Five Amazing Egyptian Ghostsigns from Iman Abdulfattah


Fading painted sign on a wall advertising Bisleri Ferro-China and Remy Martin Cognac

Bisleri Ferro-China and Remy Martin Cognac, Sherif Street, Downtown Cairo, Egypt (© Iman R. Abdulfattah)

If you don’t already follow Frank Jump’s Fading Ad blog then I’d highly recommend you do so. Frank is a long-time friend and author of the book about New York’s widespread collection of fading ads. His ‘Uptown Correspondent‘ is Iman Abdulfattah and recently he has been posting her material from Cairo, Egypt, where she spends some time each year.

Iman refers to taking ‘an interest in documenting Cairo’s rich corpus of ephemeral art (fading ads) and old storefronts’, which is an understatement to say the least. The evidence of the material discovered so far suggests that Cairo is a goldmine of old signs, painted on walls. Not just that but the scale of theses rivals the USA e.g. this Coca-Cola one is at least seven stories. As in other places around the world, Iman notes that these old signs are ‘disappearing at a frightening pace because the cityscape is changing with the rapid population growth’.

Also noteworthy is the prevalence of big brands that are still with us today. This is a bias on Iman’s part as she tends to ‘only photograph those that an international audience can relate to – so ads with text in English or those that spotlight an international company’. I think it would also be interesting to document those for local brands, and in Arabic, to capture some of the vernacular, as I did with my work in Cambodia. I’m also aware of the need to impose limits on the scope of work undertaken to avoid it becoming all-consuming…

Here I have chosen my favourite images from those that Iman and Frank have been sharing. (Click on the images to be taken through to Frank’s site where some further contextual research has been added.) The ‘Egypt, Cairo’ tag on Frank’s blog will allow you to see more and to follow any future additions. Thank you to both Iman and Frank for allowing me to share these wonderful images, I look forward to more Egyptian despatches.

Fading sign painted on a wall advertising Bic pens and razors

Bic Ballpoint Pens & Razors, Cairo, Egypt (© Iman R. Abdulfattah)

Fading sign painted on a wall advertising Michelin Tires

Michelin Tires, Cairo, Egypt (© Iman R. Abdulfattah)

Fading painted sign on a wall advertising Laughing Cow

Laughing Cow/Appliance Store Palimpsest, Sayyida Zaynab Square, Cairo, Egypt (© Iman R. Abdulfattah)

Fading sign painted on a wall advertising Maggi Chicken Cubes

Maggi Chicken Bouillon Cubes, Downtown Cairo, Egypt (© Iman R. Abdulfattah)

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