The Egyptian collector with hundreds of classic cars

Classic models are not uncommon, but they often languish in dusty alleys or garages

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The past frequently collides with the present in Cairo, with traffic snarling past ancient sites.

Cars in the city can take a beating – between soaring temperatures, insidious desert dust and the crowded streets.

Classic models are not uncommon, but they often languish in dusty alleys or hidden in garages. One man, however, has decided to try to preserve a slice of Egypt’s four-wheeled history.

Car collector Mohamed Wahdan says he has accumulated more than 250 vintage, antique and classic cars. Most of them he discovered in the country.

Mechanics select cars for restoration at a lot in El Saff outside Cairo, Friday, April 8, 2022.  Egyptian classic car collector Mohamed Wahdan says he has accumulated more than 250 vintage, antique and classic cars over the past 20 years. AP Photo

A fleet of this size would rank him among the world’s top classic car collectors. Experts classify vehicles as vintage, antique or classic depending on their year of production.

Mr Wahdan, 52, runs a tourist company taking visitors to Egypt’s famous landmarks. But he is devoted to his hobby. He owns several garages to keep all of them, and employs a full-time team of mechanics for maintenance.

He says one of the challenges is in getting the cars licence plates. Government employees are often unsure how to classify them.

Mr Wahdan’s oldest car, a 1924 Model T Ford that belonged to Egypt’s last monarch, King Farouk, is a museum piece, complete with a velvet rope to mark its parking place in his garage.

A mechanic replaces the bonnet ornament on a 1976 Mercedes at a private collector's lot in El Saff city outside Cairo, Egypt. AP Photo

The country’s layered history makes it a treasure trove for antiques. Egypt, a former British protectorate, was a destination for Europeans in the late 19th century and the 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 souqs, sell many reminders of times gone by, a mix of replicas and the real thing.

Mr Wahdan has collected many of them. Rotary-dial telephones, gramophones, and old newspapers and stamps also fascinate him.

Recently, his cars made a name for themselves, with one appearing in a TV series set in the 1930s. He has noticed that interest in car collecting is growing among Egyptians, as more flock to classic car shows where his vehicles are displayed.

One of his dearest items is his first purchase, a 1970s Mercedes. Like his other cars, he does not drive it often. But he says he would never sell any of his collection.

“Anyone who is passionate about those cars is unable to do without them,” he said.

Updated: April 20, 2022, 10:15 AM
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