According to the Calendar of Coming Events, Alexandria had many events listed and lined up from Monday to Saturday. Typically, these events consist of many different activities including people going to the theatre, listening to the orchestra, or dressing up to attend glamorous galas. I noticed that in the Coming of Events Calendar there were many reoccurring theatre names. I decided to research the different types, and the most reoccurring theatres in Alexandria between 1905-1907.

In order to locate the different types of theatres within Alexandria, I ran an XPath query searching in element of the Coming of Events element. I received about a little more than hundred. I also used the regular expression to search anything with the word theatre within the template. In my original XPath I searched through the whole content file, but I realized that I did not have it updated. This caused my search to include the element tag instead. As a result, I had to update my content folder and then began my XPath search again. I received a little less than my original XPath search, but I copied my work and placed it into an atom document. I also used regular expression to be more specific with my search and took at all the mentions of theatre within the Calendar of Events. My XPath query result then was the following: //div[@feature="comingEvents"] with regular expression \w+ theatre.

Once in atom, I deleted everything that was not labeled or named theatre. I realized that there were a couple of misspellings and I corrected them. Overall, nine theatres were constantly contracted and used for different events. These theatres including the following: Esbekieh, Eden, Theatre des Nouveautes, Alhambra, Esbekieh Garden, San Stefano, Zizina, and Abbas. Based on the four most mentioned theatres in Alexandria, I decided to do another XPath search. I wanted to understand the different importances of these reoccurring theatres, and I began to research the number one theatre, the Esbekieh Garden theatre. Then, I continued my search by exercising multiple Xpath searches by using the Calendar of Coming Events tag and placing the specific name of each theatre from my original search. Although it was difficult because the Calendar of Coming Events has a specific template, I excluded the items that did not have a description following. However, I did keep the theatres which had the type performance such as Italian comedy or French comedy. Initially, I only had a couple of theatres under the year 1905, but after searching through each individual theatre more results were gathered for that year. As I gathered my results in a tableu worksheet, I discovered that most shows were seasonal. Most of the theatres occurred during the fall beginning in August and ending in January or February. My data ranged from the year 1905 to 1907, but the majority of my results were within the first two years possibly because most of the class encoded their issues from 1905 and 1906.

According to the novel Egypt and How to See it written by Lamplough, the Ezbekieh Gardens was a small threatre, where during small intervals of time small French plays performed for the Egyptian people. The author also recognized another one of the reoccurring theatres in my XPath query search named the Abbas Theatre. It is clear that Egypt held a vast majority of culture such as French and Islam. These types of evidence can be seen throughout the Egyptian Gazette; for example, the Notes de Critique, which are often written in French. However, in the Abbas Theatre, they shared many different cultures, as well. According to Lamplough’s novel, the Abbas Theatre held many Italian opera, grand, and light, and French opera. It is stated that these French and Italian operas were very successful and held nearly twelve hundred people, and the author even mentioned that the seats were quite comfortable adding to the Abbas Theatre’s attraction. This is understandable because Egypt did not have particular demographic. In fact, during the 20th century, the population of Egypt included Jewish, Islamic, and other races and cultures.

After reviewing all the different types of theatres, it appeared that most of them held different types of appeals either comedy or drama. Additionally, according to the essay “Theatre in Egypt Before and After the Revolution,” Egypt transformed due to the rise of independent theatre at the beginning of 1990s. As a result, my XPath search indicated that within the first couple of years of the 20th century the threatres in Egypt were very prominent. Furthermore, the author of the article Joseph Fahim states that the “modern” theatre we know today had its roots in the folk traditions and streets of Egypt. In fact, the theatre began to boom in the 20th century when Egypt became the cultural hub of the Middle East. I can tell from the articles that Egypt and its cultural society held an important impact both culturally and socially. This is shocking because many people would not consider Egypt as a cultural prosperity because Egypt is often recognized during the Roman Era and Cleopatra’s reign. Egypt in any other light including as the central attraction of the Middle East and hub for culture and entertainment in the 20th century.

I continued my search towards other theatres and it appeared that the Zizinia Theater held more activities than any other theatre. I began another XPath search for only the word Zizina Theatre with the Calendar of Coming Events and many different types of activities occurred during the month of October such as benefits during 1905 and 1906; for example, including Money Benefit for the Jewish Hospital and El Owa el Woska Benefit Performance. According to my research and data, the theatres were scheduled between the months of October to February possibly due to benefits and other seasonal events. I decided to further investigate the Zizinia theatre and these types of benefit events. According to the article written by the Free Popular University in Egypt, on Sunday 26 May 1901 this particular university was declared officially opened at the Theatre Zizinia in Alexandria, thus, making it one of the most frequent and common theatres in Egypt.

Furthermore, according to the biography Omar Toussoun: Prince of Alexandria by Sahar Hamouda, El Owa el Woska was an Islamic Benevolent Society. Therefore, the Zizinia theatre became an important part of the Prince of Alexandria’s social and charity work. The article demonstrated that the theatres in Egypt, especially the Zizinia Theatre, were a great source of revenue and social axis. It is evident the Prince of Alexandria supported the arts and theatres which, in turn, created a source of income for Egypt. The introduction of the famous and royal citizens using the theatre must have greatly contributed to constant appearance in the Calendar of Events and, overall, increased the popularity of the theatre to the general population.

Moreover, the article also stated that events at the Zizinia Theatre often occurred during the start of the year and during spring around April. This supported my data visualization because most of the theatres within Alexandria were in production from October to April including the Zizinia Theatre. It appeared that these were the times when most of the benefit performances and holiday performances occurred, thus causing most of the theatre events to be circled around winter through spring. For example, the Prince of Alexandria, Omar Toussoun, placed many of his benefit performances during the months of spring such as April. Additionally, the theatres had other specific genres such as comedy or drama. Throughout my search, I discovered that most of threatre, when not hosting charity events or galas, held either Italian or French comedies and dramas. According to the “Ideology and Culture of Power in Late Ottoman Egypt” by Adam Mestyan, the Egyptian culture included theatres of different language and events such as the French and Italian operas which were quite common during the time.

Overall, the theatres within Alexandria and Cairo became an important factor for Egypt. I was surprised to realize Egypt was the center hub for many cross cultural and artistic events. It is evident that the theatre was an important development for Egypt for economic reasons, but it was also important culturally because it created the foundation for the “modern” theatre seen today. The Egyptian Gazette is a great source to analyze and discover the different types of cultures and social relations within the people of Egypt during the 20th century.

Leyna Castro
Leyna Castro

The author, a student at Florida State University, was enrolled in the digital microhistory lab in spring 2018.