23 Vintage Photos of Egypt’s Golden Years

A woman reading a magazine in the 1950s

A woman reading a magazine in the 1950s

By Mohamed Khairat, Founder,

Egypt in the 1900s was a different place. Egyptian cinema was the third largest in the world, Cairo was a city that foreigners dreamt of spending their holidays exploring, Egyptian music flourished and shook the world, Jews, Muslims and Christians lived together as neighbours, and women had freedoms that were unheard of in many other countries.

Egypt was a place of liberal spirits, unhampered by sectarian and ethnic prejudices. The rights of men, women and children were championed.

Yet, all that has changed, and often may Egyptians forget the Egypt that used to be. Here are 23 photographs of vintage advertisements and other images that will teleport you to Egypt’s ‘golden years’ and show you an Egypt you may have forgotten ever existed.

(These photographs are available thanks to ‘Vintage Egypt. Click here for more)

1. “The Japanese do not respect women.”



This magazine cover of Egyptian actress Shadia in 1961 after a trip to Tokyo has her boldly declaring that Japan does not respect women. A lot has changed: in 2013, Egypt was ranked among the ‘worst places to be a woman.’

2. “Let’s just kiss and play”

An advertisement for children's toys at Omar Effendi, a popular department store, in 1948.

An advertisement for children’s toys at Omar Effendi, a popular department store, in 1948.

Kissing of any kind in Egypt is nowadays frowned upon. Once upon a time, ‘love’ was freely expressed on the silver screen. This is almost unheard of today.

3. Cairo or Rome?

A Vespa advertisement from 1950 showing the Cairo Citadel.

A Vespa advertisement from 1950 showing the Cairo Citadel.

Women driving cars in Cairo face numerous problems today: not only is the traffic suffocating, but the cat-calls and the harassment that many endure while in the comfort of their cars has become a daily occurrence for many. Imagine a woman driving a Vespa in the middle of Cairo.

4. Skirts, school and the open air


A teacher in Aswan with her students in 1966

Recently, a young woman was harassed at Cairo University for wearing a pink sweater and black pants and not covering her long blonde hair. Yet, decades ago, skirts attracted little to no such harassment.

5. A Jewish department store…in Egypt?


An advertisement for Benzion department store

Benzion department store was founded in Cairo by Moise Levy de Benzion, a Sephardic Jew who had lived in Egypt. Benzion’s legacy, however, ended while he was in Europe during World War II. Benzion was captured and killed in a camp by the Nazis. Shortly after his death, the government ran the department store until it shut down several years later. The idea of a Jewish department store in Egypt will likely surprise many: a few years ago Sainsbury’s was forced to shut down over rumours that the owner was Jewish spread like wildfire in Egypt.

6. “Let’s head to the beach…in speedos!”


A photograph taken at a public beach in Egypt in 1964.

Swimwear fashion has changed worldwide. Men and women in swimsuits enjoying the sand and the water at a public beach in 1964. You do not want to see what a public beach looks like these days.

7. BEER!


A 1961 advertisement for Stella

Basically: alcohol advertisements are no longer in existence in Egypt. Last year, alcohol was almost completely banned from the country by the now-removed Islamist government.

8. The man who united the Arabs


A propaganda piece promoting Ex-President Nasser in 1965

Gamal Abdel Nasser was hailed during his reign as the man who stood up against imperialism and the man behind the idea of ‘Pan-Arabism.’ He attempted to adopt a ‘socialist (Nasserist)’ economic policy in Egypt and attempted to unite the Arabs in a scheme similar to the European Union.

9. Are you sure this is Assiut?



These are groups of Egyptian women at a political rally in Assiut. Not a single woman was wearing the veil or a baggy dress, yet they were considered to have been dressed appropriately and were not attacked for their fashion.

10. The Egyptian Female Revolutionary

Egyptian women volunteer to bear arms in 1956

Egyptian women volunteer to bear arms in 1956

Egyptian women volunteered in 1956 to bear arms in resistance to a joint Israeli-French-British attack, after Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal in what became known as the 1956 Suez Crisis. Today, Egyptian women do not participate in the military (unless its in an administrative role).

11. Military propaganda existed in 1957 and it still exists today

1957 Military Propaganda

1957 Military Propaganda

If you drive around Cairo today, you’ll find plenty of similar propaganda: soldiers holding children, a child with a flower, and many more.

12. Turning over the page to a bright future


Propaganda from 1956

This piece of propaganda shows a man with the Egyptian Eagle on his arm turning over the page to a bright future that hails “justice,” “democracy,” “elections,” and the “military”. The previous page included feudalism, imperialism, and traditionalism. Did Egypt achieve democracy and elections? Well…

13. The Star of the East


Om Kalthoum’s funeral in 1975

When Om Kalthoum died in 1975, heartbreak erupted across Egypt, the Arab World and the globe. Decades after her death, she is still regarded as the greatest female Arabic singer in history.

14. The Cairo Swimsuit Competition


A newspaper article on the Cairo Swimsuit Competition in 1948

For a woman in Egypt to wear a swimsuit these days, she has to be at a private beach, a private pool, or at a private residence. Imagine what would happen if we re-introduced the Cairo Swimsuit Competition.

15. Who needs Coca-Cola when we have ‘Egypt Cola!’

Egyptian Cola Advertisement: 100% Egyptian

Egyptian Cola Advertisement: 100% Egyptian

At some point in history, Egypt was not only producing cars and appliances, but also its own version of Coca-Cola.

16. Clearly, Coca-Cola won


Actress Magda in a Coca-Cola ad in 1952

‘Egypt Cola’ no longer exists: we now have Coca-Cola and Pepsi!

