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Egypt: The Ramatan, Taha Hussein Museum, Cairo, Egypt


The Ramatan

Taha Hussein Museum


Dr. Taha Hussein (1889-1973) is the doyen of Arabic literature and one of the most celebrated figures of Egyptian contemporary cultural and intellectual history.




He emerged from the Egyptian countryside and from the cloisters of Al-Azhar University to enrich the Arabic library with more than fifty books dealing with literature, history, philosophy and education. Almost all his books have been translated into several languages.



Dr. Taha Hussein transcended the reality in which he lived by opening up to the study of humanities without losing his originality. He was awarded more than 36 Egyptian and foreign decorations foremost among which was the Collar of the Nile which is the highest decoration in Egypt conferred on Kings and Heads of State. He also obtained the United Nations Prize for his achievements in the field of human rights.



He occupied senior university posts including a professor of ancient history of Arabic literature, dean of the Faculty of Arts at Cairo University, a general supervisor or of culture at the Ministry of Education, Rector of Alexandria University, and chief Editor of "A1 Katib A1 Araby" (The Arab Scribe) magazine.

In 1950 he was selected as Minister of Education. He introduced a number of reforms most important of which was the establishment of the principle of free education in Egypt.



In recognition of all Dr. Taha Hussein's achievements for Egypt the State bought his residence in the Pyramids district after his death and converted it into a museum carrying the name "Ramatan" which literally means in Arabic the two oases where traveling caravans stop to take rest. As Dr. Taha Hussein was keen on having his son Dr. Moeniss share his residence, he designed the villa with two entrances to preserve each one's privacy and freedom.



That is why he called it "Ramatan" or two places of rest for him and his son.



The museum or "Ramatan" is made up of two stories. The ground floor houses Dr. Taha Hussein's study and a part of his 7,000 book library, a great reception hall where he received men of letters, politicians and artists every Sunday evening. In one of the corners of this hall stand a huge piano, a gramophone and records of rare musical works by Schubert, Verdi, Bach, Mozart, Schumann and others.



The top floor has three bedrooms and a small hall where there is a closet enclosing all the decorations, medals and orders which the Doyen received during his lifetime.



The garden has a bust for Dr. Taha Hussein by the noted Egyption sculptor Farouk Ibrahim. A smaller building designed in the same style of the villa has been converted into a cultural center which will be used for holding seminars and cultural exhibitions to keep Dr. Hussein's legacy alive .

November 14th, 1889

The Birth of Taha Hussein

An Egyptian leader of enlightenment

(1889-1973)

He was born in Upper Egypt and lost his sight at the age of three.

Taha Hussein is the doyen of contemporary Arabic literature and a pioneer of enlightenment.

When he assumed office as Minister of Education in 1950, he managed to put his motto, "Education is like water we drink and the air we breath," into practice.

In 1914, he received the first doctorate granted by an Egyptian University.

He succeeded in making all elementary and secondary education free.

In 1918 he obtained another PhD in Social Philosophy from the Sorbonne, Paris.

In 1919 he received a diploma in post-graduate studies in the Roman Civil Code from the same university.

He was granted honorary doctorates from the universities of Oxford, Madrid, and Rome.

In 1919 he was appointed a professor of history at the Egyptian University. He did not confine himself to political and constitutional history but transferred to his students his knowledge of Greek drama such as Sophocles and Aeschylus.

The greater part of Taha Husseins canon is basically influenced by Greek culture. He issued "Selected Pages" from Greek Dramatic poetry (1920), "The Athenian System" in 1921, and "Leaders of Thought" in 1925. Thus, the link between his Arabic culture with that of Greece was a turning point as thinker.

The first book was an incomplete attempt at an expose of Greek poets and their works. The second book was a meticulous translation of one of the most important texts of Greek history of civilization. He deals with the religious impact on thought in the Middle Ages, then moves on to the Modern Ages of multi influences.

Thus, Taha Hussein was not merely influenced by Greek thought in his literary work but also in his books on politics and civilization. The books he issued following his return from Paris greatly influenced modern Arabic classical literature.

He waged many battles for enlightenment, the respect of reason and thought, and womens emancipation. The first of these was in 1926 when he issued "Pre-Islamic Poetry", which was highly controversial in both politically and literary circles. It aroused wide-scale front page arguments in newspapers between supporters and opposers. In self defense he argued that he adopted a scientific method of approach in his treatise on Pre-Islamic poetry. That method, he said, was adopted by western philosopher scientists and men of letters who followed the French philosopher Descartes in his reasoning in search of the truth of beginning. It renovated science and philosophy and changed the outlook of men of letters and artists in the West.

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