Archivist Mohamed Sadek: Preserving Egypt’s Cultural History by Sherif M. Awad

by Sherif M. Awad
Learn about Mohamed Sadek, an archivist based in Cairo’s Faysal neighborhood, who has dedicated his life to preserving Egypt’s rich cultural heritage. Explore his collection of rare books, magazines, posters, and lobby stills dating back to the early 20th century.
Located in Cairo’s Faysal neighborhood, Mohamed Sadek, an esteemed archivist, has painstakingly curated a collection of invaluable cultural artifacts. His extensive assortment comprises books, magazines, posters, and lobby stills, all offering a glimpse into Egypt’s early 20th-century history.
Within one of the buildings in the Faysal neighborhood, Sadek has established his office, which boasts towering volumes of books, antique cinema projectors, and a vintage telephone adorning his desk. This space serves as a hub where Sadek regularly welcomes artists, researchers, intellectuals, and fellow collectors seeking to explore his treasure trove.
Archivist Mohamed Sadek Preserving Egypt's Cultural History

Preserving a Family Legacy

Born and raised in Cairo’s El-Darb El-Ahmar neighborhood, Sadek considers his current work as a continuation of his family’s legacy. In the early 20th century, his ancestors were affectionately known as “El-Warakeen” or the papermen, individuals involved in various paper-related endeavors. Sadek’s grandfather, the proprietor of “Sadek Bookshop,” located in El-Sayeda Zeinab neighborhood’s Port-Said Street (formerly El-Khaleeg El-Masry Street), inspired him with a profound passion for preserving history.

Assuming his father’s role at the family shop during his youth, Sadek quickly realized that secondhand book and magazine sales were not particularly lucrative. This realization prompted him to transition from a salesperson to a collector and archivist, focusing on amassing an impressive collection of magazines, books, pressbooks, and posters that meticulously trace Egypt’s and the Arab world’s history in arts, politics, and daily life. “It was after the 1992 earthquake that I made the decision to transform my practice,” Sadek recalls. “The Egyptian government’s relocation of individuals near Al-Azhar to facilitate officials’ commutes left us searching for a new space near El-Batneya neighborhood’s infamous mountain. The subsequent resettlement near El-Azbakeya Garden in El-Attaba marked a turning point.”

Determined to attract customers and boost sales, Sadek began implementing eye-catching changes to his newsstand, incorporating a thematic variety of historical, artistic, and pop culture displays. His efforts did not go unnoticed, and soon, he found himself in the limelight, becoming a sought-after guest on radio and television programs. Esteemed writers such as Waheed Hamed and Youssef Maaty, as well as renowned stars like Adel Imam and Youssra, sought Sadek’s expertise and accessed his extensive collection to gather archival information for their research and performances.

Promoting Cultural Heritage

Sadek’s dedication to preserving and showcasing Egypt’s cultural heritage extends beyond his Cairo-based endeavors. Over the years, he has organized numerous exhibitions both within Egypt and abroad. One of his most prominent exhibitions was held during the 2014 edition of the Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF). This showcase featured classic posters from Egypt’s golden era of black and white cinema, along with pressbooks, lobby stills, and vintage box office tickets, allowing visitors to delve into the different decades of the film industry’s history.

If you are interested in the history of Egyptian cinema, you might also enjoy reading about the Egyptian stuntman who performed daring feats for many films.

Another article that explores the rich heritage of Egyptian cinema is Cinema of Sun, which reviews  the golden age of Egyptian film industry.
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Sherif M. Awad
Sherif M. Awad
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