranevsky estate. [Russ. , of something deliciously illicit but out of reach.
On closer inspection it is clear that many of the once opulent op·u·lent
1. Possessing or exhibiting great wealth; affluent.
2. Characterized by rich abundance; luxuriant.
[Latin opulentus; see op- in Indo-European roots. boats have sunk into a sorry state of decay State of Decay is a serial in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in four weekly parts from November 22 to 13 December, 1980. The serial was the second of three loosely connected serials known as the E-Space Trilogy. , held together by an assortment of plastic sheeting, corrugated iron corrugated iron
A structural sheet iron, usually galvanized, shaped in parallel furrows and ridges for rigidity.
Noun , chip board and several deacades of Cairene dust.
No one seems to know where the first boats came from. One theory is that they were former Nile cruisers put out to a kind of watery pasture at the end of their commercial lives.
Whatever their origins, at one time there were hundreds of them, frequently moored two abreast, in the smarter districts of Cairo. Now, only 28 remain, ten of which are registered as permanent residences, boasting modern conveniences including running water and electricity, televisions and telephone answering machines.
Some of the boats are believed to date from the turn of the century but their heydey was undoubtedly during the 1930s and 40s. The Egyptian veteran journalist and newspaper editor, Mustafa Amin, recalls attending a party on one of the boats when he was a young editor in the 1930s.
"I went to a party given by a very rich man called Boshra Pasha Hanna. The boat was like a palace with salons, big bedrooms and even a special place for entertainment like music and belly dancing.
"There were lots of famous people there, and servants in golden uniforms with red feathers in their hats. It was all very luxurious with beautiful gardens leading down to the boats", the writer remembered.
It seemed that everything - even love - was acted out on a grander, more reckless scale on Cairo's exotic houseboats.
"The one time premier of Egypt, Hussein Rushdi Pasha Husayn, Pasha Rushdi (1863 - 1928) (Arabic: حسين رشدي باشا) was an Egyptian political figure. He served as Prime Minister of Egypt between 1914 and 1919.
The Illustrated War News, Number 21, of Dec. was in love with the belly dancer Monira El Mahdaya who lived on one of the boats", said Amin. "He was so infatuated in·fat·u·at·ed
Possessed by an unreasoning passion or attraction.
in·fatu·at that he held his cabinet meetings on her boat two or three times.
"On another boat a minister of awqaf (religious endowments) had a love affair with the daughter of another minister. The police caught them and the minister was forced to resign."
Yet another boat provided a base for the Nazi spy John Eppler during his Cairo sojourn. Eppler employed the services of his neighbour, a famous belly dancer, to seduce Allied officers and pass their secrets on to him. The future president, Anwar Sadat, was also involved in the plot and subsequently jailed by the British for treason.
After the revolution however, the boats' fortunes shifted.
The romance, intrigue and decadence which had made them so attractive previously was scorned by the new order.
They came to represent an undesirable past, a frivolous and ostentatious os·ten·ta·tious
Characterized by or given to ostentation; pretentious. See Synonyms at showy.
os epoch best forgotten.
They became notorious as dens for drug dealing, prostitution and gambling, until finally the authorities insisted that they should be moved from their moorings in Cairo's more salubrious salubrious /sa·lu·bri·ous/ (sah-loo´bre-us) conducive to health; wholesome.
Conducive or favorable to health or well-being. areas and gathered together in one place where the police could keep an eye on them.
Many owners objected to the enforced move and scores of boats were either burned, sold or handed over to the salvage men.
Alia el Wakil, a 65 year old widow, was given her boat as a surprise birthday present in the 1950s. "After the move in the 1960s, many owners stopped caring about their boats and that is when they started to deteriorate", she said.
The decline is partly because the tanks on which the boats are kept afloat require regular and expensive overhauls. Another reason is that in the last decade the Governorate of Giza, which is responsible for issuing licenses to boat owners has made it increasingly complicated and costly to renew permits. As far as the governorate is concerned the boats pollute pol·lute
1. To make unfit for or harmful to living things, especially by the addition of waste matter; contaminate.
2. To make less suitable for an activity, especially by the introduction of unwanted factors. the Nile and the city would be better off without them.
Despite official disapproval the boats' owners are determined to stay put. Ahmed el Nasr lives in a boat bought by his father in 1950. "It's like living in a villa or a palace", said El Nasr, a chemical engineering student.
"People may think it's strange living on a boat in Cairo but I love it. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else."