Report of the meeting – Egypt Hotels – by Richard Wheatley, November 7, 2019

Almost a dozen members attended a fascinating exhibition display by Richard Wheatley (ESC 168) on November 7 at the new offices of the Royal Philatelic Society of London, just a few minutes’ walk from both Bank and Cannon Street Underground stations. The meeting was one of a series marking the 150th Anniversary of the Royal, fittingly repositioned in splendid, comfortable and efficient new headquarters.

Richard Wheatley, right, receives the Anniversary Medal from Richard Stock

Richard explained to a packed meeting room that he was able to show only a small proportion of his steadily expanding Hotels collection, but managed to surprise both Egypt collectors and a wider audience with the depth and breadth of his research. The idea of locating post offices within hotels, he said, had originated in Switzerland in 1849, and was adopted by some of their forward-looking Egyptian counterparts some 40 years later

He pointed out that these offices sold mainly stamps and postal stationery, and dealt with letters, registered items and parcels. In most cases the hotel offices were open for “the season”, from October to May - too hot in the summer months, apart from the San Stefano in Alexandria – and catered for those visiting Egypt to escape a northern winter. Contrary to earlier ESC belief, these offices were staffed by regular Post Office staff who applied each season to work at a particular hotel.

ESC members at the Royal meeting included (from left), Vahe Varjabedian, Jon Aitchison, Richard Wheatley and Mike Murphy

To accompany the presentation, he showed a wide selection of covers from each of the hotels that operated the service, illustrating the various cancellations that were in use: many were shown in a splendid booklet produced by the Royal for the occasion. He is working hard on recalibrating the accepted Study Circle numbering and listing of these postmarks so that their order more closely accords with more recent discoveries of dates of use.
Thanking him for his talk, Jon Aitchison (ESC 611) commented that members had been shown “many superb items, some of which were unique”. Richard appropriately donned a tarbush to receive the Royal’s 150th Anniversary Medal from its recently elected President, Richard Stock, a local colleague of ours from the Sudan Study Group.

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