The Prince of Poets Museum is an Open Door to the Aesthetics of Art

An Architectural Masterpiece Full of Beauty and Brilliance Bearing the Andalusian Style
Ahmed Shawqi Museum in Giza. (Courtesy of Sarah Gamal).

Egypt was one of the first countries in the MENA region and the world to convert the homes of the pioneers of writing into museums although later that idea became very popular.

On the banks of the Nile in Giza, the Prince of Poets, Ahmed Shawqi, built his snow-white palace, an appropriate location insofar as he is known for his love of the Nile and wrote dozens of poems in its praise and glorification.

The Ahmed Shawqi Museum in Giza, which was established in honor of the Prince of Poets and in recognition of his merit in Arabic literature, is a literary reference source for researchers and those interested in literature.  This museum is of great importance in terms of its association with one of the symbols of the Arabic poem in its period of revival, the Prince of Poets Ahmed Shawqi.

 

A large statue of Ahmed Shawqi created by late Egyptian sculptor Gamal El Seguini to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Shawqi's death (Courtesy of Sarah Gamal).

 

The Prince of Poets Museum is one of the most important museums of writers in the Arab world.  It has a high literary value due to the distinguished position of its owner in the history of Arabic poetry, ancient and modern.

The museum is located on the Nile Corniche in Giza Governorate, in the house in which Shawqi and his family lived.  He built the house after returning from exile in Spain in the early part of the last century and named it “Karmet Ibn Hanie” (“Ibn Hani's Vineyard”). 

In 1973, President Sadat issued an order to transform the house into a museum after the Egyptian government purchased it from the heirs of the Prince of Poets. The museum was opened on June 17, 1977.

 

The office of the Prince of Poets overlooking the Nile. (Courtesy of Sarah Gamal).

 

Shawqi was greatly influenced by the Spanish atmosphere and was charmed by the old gardens of Andalusia. He wanted to build a house with an Andalusian architectural style surrounded by gardens with trees and flowers on all sides, away from the crowds of Cairo. Before that, Shawqi lived in the Matariya neighborhood with his family. He grew up there and lived his early years in his father's palace. He admired the Abbasid poet Abi Al-Hassan bin Hani, nicknamed Abu Nawas, so he named the house after him.

A large statue in the garden lobby receives the visitor to the museum of the Prince of Poets. The statue was sculpted by the late Egyptian sculptor Gamal El Seguini to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Shawqi's death. The statue is made of limestone and two bronze copies of it were made, one of which was placed in the museum’s garden, and the other in Orman Square in Giza. There is a bust of the poet in the main lobby of the museum.

 

A bust of the Poet in the main lobby of the Museum. (Courtesy of Sarah Gamal).

 

The museum consists of two floors with the ground floor including Shawqi’s library, which is filled with thousands of rare books in all branches of literary, scientific, and intellectual knowledge. The library also contains the originals of the drafts for poems and poetic plays composed by the Prince of Poets, as well as manuscripts of songs in his own handwriting that were sung by the artist Mohamed Abdel Wahab.

 

Ahmed Shawqi’s big library of books and his audio library. (Courtesy of Sarah Gamal).

 

Additionally, there is an audio library on which a number of old melodies and songs were recorded. To the left of the entrance is the reception room and a gilded salon.

The design of the walls and ceiling are in the Islamic architectural style. The ceiling is ornamentally engraved, while the walls are decorated with Quranic verses written in Kufic script.

At the end of the hall, there is a wooden staircase overlaid with green marble and covered with a red carpet. This staircase takes the visitor to the second floor, whose entrance contains a statue of Shawqi made by an Italian sculptor. On its base, there is a memorial marble plaque commemorating the inauguration of Ahmed Shawqi as Prince of Arab Poets in 1927.

A wooden staircase overlaid with green marble and covered with a red carpet which takes the visitor to the second floor. (Courtesy of Sarah Gamal).

 

Shawqi represents one of the contributors to the transition of poetry during the phase of renewal, in what was called the Resurrection. Shawqi deliberately named his museum after “Ibn Hani” in relation to the poet Abu Nawas in order to reach this poetic moment and to send a message that he lives for poetry and adopts Arab culture.

On the other hand, the museum regularly hosts exhibitions of fine art, poetry evenings, and various cultural seminars.

 

The room in which the Prince of Poets met other poets. (Courtesy of Sarah Gamal).

 

Ahmed Shawqi was born in the Hanafi district of Cairo on October 16, 1868, to a Kurdish father and a mother of Turkish and Circassian origins. He memorized a portion of the Qur’an and learned the principles of reading and writing. Then he joined the elementary school of poetic novices, where he showed clear brilliance.

At the age of fifteen, his poetic talent began to draw the attention of his teacher, Sheikh Muhammad al-Basiouni.  Afterward, he attended the Law School in the year 1303 AH (1885 AD), and joined the Department of Translation.

Shawqi traveled to France and was with fellow missionaries of the Egyptian Progress Society. This was one of the forms of patriotic activism against the British occupation. He formed a close friendship with the leader Mustafa Kamel. He began work on the projects of the Egyptian Renaissance and was influenced by French poets, especially Molière.

The Prince of Poets was exiled by the English to Spain in 1915. During his exile, he became acquainted with Arabic literature and Andalusian civilization but was following events taking place in Egypt. Another trend appeared in his poetry, different from the style to which he had committed before his exile, and continued until he returned to Egypt in 1920.  In 1927, Arab poets pledged allegiance to Shawqi as Prince of Poetry.

Ahmed Shawqi Museum is considered an important architectural and literary masterpiece because it is an embodiment of the life journey of the most important poet in the history of the modern Arab people, the life of a man who interacted with the world and gave a great deal to its culture.

 

The museum is theoretically open every day, except Monday and Friday, from 10 am to 3 pm. The museum is located in the villa of the poet Ahmed Shawqi and has been annexed to the Ministry of Culture.

 

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