17. The First Arab Car


Ramsees – the first Egyptian and Arab car in 1954

Like the Coca-Cola, Egypt also decided to produce automobiles. While the industry did not end up surviving, it does show the potential future economic capabilities of Egypt.

18. Who is our beauty queen?

A 1956 Beauty Competition

A 1956 Beauty Competition

This is an interesting article. It proclaims “Seven Queens in the Republic!” We rarely hear of Miss Egypt these days. In 1954, Miss Egypt Antigone Costanda won the coveted Miss World title.

19. Soap, please?


An advertisement for soap in 1960 in the city of Tanta

Have you been to Tanta recently? If someone were to replicate this advertisement today, it would likely be torched.

20. This isn’t a desert: it’s Cairo


A photograph of two women talking at Mukattam (Cairo) in 1948

Cairo was not always a concrete jungle.

21. Vogue

Vogue model Tatjana Patiz at a Cafe in Cairo in 1992

Vogue model Tatjana Patitz at a Cafe in Cairo in 1992

The early 1990’s were perhaps Egypt’s last few ‘good’ years before rapid economic and social deterioration. While this does not show much, it is an enjoyable photograph of a world-wide famous model, Tatjana Patitz, enjoying herself with some locals at a cafe.

22. The beacon of light

Cairo University in 1960

Cairo University in 1960

Education in Egypt in the mid 1900’s was considered to be among the best in the world, and especially in the Arab world. Queens, Kings, Princes and Princesses would all travel to Egypt for education.

23. Some things never change


A Marlboro ad from 1960s

If there is one thing that has not changed, it’s Egypt’s smoking culture. The biggest shift has been the move away from cigarettes and towards shisha. However, Egyptians are still known for their smoking habits decades after this advertisement.

BONUS: Is that a…camera?

A 1951 magazine page

A 1951 magazine page

(Many of these photographs are available thanks to ‘Vintage Egypt.’ Click here to see more)


44 Comments on 23 Vintage Photos of Egypt’s Golden Years

  1. Reblogged this on All But Good Articles and commented:


  2. mammaozzy // May 6, 2014 at 11:30 am // Reply

    Reblogged this on mammaozzy's Blog and commented:


  3. Reblogged this on BadiaAlwer and commented:


  4. Reblogged this on hlafy.


  5. …. then Islam ruined it all.


  6. Egypt has a bright future.


  7. Reblogged this on jantamedicalararia and commented:


  8. (▰˘◡˘▰) // April 21, 2014 at 2:47 pm // Reply

    Mind boggling to compare to the Egypt of today, but inspiring as well. It makes me hopeful for the future.


  9. Really it is sad that Egypt has changed. Revolution us needed here.


  10. nice collections


  11. One of the great cultures of the world.


  12. what a difference between night and day! Thank you for sharing these contrasts. Considering the recent developments,it seems to me that the Egyptian people are stuck between a rock and a hard place. truly a sad state. somehow, the implications inherent in the photos made me think of Detroit. The circumstances are so different, yet the loss so similar.


  13. this is Amazing!!! ❤


  14. great photos! Love the work ^__^


  15. Very interesting post. Curious to know how you sourced the images, they’re great!


  16. Very impressive photos.


  17. How amazing! Sad to see the de-volution de-progress… hope someday it will get to a place of what it used to be or better!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Amazing post thank you ! I lived in Egypt till 1999 and it was so peaceful and beautiful country. The Egyptian people should ask for a change, to build the country and to stop the regression to look out for the rest of the world, not only fanatics ! They freeze and the rest of the world is advancing in every aspect of live. We should catch up and keep moving towards Education and civilized Egypt, so it will restore its real and original identity.


  19. Thankyou for sharing this photos, it’s absolutely fascinating.


  20. mujdatkarakoc // April 12, 2014 at 8:46 pm // Reply

    bu nedir


  21. Reblogged this on This End Up and commented:
    This is nice to see but also sad! So much change (for the worse) has ocurred.


  22. Reblogged this on Saffarny ®.


  23. I don’t understand at all … I thought that what you write of would be the case under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood; but they are no longer calling the shots. Are you saying that even under a military coup, this kind of fundamentalism is everywhere ???


    • Ahmad Zaky // April 26, 2014 at 4:41 pm // Reply

      Yes, they are no longer ruling, but the Current Mess is everyone’s mistake, starting from the Great Anwar Sadat’s little mistake (Releasing the imprisoned Islamic Terrorists & Jihadists in 70s), Egypt has been plagued since that very moment.
      Military Coup ?!?! – I advise you take the word from an Egyptian living currently in Egypt, and there is no military coup here, and I can safely assure that 80% (if not more) of egyptians say/think the same … This Current mess is not going to be cleaned overnight, Let’s just hope my Grandchildren can witness a Civilized Developed Egypt !!!


  24. i can’t believe there was much more freedom those days in egypt! look what happens now…


  25. Wafik Kelliny // April 11, 2014 at 8:25 pm // Reply

    “Those were the days my friend”. I guess I was blessed to witness Egypt during the good days. For sure most of us hope Egypt will restore its real and original identity. Are we asking for much?
    May God bless Egypt!


  26. Amazing post thank you ! I visited Cairo in the 90s and enjoyed the experience, I am an optimist and he things. Will move towards a better place….they did in France.


  27. Cool. Yup, it’s not quite like that anymore…



  28. Thank you from sherbrooke canada,much loved link


  29. These photos make me happy 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Democracy is not something the Western World want to impose on the East. It is the mean by which it became so powerful. Don’t be afraid to copy it.


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