Monday, August 11, 2008

The Um Kulthum Cafe (Baghdad)

Andrea Bruce/The Washington Post-All Rights Reserved

The Washington Post features a short slideshow of photographs taken in the Um Kulthum Cafe in Baghdad by Andrea Bruce. Unfortunately, the number (and choice) of photographs is insufficient to give the viewers the "feel" of an Arab cafe...the raucous atmosphere, the sense of family between the regular patrons, the sound of dominoes and backgammon, the smoky atmosphere, etc.

However, the most grievous omission made by whoever produced the slideshow is in not clarifying that Um Kulthum, the nightingale of the Arab world, was Egyptian. As it stands, the impression is left that since the Iraqi cafe is named after her, that she was an Iraqi...and that is blasphemy! Almost like saying that Elvis was Canadian...or English...or Australian...etc.

The few captions in the slideshow do not mention that Um Kulthum, the singer, was the unifying voice in the Arab world in an era of ardent nationalism. I recall that when Um Kulthum held her concerts, Cairo (and possibly the rest of Egypt, and indeed the Arab world) would come to a standstill.

Imagine how much this slideshow would improve if the producer & photographer got their facts right, had the sense of adding more pictures and a snippet or two of Um Kulthum's singing??? Too bad. A neophyte could have done much better.

Note: My thanks to Mike Morones for pointing out an accompanying article by Andrea Bruce which gives some background to the Um Kulthum Cafe slideshow, and which does mention that the singer is indeed Egyptian.

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