The road is bumpy and dark. Every few hundred meters a new 'sleeping policeman', the speed bumps that you find in every housing area in Egypt.
Very effective. If you don’t respect them, you’ll pay with a total loss of your car. We are progressing slowly. Whilst villages stretch like a long ribbon along the Nile.
Abdulzaher asked me a dozen times to visit his uncle, who lives not far from Minya in Upper Egypt. Uncle Hassan, also known as the famous artist Hassan El Shark. Never heard of him though. ‘Is it a tourist trap Abdul? Am I forced to buy your uncle’s stuff after the tea? Wouldn’t be the first time in Egypt.’
‘Don’t worry Gerrit, I am just very proud of my uncle. He really makes amazing paintings. You’ll see. You will like them.’ Abdulzaher is trainee in our management development program. Nice guy. Always cheerful. So let’s go, why not. Amira joins me.
A small old man in a grey galabeya, big smile showing his steel metal front teeth, is waiting for us at the gate. Big Pharaonic statues in the front garden. Not a word of English. ‘Ahlan wa zahlan’, welcome to the El Shark Museum! It’s not the doorman, but uncle Hassan himself. The house – I’m sorry – museum is astonishing. Every inch of the walls is covered by paintings. Hundreds of them. And how wonderful they are, what a painter he is! Also Hassan’s story is remarkable. Son of a butcher, used paper to wrap the meat for his early drawings and paintings. No money to buy paint, so he learned himself to make it. This is why his colors are so different and unique.
Hassan looks like he never left his humble village. But the photo’s with celebrities on the wall tell us that he held many expositions all over the world: New York, Paris, London, Munich, Tokyo, you name it. Even The Louvre has two of his paintings.
After the tour through his museum, we drink tea and smoke shisha. Hassan talks about his life and Amira my colleague interprets. It is getting late, but no mentioning of selling anything. Finally I interrupt him: ‘Are your paintings for sale?’ ‘ Well’ he says ‘usually they are for sale in galleries. Which ones would you like then?’ I make my choice and he gives me a fair price. I promise to come back. Mesmerizing about the pleasant evening we drive back to the hotel in Minya. Hassan el Shark true gem of Upper Egypt.
Gerrit Jan Schep