In Photos: The Final Days of a King, and Egypt’s Last Royal Romance

In Photos: The Final Days of a King, and Egypt’s Last Royal Romance

Egyptians celebrating King Farouk’s second marriage. Courtesy of Norbert Schiller.

The year was 1951. The streets were overflowing with a crowd of Egyptians cheering, dancing and celebrating. It was neither because of a national holiday nor a football match, but of something even more frivolous, and held no real impact on their ordinary lives: the announcement of King Farouk’s second marriage to commoner Narriman Sadek.

King Farouk with Safinaz Zulficar, later renamed Queen Farida. Courtesy of Norbert Schiller.

It was the same year that indicated King Farouk’s final days in the palace. Throughout his 15 years of ruling, King Farouk understood the power of photography to create a fabricated image of a political leader, according to photographer Norbert Schiller.

Unlike his father, King Fuad, who did not understand how to connect with the public and only spoke Italian, King Farouk was able to craft and fashion his image through photography, selling a royal tale that only lived in people’s imagination. He always had an army of photographers to document his journeys in the countryside and around Egypt, in the hopes that it would reveal his strong connection with the ordinary Egyptian citizen.

A royal tale cannot be complete without a royal romance, and that is what King Farouk also understood. His photograph of his wedding with Safinaz Zulficar (later renamed Queen Farida) was like a chapter out of a romance novel, which made Egyptians fall in love not with the ruler of Egypt, but with a book character; a royal romance that fascinated the imagination of the general public who suffered the pain of imperialism.

King Farouk with Narriman. Courtesy of Norbert Schiller
King Farouk with Narriman. Courtesy of Norbert Schiller
King Farouk and Narriman in their honeymoon. Courtesy of Norbert Schiller.

Even in his final days, King Farouk resorted to fiction rather than face reality. The king’s image was tarnished following the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, and the Egyptian resistance against the British authorities was intensifying. To prop up support for the monarchy, Farouk decided to create another fictional royal romance: get married to 16-year old Narriman Sadek, who was an Egyptian and did not come from an aristocratic background.

The royal romance did not last too long before he was forced from power in 1952, but archives of his wedding and honeymoon remain. One photograph pictured King Farouk in a bathing suit next to his teenage wife by the pool, which marked the final chapter in the fictional royal novel, and exposed the short-lived power of photography to deceive the public in the face of harsh realities.

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Mirna Abdulaal is a writer, researcher and aspiring public/political communication specialist interested in women's rights, cultural heritage and fashion, and political communication.

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