McPHERSON, Joseph Williams.

The Moulids of Egypt.

(Egyptian Saints-Days). With a Foreword by Prof. E. E. Evans-Pritchard.

Cairo: Printed N[ile] M[ission] Press, 1941 Stock Code: 147675
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First and only edition of this study of the popular Muslim and Coptic festivals of Cairo. Well represented institutionally, but distinctly uncommon on the market. Bimbashi McPherson began life in Cairo as mathematics teacher at the prestigious Khedival College, during WWI he was commissioned in the Camel Transport Corps and subsequently became head of the secret police, particularly interested in the city's low life. Following his retirement he took up the study of religious rituals.

An extraordinary figure McPherson (1866-1946), celebrated in a biography by a kinsman as "The Man who loved Egypt", moved without fear through all layers of Cairene society fascinated by the richness of Egyptian culture; "Anthropological curiosity, for instance, was not always the main motive for his visits to Cairo's seedier clubs and brothels, but he was familiar enough with their dangers to carry a pair of knuckledusters or a gun... Disguise was McPherson's forte: his repertory included an 'Armenian Jew of means' and a 'low-class Greek'... McPherson used the freedom of retirement to study religious rituals, his lifelong passion. He popularized the results with articles on such topics as the evil eye and Egyptian folk medicine... Urged by his friend the anthropologist Edward Evans-Pritchard, he wrote The Moulids of Egypt (1941), for which he became a noted authority. Many of the 126 religious festivals described have since faded away, making the book of lasting interest. Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet (195760) relied heavily on it for descriptions of whirling dances, chants, freak shows, and processions" (ODNB). A meticulously informed, but lively and gossipy study much enhanced by McPherson's own photographs of the streets, sanctuaries, side-shows and performers, including notorious drag artist Husein Foad who "danced always in the dress, ornaments, hair, lipstick, and manners of a woman, and who people who watched for the umpteenth time could hardly be made to believe he was not what he appeared".

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Octavo. Original green half pebble-grain cloth, title and ankh device gilt to spine, marbled boards, map endpapers.


Frontispiece and 42 half-tone plates, 22 detailed sectional maps of Cairo to the text, errata slip bound at the index.


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