Stamps of 2023: Egypt (January 2023)

Jan. 2, 2023

Post Day

The modern Egyptian postal service began when Carlo Meratti, an Italian, living in Alexandria, established a post office to send and receive mail to and from foreign countries as early as 1821. Meratti took the responsibility of sending and distributing the letters for a price. He transferred his activity to Cairo and Alexandria through his office in Saint Catherine Square (formerly Qansal Square). After Meratti’s departure his nephew, Tito Chini (who agreed with the importance of the project) succeeded his uncle with a friend, Giacomo Muzzi. The two partners upgraded the project, naming it the Posta Europea.

The post office began sending, receiving and delivering correspondence from the government and individuals, and the Posta Europea earned the public trust. At the inauguration of the first railway between Alexandria and Kafr el-Zayyat in 1845 the company established branches in Cairo, Atfe, and Rashid (Rosetta), followed by another two branches (in Damanhour and Kafr El Zayyat) in 1855. When the railway was extended from Kafr El Zayyat to Cairo (via Tanta, Benha and Birket el-Sab), the company exploited this opportunity and used the railways to carry the post between Cairo and Alexandria for a five-year contract beginning in January 1856. The contract was as a monopolistic franchise to transport the post to northern Egypt, where it stipulated a fine to be paid to the Posta Europea by anyone caught pilfering mail.

Khedive Ismaiel realized the importance of the Posta Europea and purchased it from Muzzi (after the departure of his partner, Tito Chini) on October 29, 1864. The Egyptian government offered Muzzi the position of general manager of the post and on January 2, 1865, the private Posta Europea was transferred to the Egyptian government. This date is noted as Post Day.

Egypt Post annually releases stamps to mark Post Day and 2023 is no different with a pair of stamps released on January 2. These were printed using offset lithography in sheets containing strips of the two stamps with a center label. This label bears a QR code that explains about Post Day. According to a press release issued by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology,

“The design of the stamp blends history and modernity. It features photos of the iconic Cairo Main Post Office, which has been developed and refurbished, with its historic value and original design remaining intact. The Office was equipped with advanced systems and technological solutions to offer all types of financial, postal, and governmental services as well as Digital Egypt services.”

The historic Cairo Main Post Office in Ataba Square was reopened at the end of November 2022 following an extensive restoration “to preserve its historical value and the original architectural design of the building. The building is also equipped with the latest technological systems and solutions to provide all financial, postal, government and digital services to citizens.” The post office has an area of ​​1220 square meters, and contains 32 customer service counters, in addition to a room for VIP customers with three windows, and a counter for people with special needs.

During the restoration, attention was made to the passage of ventilation and natural lighting inside the office, in addition to providing high-quality furniture for Egypt Post employees and customers in line with the heritage of the post office.

In reading through the reports on the restoration, I could find no mention of the wonderful Post Office Museum that had been housed on the second floor of the Ataba post office. This had been established by King Fouad in 1934 and opened to the public in 1940. Historians claim that Fouad was an enthusiastic stamp collector and most of the European stamps at the museum were actually from his private collection.

The museum covered the entire range of Egypt’s conveyance of the posts starting with the Pharaonic post system in 2000 BC. Ancient Egyptians were the first to establish an organized postal service. The museum portrays some copies of the group messages found on clay in a Tel Al Amarna tomb in Upper Egypt. The letters convey political messages exchanged between Amenophis (1364 BC) and Akhnaton. Pharaonic postmen traveled along the Nile to deliver post and important messages of the kings which were usually delivered at night in iron boxes and safeguarded by a small entourage. In the Ptolemaic era, horses were the main means of transportation. Top officials were in charge of letters of the kings. On the other hand, pedestrian postmen were in charge of letters belonging to the public.

During the Ottoman Empire, an Italian businessman, Carlo Meratti, established the country’s first private postal system in 1821 known as Posta Europea. The hand stamps were engraved in Italian and his descendent Giacomo Muzzi used the country’s railway system to deliver post. This later became Poste Egyptienne. The first Egyptian stamps were issued on January 1, 1866. The 1867 issue featured a pyramid and the sphinx. From 1879 stamps were inscribed in French.

At the time, Egypt became a hub for merchants and the trade. Poste Egyptienne became the main means of communication for the Ottoman Empire. The government opened correspondent post offices in neighboring cities in Izmir, Jeddah, Gallipoli, Beirut, Cavalla, Salonika, Tripoli, Rhodes, Souakin, Massawa, Khartoum and Kassala.

The main postal department was located in Alexandria which was first affiliated with the Ministry of Finance and later transferred to Ministry of Justice. During the rule of King Fouad, a new department for communications which managed railways system, roads, bridges, telephone, telegram as well as postal services was established. The post services headquarters were then relocated to the building in Ataba Square, Cairo, that is commemorated on this pair of stamps.

One thought on “Stamps of 2023: Egypt (January 2023)

  1. Pingback: Stamps of 2023: Monthly Wrap-Up (January) | Mark Joseph Jochim

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