More Secrets Of Farouk's Seven Palaces Have Been Disclosed In
Plans For The...
THE EGYPTIAN Government will auction art treasures and hobby collections of the deposed King Farouk from February 12 to March 28. Because of this a correspondent has been able to tour the palaces and inspect the collec- tions-some worth probably millions of pounds, others
valueless junk-of "the Magpie King."
- By A Special Correspondent -
WHAT kind of man
would create the finest coin collection in the world and store it
alongside thousands of "tuppenny bloods" and 200 medicine samples including 24 bottles of
What kind of millionaire would build a false bottom to his apartments to store
his treasures - and equip it with two ornate bathrooms?
What kind of king would separate himself from his queen in the Royal palace by rooms containing a chemical laboratory and a fully-equipped dentist's sur- gery?
Only one man, one mil- lionaire, one king. Only Prince Farouk Fuad, exiled King of Egypt.
Farouk - the playboy, the collector, the joker, the gambler, the pornographer, the family man - used his immense wealth to fill seven palaces with playthings worth probably more than
£ 1 million.
Everything he wanted he could buy. But he tired easily of his possessions . . . and went on to buy some- thing else.
There are many versions of the Farouk story, and as many denials — but this is a story which cannot be chal- lenged. For now Sotheby's, the London art firm, are pre- paring for the sale of much of the contents of the palaces.
And now I have been able to see for myself the
fantastic Arabian Nights world that Farouk created.
The auctioning of "the palace collections of Egypt" will take place in the vast gilt and crystal main recep-
tion room of the Koubbeh Palace near Cairo.
Experts estimate that the sale will yield somewhere between £1 million and £6 million. They cannot be at all sure, because the value of objets d'art is hard to estimate and the sheer size of the sale may send world markets nose-diving.
Jokes - And Treasures
When Farouk was de- posed and exiled in July, 1952, at the age of 32, the antique dealers of the world where he had been buying heavily for many years be- gan speculating on the fate of his accumulated treasures.
Three months later Sothe- by's took the initiative and dispatched a small team of experts to Egypt. This pioneer team managed to persuade the sore-pressed new Government that the embarrassing storehouses of valuables would best be handed over to them for disposal.
The English experts were allowed only a few quick peeps at the treasures, al- ready crated up and stored under guard in vast stone caverns in the depths of the palaces.
But it was enough to show the immensity of the
collection, and in Decem- ber, 1952, a contract was signed placing the cata- loguing, classifying and disposal of the treasures in Sotheby's hands.
The Egyptian Govern- ment decided to retain Farouk's magnificent col- lection of Egyptian an- tiquities. It has not yet de- cided what to do with the furniture and fittings of Farouk's seven places - mostly French reproduction furniture of top quality but of little value to collectors.
Egypt likewise is unde- cided on the disposal of Farouk's vast and expensive collection of pornography.
With Eastern logic, Egypt turned part of it into a special museum with the object of showing the world exactly the type of man Farouk was. This plan has partly misfired, as the museum is a favorite ren- dezvous for American women tourists, who seem io enjoy it immensely.
I have spent days in the palaces, rummaging through Farouk's secret rooms. He was a Magpie King, this fat, still youthful playboy.
In his apartments at the Koubbeh Palace, the coun- try palace 10 miles outside Cairo, I found 100 radio sets, nearly all modern port- ables; 100 electric razors.
There are drawers full of jokes. There are teeth that chatter when you wind them up. Tricks, games, false noses by the hundred.
There are 20 albums of
FAROUK melted down many of his wedding gifts-but not this golden mummy mask.
In front is a diamond studded coffee service.
matchbox labels, 300 pipes - from tiny French briars to elaborately carved meers- chaums. His "tuppenny bloods," magazines of lurid crime and romance of many countries, fill a huge cup- board.
There is a collection of china mugs in the shape of torsos. There is a collection of plastic nudes made into fishermen's "spinners," and there are hundreds of walk- ing-sticks.
I inspected 500 glass paperweights, ash-trays col- lected from all over Europe (including some of the cheapest kinds of seaside souvenirs), and a vast col- lection of perfumes and even delicately scented lighter petrol.
But there are also collec- tions of enormous value.
A few months before King Farouk left Egypt for ever, he began to build a modern Aladdin's cave - a treasure store for the King Magpie - in his palace at Koubbeh.
