Ahmed Hassanein

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Ahmed Hassanein

Ahmed Hassanein Pasha, KCVO, MBE (Arabic: أحمد حسنين باشا‎) (31 October 1889 – 19 February 1946)[1] or Aḥmad Moḥammad Makhlūf Ḥasanēn al-Būlākī (Arabic: أحمد محمد مخلوف حسنين البولاقى‎) was an Oxford-educated Egyptian courtier, diplomat, Olympic athlete in fencing, photographer, writer, politician, legendary geographic explorer, tutor then chamberlain to King Farouk.

Ahmed Hassanein was one of the most influential figures in Egyptian politics as the Chief of the Diwan and Chamberlain to Farouk, the king of Egypt from 1936 to 1952.

Son of an Al-Azhar University professor, he was a grandson of the last Admiral of the Egyptian fleet before it was dismantled under British occupation in 1882.


King Fuad I, father of Farouk, chose Ahmed to tutor the Crown Prince during the Prince's studies as a teenager in London. While Fuad spoke Turkish as his mother-tongue and was not therefore able to eloquently address his own nation, Farouk, under the supervision of Ahmed Pasha Hassanein, learned to speak Arabic well and developed a strong sense of nationalism.


Map of the expedition as drawn by his accurate measurements in his famous 1924 illustrated article
his route through the Sahara as it appears on today's satellite images. Points are important landmarks as mentioned in his book. Note how he avoided the Great Sand Sea south to Siwa.

During an expedition through the Libyan Desert in 1923, Ahmed Hassanein (then only Effendi in title) crossed a region defended by the fierce and puritanical Senussis.

Hassanein's first journey was to the Kufra, the Senussi's oasis capital. The journey nearly came to grief due to companion Rosita Forbes making an error reading the compass.[citation needed] Forbes claims in her book The Secret of the Sahara: Kufara (1921) that she had been the inspiration and leader of the expedition, though this claim has been challenged.[citation needed]

In December 1922, Hassanein began a new scientific expedition from Sallum. He recorded bearings and measures of distances, took photos, samples, wrote his journal, and interacted with his men to learn more about their traditions and places and natural phenomena. His success was ensured when he saw Kufra his destination in the horizon to correct its position for the first time on maps, but – even to his own surprise – there was more to be discovered. The climax of his expedition was the discovery of unknown water sources that opened new Sahara routes from Kufra to Sudanic Africa. The water sources or 'The Lost Oases' are Jebel Uweinat and Jebel Arkenu: the former was not even known to the Senussis he visited in Kufra.[citation needed], the latter was known since 1892 through Arab sources.[2] He is still remembered today for the significant rock art he photographed on this journey.

In September 1924, his famous report was published in the National Geographic Magazine with 47 photos and a map. His book The Lost Oases has followed a year later in English and subsequently in Arabic and German.

Ahmed's work includes: an unusually accurate map of a then-unknown region (based on astro-fixing and triangulation techniques), writings on the history and traditions of the isolated and fiercely independent Senussis sect in Libya, a widely published memoir, a geological collection, thousands of photos, hours of footage. He was honoured with the title of Bey and the prestigious Founder's Gold Medal of the British Royal Geographical Society (in 1924).[3]

Hassanein mausoleum[edit]

Hassanein was laid to rest in the Mameluke Northern Cemetery across the Salah Salem road from the new seat of the Al-Azhar Imam in a mausoleum[4] built by his brother-in-law, the renowned architect Hassan Fathy.


He competed at the 1920 and 1924 Summer Olympics in the foil and épée competitions.[5]


  • Bertarelli, L.V. (1929). Guida d'Italia, Vol. XVII (in Italian). Milano: Consociazione Turistica Italiana.


  1. ^ Montgomery-Massingberd, Hugh, ed. (1980). "The Royal House of Egypt". Burke's Royal Families of the World (snippet view). Volume II: Africa & the Middle East. London: Burke's Peerage. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-85011-029-6. OCLC 18496936. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  2. ^ Bertarelli (1929), p. 515.
  3. ^ "List of Past Gold Medal Winners" (PDF). Royal Geographical Society. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  4. ^ Recent photo of his Mausoleum with far in the background the building of the Imam of AlAzhar مبنى مشيخة الأزهر
  5. ^ "Ahmed Mohamed Hassanein Olympic Results". sports-reference.com. Retrieved 23 March 2010.

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