By BARRY SINGER
One hundred years ago this month, Winston Churchill traveled to Egypt to host a groundbreaking diplomatic conference in Cairo. Authorized by Prime Minister David Lloyd George to attempt to settle the future of the Middle East, Churchill grappled with the impact of Britain’s actions there during the First World War. The legacy of the Cairo Conference has affected the world ever since.
Churchill brought his wife Clementine with him to Cairo, and together they still found time for pleasure. During a break in the conference, they set off to see the Pyramids, joined by two of Churchill’s leading advisors on Arab affairs, T. E. Lawrence and Gertrude Bell. Riding a camel in front of the Sphinx, Churchill was at one point thrown by his mount, grazing his hand badly, but insisted on continuing, accompanied by Lawrence. After making several sketches at Sakkara, he cameled back to town with Lawrence. Clementine returned by car.
During other conference breaks, Churchill set up his easel in the streets and painted. Of course, he did not fail to capture some of Egypt’s most famous landmarks on canvas, as seen here. A fender bender auto accident in a Nile village left him largely uninjured and “far more concerned,” according to the Palestine Weekly, “about the safety of his paintings than about himself.”
Next month, on Thursday, April 11th, the International Churchill Society will host a free online symposium commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Cairo Conference and examining Churchill’s role and legacy in the creation of the modern Middle East. Registration details for “Churchill and the Making of the Middle East” will be provided in the April Churchill Bulletin.
Barry Singer is the author of Churchill Style (Abrams Image, 2012) and the proprietor of Chartwell Booksellers in New York City.