A Bathroom King. Too
He designed a burglar proof treasure museum.
Technicians installed it for him, sandwiching it between the ground and first floors of
the palace, immediately be- low his own apartments.
There were only two en- trances. One was a winding staircase from the ground floor; the other a lift.
But where the staircase
joined the museum they in- stalled a heavy steel door so that, in effect, the lift was the only route to the treasure house.
I took the lift, pushed open the doors, and found myself in a low-ceilinged corridor. At each side of the lift gates an electrical sentry had been installed a ray device which set off alarm bells all over the pal- ace if an intruder broke the beam.
It is a sombre treasure house, this dark, windowless chamber. Walls, ceilings everything - are painted plum brown.
The chamber itself con- sists of two long corridors. There are showrooms open- ing off the corridors-each about 10ft high and 20ft square and each fitted with glass cases and cabinets.
Farouk had planned to transfer to these rooms his gold cocktail set, his gem studded cigarette cases, his watches, his diamond-stud- ded dice, his jewel boxes, and the cream of his other treasures.
It is typical of the man that he should also have in
WITH an Egyptian Guards officer the Premier, General Naguib, inspects
Farouk's sumptuous bedroom in the Koubbeh Palace.
stalled two bathrooms in this treasure storehouse.
For this Farouk was a Bathroom King.
I found yet another bath- room adjoining the coin room, which is in the vaults of the palace . . . immedi- ately beneath the secret
Here in a huge, wide, plain stone hall he kept his coins and stamps.
Farouk spent hours in these vaults arranging and sorting both coins and stamps. Every post brought him new specimens from dealers all over the woild.
He was a neat magpie, this former king.
He had complicated dock- eting, numbering and filing systems, and each one of the 250,000 coins (8,500 of them are solid gold and 160 are solid platinum) is kept in a separate envelope. He seems to have had a pas- sion for tidiness.
The stamp collection, claimed to be the world's largest and finest, is housed in five huge safes.
A large part of Farouk's treasures in jewellery and other objets d'art was in- herited, but a great part also he collected busily during his brief reign - 12 years of dissipation which turned a handsome youth into a bloated old man.
Since going into exile, Farouk has spent much time and energy in denying the "unfounded rumours" that grew about him.
One of these "rumours" insisted that he melted his gold and silver wedding pre- sents into bullion blocks.
It is a rumour no longer. I know that in a foundry installed on the ground floor of Abdine Palace he reduced the presents he received in- to roughly cast blocks, each about 4in long by 2in
They were stored away in boxes, and after Farouk's downfall they were found in his private rooms at Abdine.
This formal palace, which stands in the centre of Cairo, is Oriental, splendid, magni-
Yet - and after seeing the other palaces, I was hardly surprised - the most fabu- lous room of all is the king's bathroom. For a man who was crazy about bathrooms, this one was certainly some- thing. It is 20 feet square with yellow alabaster walls and a bath like a swimming pool, eight feet deep.
At the top of the bath steps is a divan, and there are three other rooms lead- ing off the bathroom itself.
In one are wash basins, in the second a refrigerator which was kept full of cold drinks. The third contains a hot-towel cupboard and a medicine chest with enough equipment to stock a factory first-aid department.
Bathtime for Farouk was a serious affair.
It Happened In England
The art treasures and many of the more valuable of the other collections have been moved to the Koubbeh Palace for display to pros- pective buyers in prepara- tion for the auction.
Five catalogues have been compiled-two of them as
large as a Sydney telephone directory - and already 20,000 copies have been dis- patched throughout the
A staff of more than 100, excluding the guards, will manage the sale; and min- utely timed full-dress re- hearsals have been going on for the last fortnight.
Even so, the auctioneers and the Egyptian Govern- ment, the present owners, are rather anxious about the results.
This sale of belongings of the ex-king suggests a comparison with the sales of the Whitehall collec- tions of England's Charles I under the Commonwealth, and of the contents of the Palace of Versailles owned by Louis XVI of France ia
In both those sales the sudden flooding on to the world of countless valuable collectors' pieces knocked the bottom out of the mar- ket and rare and splendid antiques were bought for a tenth or a hundredth of their real value.
Sotheby's are determined that the same thing shall not happen this time on the Nile, and if their painstaking re- search and planning on a titanic scale bring results the expected sale may even be the greatest in histoiy.