Ahmed Shawki Museum

Ahmed Shawki Museum Introduction Traditionally, a museum is known to be a place where objects of
antique and historical nature are displayed. However, the modern concept of a museum has been developed so as to reflect, as well, all aspects of modern and contemporary life.
In the light of this concept, a museum is now envisaged as a centre of comprehersive and extensive cultural dissemination that aims at cultivating man's feelings and stimulating creativity in all fields. A museum can, therefore, be a melting pot, providing a tasteful and pleasant cultural mix, that reflects the unity and integrity of arts. Poet - Laureate Ahmed shawki's Museum, originally named by the poet " Karmat Ibn Hani'e ( Ibn Hani'e's vineyard), was the first of a series of museums to be yet renovated.

Karmat Ibn Hani'e was not merely the Poet - Laureate's house but also the hub of men of letters, poets, playwrights, musicians, singers as well as a meeting place for statesmen, pressmen and other dignitaries.

With the inauguration of this museum, the Karma is re-created anew in order to resume its older role, but with new and fresh potential. The ultimate purpose of this cultural enterprise is to achieve the sublime goal of elevating arts and stimulating man's creativity and noble feelings. Karmat Ibn Hani'e: Past and Present Karmat Ibn Hani'e was the name given by Ahmed shawki to the house he bought in 1914. The house was located in a quiet suburb of Cairo; El Matariya. In an air of romantic serenity and calm, the house lay in the middle of a spacious and gorgeous garden, strewn with ever-green trees, the oldest of which is a willow with intertwined branches. The real reason for the selection by shawki of this location was its proximity to the Qubba Palace, the royal seat of Khedive Abbas of Egypt. Both the Khedive and the poet were very close friends and shawki really enjoyed passing most of his leisure time in the company of the Khedive.

shawki named his house after Ibn Hani Al Abbasi, commonly known as Abu Nuwwas, a famous Abbasite poet ( 756-814 AD). shawki was highly infatuated with this great poet, whose real talent and rich achievements had not been duly evaluated and rather unjustly criticized. He was commonly, but not fairly, portrayed as a wanton and frivolous legendary figure. By naming his house after Ibn Hani, shawki had in mind to commemorate, redress and do justice to this great early poet.

Although the house was already too big, particularly for shawki's family, consisting of the poet, his wife, one daughter and two sons, an annex was added. In this annex, shawki stored antique furniture and other objects, acquired by the poet from public auction sales, being one of his favourite hobbies. The house comprised numerous rooms: three dining rooms, five sitting rooms with different colours such as the red, green or white room etc...

The house was further expanded, when he acquired an adjacent house to accommodate his daughter " Omniya ", married at hardly the age of fifteen.This house was appended to the Karma .

The house also contained a spacious service building ( Selamlik). Part of the area was assigned as a garage for two horse- driven carriages; a victoria ( Hantour) and a phaeton. There was also a horse stable, where two horses were kept. Although shawki had a liking for automobiles, and was one of the first who aquired cars in Egypt, yet, out of fear of speed, he did not like using them.

In the house garden, there was a large number of domestic animals such as deer, turtles, peakcocks and parrots. There was also a basin, where a crocodile was kept. The reptile was brought, at the request of shawki's son, by an officer friend of the poet working in Sudan.

In view of shawki's close friendship with the Khedive , the latter often referred needy persons asking for help to shawki. He welcomed them and spent much of his time and money meeting their needs.

The house was also honoured with the visit of the Khedive and his Austrian wife on the occasion of the wedding of Ahmed shawki's daughter.

With the outbreak of World War I, Britain proclaimed Egypt a British protectorate. Khedive Abbas, who was in a visit to Turkey was dethroned and banned from entry into Egypt. He was then replaced by Sultan Hussein Kamel as Khedive of Egypt.

As a result of this reshuffle, Shawki was exiled abroad. He chose to take Spain as a place of exile. Throughout the years of the war, he lived with his family in Barcelon, suffering from the pains of estrangement and expatriation from home. In the poems composed during this
period, he gave immortal expression of his patriotic feeling and nostalgia for his home country. His poetry, mainly the Andalusian nostalgic poems, expressing the bitterness of exile and passionate love of and yearning for his home country still survive as rare and immortal masterpieces of poetry.

Early in 1920, shawki came back home from exile and was warmly and passionately welcomed by masses of the people in Alexandria and then in Cairo. He was strongly impressed by that welcome. Shawki's New Karma After his return home from exile, he no longer felt like living in El Matariya, although his house had remained intact, even unaffected throughout the period of exile. shawki believed that his house had remained safe and intact on account of a signboard hanging on the entrance bearing the phrase " There is no god but Allah and Mohammed is the Messenger of Allah. "

For this reason, when he left his old house in El Matariya, he ensured that the signboard was relocated to the entrance of his new house in Giza.

In selecting Giza as a location for his new Karma, shawki had good reasons. In his survey of other suburbs of Cairo, he found out that Zamalek was too low-lying. Heliopolis was quiet, healthy and well-served by means of transport but too far. Qasr El Doobara was too
congested. As to Giza, there were many important considerations to justify selection. First, Giza overlooks the River Nile, which shawki adored and loved to live nearby. During his residence in EL Matariya, shawki aquired a dahabiya (a long light-draft houseboat) on the Nile so as to be able to enjoy the view of the river.shawki often cited a line of poetry by a Fatimide poet, recommending residence nearby the Nile: Albeit living in Egypt but not by the side. Of the flowing Nile, say not you in Egypt reside Another reason for selecting such site was its relative proximity to the Pyramids; another fovourite place of shawki's choice. Every Friday, shawki used to make outings to the Pyramids in the company of his family and friends including artists and literary writers. However, when shawki moved to his house in Giza gave up the habit of frequenting the Pyramids. He needed not travel that far to his favourite place, when he could easily enjoy the view of the Pyramids, with the naked eye, right from his house.

Throughout the ensuing years, shawki led a rich life teeming with literary achievements, glory and high renown. His eminent standing was further enhanced as he drew closer and closer to the innermost feelings of the masses, by truly expressing the agonies and aspirations of the Egyptian people and advocating and supporting their common causes. Karmat Ibn Hani': A National Musem In recognition of the outstanding achievements of Poet-Laureate Ahmed shawki and his
far-reaching impact on Arabic literature, the Republican Decree No. 540/1972 was issued, converting "Karmat Ibn Hani' ", together with all the surrounding grounds into a national museum. This conversion was consummated in June 17, 1977.

Since then, Karmat Ibn Hani' has been, as ever before, during the poet's lifetime, the hub and
meeting place of literary writers, poets, artists and musicians. Every month, two evening poetry
recitals are regularly conducted in the museum Many artistic events, were provided and televised on air. In addition, several cultural events were held in the museum, including symposia, plastic arts shows, book and philatelic exhibitions and musical and vocal concerts .

Karmat Ibn Hani, once the-home of Poet-Laureate Ahmed shawki has become, after a major
face-lifting operation, an outstanding cultural centre that now plays a central role in enriching the cultural and intellectual scene and promoting letters and arts. Components of the Museum
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