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Chapter 6: Cairo

This chapter touches directly or indirectly on a lot of different subjects. Below are some sources I used in thinking about the setting of the chapter and what the characters would have seen in 1923 Egypt.


Travelogues

When writing about Egypt/Cairo, I used four travelogues:

These travelogues helped paint an interesting picture of what Europeans traveling to Egypt saw during the late 1800s and early 1900s. When chapter six starts, three of our heroines have arrived in Cairo to meet their host, thus reuniting the Lady Adventurers Club. The women would have arrived at Misr Station (also called Cairo Station) on their train from Port Said. The current station was erected in 1892 (and upgraded in 1955).

The view of Misr Station from the outside


Rumi

This has nothing to do with Egypt, but the poet Rumi is cited in this chapter. I chose him because he really is my favorite poet. Rumi was a 13th-century Persian poet, Islamic scholar, and Sufi mystic. I recommend anyone interested in beautiful poetry about love, life, and "the divine" look him up! Although scholars interpret his poems as being about God (God as the metaphorical "beloved"), you'll never convince me he wasn't writing about his "friend and mentor" Shams-e Tabrizi. You don't write love poetry that convincing about an intangible deity.


Possibly a Fiat 501 in front of the Great Pyramid


The Early History of Cars in Egypt

In the 1920s, cars were still relatively new in Egypt. By the end of 1905, there were only around 110 motorized vehicles in Cairo and 56 in Alexandria. The Royal Automobile Club of Egypt (R.A.C.E.) opened in April 1924, and by 1927, it had 600 members, indicating how many more cars had been brought into the country in the intervening years (here's a cool website that briefly summarizes Egypt's history of motoring.). Fiat was one of the makes definitely found in Egypt in the 1920s, and I made the logical guess that it was likely the Fiat 501, based on the production schedule. Here's a video of the Fiat 501 in action. As you can see, not a ton of room for five people to fit in there!


Cairo Architecture

Per Wikipedia, downtown Cairo was designed by prestigious French architects commissioned by Khedive Ismail Pasha, who wanted to make Cairo even better than Paris and to be the jewel of the Orient. Ismail stressed the importance of European style urban planning, "to include broad, linear gridded streets, geometric harmony and modern European architectural style." Indeed, looking at photos from the time, the French architecture at times makes it almost indistinguishable from a French city. Here's a website full of photos of old Cairo: https://www.messynessychic.com/2019/03/15/paris-or-egypt-100-yeas-ago-it-was-hard-to-tell-the-difference/, and a Facebook page with the same.



Women and Wild West Shows

In the book, Clara spent years as a trick shooter in a Wild West show. For those who have never heard of Wild West shows, Wikipedia describes them best: "Wild West shows were traveling vaudeville performances in the United States and Europe that existed around 1870–1920. The shows began as theatrical stage productions and evolved into open-air shows that depicted romanticized stereotypes of cowboys, Plains Indians, army scouts, outlaws, and wild animals that existed in the American West. While some of the storylines and characters were based on true events, others were fictional or sensationalized. Native Americans in particular were portrayed in a sensationalistic and exploitative manner. The shows introduced many western performers and personalities, and romanticized the American frontier, to a wide audience."


Although compared to the men there weren't many women in Wild West shows, several became famous for their skill with shooting, notably Calamity Jane, Lillian Smith, and Annie Oakley. They did tricks like shooting playing cards and dimes tossed into the air (Oakley would also shoot cards through the edge to prove the accuracy of her aim), the lit end of cigarettes in someone's mouth, corks out of bottles, and snuffing candles by shooting just above them. Oakley was also known for shooting backward over her shoulder using a mirror. By 1923, the Wild West shows were in decline. Buffalo Bill's Wild West, probably the most famous of the shows, went bankrupt in 1913, and most of the others were gone, too. As mentioned in the book, L. O. Hillman’s Wild West Aggregation shut down in 1920. Only a few shows lasted longer than that.


Based on my research, it seems a trick shooter like Clara might have carried a Colt Single Action Army revolver, aka the Peacemaker. Yes, that's the same gun make Wynonna Earp uses on the eponymous show. Unlike Earp's long barreled revolver, however, Clara might have carried the Bisley model, which was created for target shooting. I'm no expert, but I think that would have been better for trick shooting. I found the below gun on an auction website. It was made in 1906, which would have been consistent with the time Clara would have been just getting settled into Wild West shows. I liked the look of it, so decided this is what she would carry in Egypt:

As a final note about gunslingers and trick shooters, here's an interesting article about the accuracy (or in this case inaccuracy) of guns at the time: https://www.desertusa.com/desert-people/gunslingers-myths.html.


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©2019 by Karen Frost

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