A Lucky Accident

Many of the most interesting discoveries you make when doing archival research are the things you weren’t looking for, and this interesting Pepsi ad in the Egyptian sports magazine al Abtal is one of them.

Al Abtal (Arabic for “Heroes”) was published in Cairo in the early- and mid-20th century, and over time, its readership came to include Arab residents of other Egyptian cities, as well as Arabs in neighboring countries. I had tried to find issues from late 1953 through late 1956 yesterday at the Library of Congress, but all I was able to find was a volume of magazine issues from the first half of 1953. Curious, I paged through it to get a feel for its editorial slant.

Honestly, if the magazine copy had been written in English, I would have assumed that the magazine had been published by Europeans or Americans. Its pages were filled with photos and illustrations of athletes in clearly western-style athletic wear. This, surprisingly, included photos of young women in western bathing suits. The Middle East of the ’50s was certainly a different place than it has since become. In that era, the region was more secular, more accepting of western influences than in our own time. This Pepsi ad certainly reflects that reality.