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Egyptian collector preserves hundreds of classic cars

Egyptian collector Mohamed Wahdan drives ha 1948 Chrysler in Obour city, near Cairo, Egypt (Amr Nabil/AP)
Egyptian collector Mohamed Wahdan drives ha 1948 Chrysler in Obour city, near Cairo, Egypt (Amr Nabil/AP)

The past frequently collides with the present in Cairo, with traffic snarling next to 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 garages.

One man, however, has decided to try to preserve a slice of Egypt’s four-wheeled history.

Egyptian collector Mohamed Wahdan talks to people about his 1924 Ford T at a public show in Cairo, Egypt
Egyptian collector Mohamed Wahdan talks to people about his 1924 Ford T at a public show in Cairo (Amr Nabil/AP)

Car collector Mohamed Wahdan says he has accumulated more than 250 vintage, antique and classic cars.

Most of them he discovered inside the country.

A fleet of this size would rank him among the world’s top classic car collectors.

Experts typically classify vehicles as vintage, antique or classic depending on their year of production.

Automobile enthusiasts pose for a picture during a classic car show in Cairo, Egypt
Enthusiasts pose for a picture during a classic car show in Cairo (Amr Nabil/AP)

Mr Wahdan runs a tourist company taking visitors to Egypt’s famous landmarks.

But he is devoted to his hobby.

The 52-year-old owns several different garages to keep all of the vehicles, and employs a full-time team of mechanics for maintenance.

He says one of the challenges is in getting licence plates for the cars.

Government employees are often not sure how to classify them.

A mechanic wipes a 1924 Ford T which once belonged to Egypt’s King Farouk
A mechanic wipes a 1924 Ford T which once belonged to Egypt’s King Farouk (Amr Nabil/AP)

Mr Wahdan’s oldest, 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.

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 souks, sell many reminders of times gone by, replicas and genuine.

Automobile enthusiasts visit a classic car show in Cairo, Egypt
Enthusiasts visit a classic car show in Cairo (Amr Nabil/AP)

Mr Wahdan has collected many of them.

Rotary-dial telephones, gramophones, and old newspapers and stamps also fascinate him.

Recently, his cars have also made a name for themselves, with one appearing in a TV series set in the 1930s.

Mr Wahdan 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.

Mechanics work on a 1976 Mercedes at a private car collector’s lot in El Saff city in the Giza, just outside Cairo, Egypt
Mechanics work on a 1976 Mercedes at a private car collector’s lot in El Saff city in the Giza, just outside Cairo (Amr Nabil/AP)

Like his other cars, he does not drive it often.

But Mr Wahdan says he would never sell any of his collection.

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

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