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Published November 22, 2014 Updated March 10, 2023

Boutros Arabic Playing Cards

Arabic playing cards designed by Evy Maros & Mourad Boutros.

1980 Egypt United Kingdom Cartamundi Westnedge Evy Maros Mourad Boutros Arabic Ethnic & Indigenous Add to Collection

Boutros Arabic Playing Cards

designed by Evy Maros & Mourad Boutros

These original designs were inspired by the “One Thousand and One Nights” (Arabian Nights) folk tales, and are found in various editions as promotion for Strand Associates (Arabic) Limited, Sheraton Hotels Middle East, Arab Express Travel, and Al Mabani Construction Group (active in the Middle East, mainly in Saudi Arabia). The numerals are Arabic and the face cards are labelled in Arabic. King translates to "Malek," Queen to "Malekeh," and Jack to "Amir." The joker translates to "Joker."

Strand Associates (Arabic) Limited

Arabic pack for Strand Associates (Arabic) Limited, 1980

Above: pack for "Strand Associates (Arabic) Limited", which is the name on the box and the backs of the cards. (See the box). The date 1980 appears on one side of the extra card. The indices are in Arabic. It has two Aces of Spades - one plain and one decorated. I first purchased 30 of these packs in November 1980 while still working at Stanley Gibbons. The supplier was David Westnedge who (I think) probably arranged for the packs to be produced by Carta Mundi. Image and notes courtesy Roddy Somerville.

Sheraton Hotels Middle East

This edition has the same courts but is on thinner card. However, the indices are in English and Arabic on the court cards and Jokers, while the numeral cards have Arabic numbers but are not in Arabic script. The back carries a general advert for Sheraton Hotels. One side of the extra card remains as before (mentioning Strand Associates (Arabic) Limited. 1980) while the other side has a general list of Sheraton Hotels in the Middle East. I have no idea who printed this version. See the box

Arabic pack for Sheraton Hotels, 1980 Arabic pack for Sheraton Hotels, 1980

Above: Arabic pack for Sheraton Hotels, supplied by TDG, London, UK, c.1980. Images & notes courtesy Roddy Somerville.

My recollection is that the older pack was produced as a kind of prototype to show what could be done if companies wanted to offer publicity packs in the Middle East using Arabic courts and Arabic numerals. Such companies could then have their own advertisement on the back, just as Sheraton Hotels did. Apart from Sheraton, maybe the uptake wasn't great, considering that showing human faces on playing cards might still be frowned upon in certain Arab or Moslem countries - RS.


Arabic playing cards, c.1990

Above: Arabic playing cards printed by Carta Mundi as a special limited edition with real Gold edges, c.1990.


CREDITS

Information kindly provided by Mourad M. Boutros - Boutros International Arabic Typography & Arabic Calligraphy & Arabic Design - www.boutrosfonts.com

Extra research by Roddy Somerville.

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By Rex Pitts (1940-2021)

Member since January 30, 2009

Rex's main interest was in card games, because, he said, they were cheap and easy to get hold of in his early days of collecting. He is well known for his extensive knowledge of Pepys games and his book is on the bookshelves of many.

His other interest was non-standard playing cards. He also had collections of sheet music, music CDs, models of London buses, London Transport timetables and maps and other objects that intrigued him.

Rex had a chequered career at school. He was expelled twice, on one occasion for smoking! Despite this he trained as a radio engineer and worked for the BBC in the World Service.

Later he moved into sales and worked for a firm that made all kinds of packaging, a job he enjoyed until his retirement. He became an expert on boxes and would always investigate those that held his cards. He could always recognize a box made for Pepys, which were the same as those of Alf Cooke’s Universal Playing Card Company, who printed the card games. This interest changed into an ability to make and mend boxes, which he did with great dexterity. He loved this kind of handicraft work.

His dexterity of hand and eye soon led to his making card games of his own design. He spent hours and hours carefully cutting them out and colouring them by hand.


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