In Egypt, a vintage car collector tries to preserve a slice of the country’s four-wheeled history
By Amr Nabil
The past frequently collides with the present in Cairo, with traffic rumbling past ancient sites. Cars in the city can take a beating – between high temperatures, insidious desert dust and crowded streets.
Classic models aren’t uncommon, but they often languish in dusty back alleys or garages. One man, however, decided to try to preserve a slice of Egypt’s four-wheeled history.
Car collector Mohamed Wahdan says he has amassed over 250 old, vintage and classic cars. He discovered most of them inside the country.
A fleet of this size would rank him among the top classic car collectors in the world. Experts generally classify vehicles as vintage, antique, or classic based on their year of production.
Wahdan, 52, runs a tourism business that takes visitors to famous sites in Egypt. But he is devoted to his hobby. He has several different garages to keep them all together and employs a full-time crew of mechanics for maintenance.
He says one of the challenges is getting car license plates. Government employees often do not know how to classify them.
Wahdan’s oldest, a 1924 Ford Model T that belonged to Egypt’s last monarch, King Farouk, is a museum piece, with a velvet rope to mark its parking space in his garage.
The country’s layered history makes it a treasure trove for antiquities. Egypt, a former British protectorate, was a destination for Europeans in the late 19th century and first half of the 20th century. Italian, Greek and Jewish communities once flourished in Cairo and the Mediterranean city of Alexandria. Its historic markets, or souks, sell many reminders of bygone eras, both replicas and authentic.
Wahdan collected many. Rotary telephones, gramophones, old newspapers and stamps also fascinate him.
Recently his cars have also made a name for themselves, with one appearing in a television series set in the 1930s. more and more Egyptians flock to the classic car shows where his vehicles are displayed.
One of his most expensive items is his first purchase, a 1970s Mercedes. Like his other cars, he doesn’t drive it often. But he says he would never sell any part of his collection.
“Anyone who is passionate about these cars can’t live without them,” he said.