Monday, March 17, 2014

World Tour Revisited: Chaplin in Egypt, March 1932

Note: I should have posted this last week. I was unsure of the exact date of Chaplin's arrival in Egypt. The Chaplin Archive website has photos of Chaplin in Cairo stamped with a date of March 20th, so I assumed this was the date. But further research over the last couple of days has proven this date to be incorrect.

Cairo, March 1932. Charlie is in front, center. Syd Chaplin is at far left. Kono is behind Charlie.

On  March 6th, Charlie, his half-brother Sydney, and secretary, Kono, sailed from Naples aboard the Suwa Maru en route to Japan via the Suez Canal. They arrived at Port Said, Egypt at 6:30am on Thursday, March 10th where a large number of fans, journalists, and photographers boarded the ship. Chaplin was asked what he wished to see during his visit:
I don't suppose I shall go to the pyramids or the Sphinx. I don't like the antiquities and dead things. I'm tired of seeing churches and temples and ruins. Every big city has those to show and they are much the same everywhere. What interests me is the native life of the various peoples. People, not things, are the more interesting. There is so much to learn--always something new--in the customs and habits of fresh peoples. If one does not delve into the native quarters, all big, cosmopolitan cities are the same. I am particularly interested in Eastern peoples, and one of my reasons for my visit to Japan is that I want to see Japanese life from close quarters. One can see everything else on the cinema!1
Photos from the cover of the Egyptian magazine Al Lataif Musawara, March 14, 1932

Despite what Charlie told the reporter he did visit the pyramids and the Sphinx. He must not have been too impressed by it all because his visit to Egypt doesn't rate a mention in "A Comedian Sees The World" nor his autobiography. The only other record of the visit can be found in Syd Chaplin's notes:
Arrived Port Said. Motored through Cairo. Lunched at Shepheard’s Hotel. Rushed around town shopping, white suits, tropical helmets, etc. Visited pyramids. Watched a man ascend and descend more than six minutes, very dangerous, stumble would be fatal. Photographed camels. Difficulty in purchasing movie camera. Everybody hunting Cairo. Dozen people and dozen camels arrive at Cook’s office. Motored back to ship at night.2
The following photos show Charlie at the pyramids and taking a ride on a camel:

Coming up next: Chaplin visits Ceylon (Sri Lanka)--"the realization of all [his] exotic dreams"


1Palestinian Bulletin, March 12, 1932
1Syd Chaplin: A Biography by Lisa K. Stein, McFarland, 2011


  1. The first sepia colored shot on the camel is cool. The second one? Painful looking!

    1. He probably liked camel riding about as much as he liked horseback riding--not very much. Plus only in the 1930s would you see people wearing suits and dresses to visit the pyramids.

  2. It truly as amazes me how many photos there are of Charlie.

  3. Charlie on a camel with the Sphynx in background! Oh yeah! I am a big fan of Egyptology, John Anthony West et al. Goodbye Zahi Awass....riddance to the lies and deception about the Egyptian past too.