Who is searching in Cairo for books or magazines in German,
English or French language, for sure one day he will find his
way to the bookshop "Lehnert & Landrock" in Downtown.
This shop is like an institution with a long and eventful history.
It is the history of some capital "Ls". The story
of the lifes of Rudolf Franz Lehnert and Ernst Heinrich Landrock
as well as of Kurt and finally Dr. Edouard Lambelet. The doctor
in geology today is the owner of the famous shop.
Even if still nowadays books are in the centre of the shop in
the Sharia Sherif, one department attracts more and more attention:
the art gallery in the back rooms. This is a real treasury for
lovers of old photographs. Here they find an endless number
of original prints and the latest thing there is the first of
two CDs with pictures, shot by photographer Lehnert in the beginning
of the last century in Egypt, North Africa and Palestine. With
this photographs the history of the bookshop "Lehnert und
Landrock" started. An exciting story that Dr. Edouard Lambelet
(picture above) told us and that we like to present you here
in a short version.
Magic of the Orient
1903 – The Austrian photographer Rudolf
Franz Lehnert and the German accounter Ernst Heinrich Landrock
meet each other in Switzerland. Lehnert has just returned from
his first trip by feet through the desert and the southern oases
of Tunisia, where he took photographs and got his first idea
about the magic of the Orient. Landrock immediately "smells"
a good business with this pictures, joins Lehnert to Tunis and
rents a shop there.
1904 – "About my photographs people
will still talk after 200 years!" This sentence Lehnert
points his oppinion out to his friend, who - terribly impatiently
- accuses him for his two months long desert safari in Tunisia.
Since weeks Landrock is waiting for the photographs. But the
rich pickings at least bring the expected success: The photographs
are published in Leipzig/Germany, some of them - as forcasted
by Lehnert - reached worldwide fame.
1914 – Lehnert starts another caravan
trip, he rents camels to carry his heavy photographer equipment,
dresses himself like the bedouins, lives according the strong
rules of the desert. When he returns to Tunis, he is schocked:
In the meantime the outbreak of the First World War took place,
their shop was confiscated, Landrock according to the German-French
agreement as not fit for military service is interned to Engelberg
in Switzerland. Because of his Austrian citizenship - he was
born in 1879 in Grossaupa/Bohemia - Lehnert becomes a prisoner
of war. First in Algeria, later on the island Corsica. Thanks
to the efforts of Landrock he then is interned in Davos/Switzerland
and later released.
After the war starts a time of changings. The two friends meet
their intended wives. Eugenie "Jenny" Schmitt becomes
Mrs. Lehnert, Emilie Singer-Lambelet Mrs. Landrock, with her
arrives Kurt Lambelet, a son she gave birth during her first
– Because Behemia now belongs to Czechoslovakia (allied
with France), Lehnert's citizenship changes to Czech, and he
gets back all his photographs.
1920 – Lehnert and Landrock meet in Leipzig,
establish the "Orient Kunst Verlag", export many lithographs
of coloured desert pictures for hard Dollars to South Africa.
1923 – Lehnert takes photographs in Egypt,
Palestine and Lebanon.
1924 – The couple Landrock with Kurt
Lambelet and Madame Eugenie Lehnert with daughter Eliane move
to Egypt. In October they establish in Cairo the wholesaler's
"Lehnert & Landrock", rent a shop. Landrock orders
in Dresden, Berlin and Leipzig coloured engravings and by hand
coloured photographs, delivered to Cairo packed in 200 boxes.
But the business runs slowly, the profit is low, they have to
take out a loan of LE 2.000 that cannot be repaid completely
before 1948. The marketing problems are calling for a shift
in thinking. "Lehnert & Landrock" switchs to sell
their products - photographs, postcards and art prints - directly
in a new shopping location.
1930 – Lehnert becomes not familiar with
the noisy capital Cairo, he is longing for the magic of the
Arabic palaces of Tunis. On 15th of June he splits up with Landrock,
leaves the copyright for his photographs to the company "L
& L, Nachf. Ernst Landrock" and returns to Tunis. There
he opens a photographic atelier and soon makes a names of a
1934 – Landrock directs the shop in close
connection with his stepson Kurt Lambelet, who marries the Greece
Julie Georgacopulo and is promoted as an associate.
1936 – Opening of the new wholesale and
retail shop in Madabegh street 44 (today named Sherif street
and still the main location of "Lehnert & Landrock"),
that until 1939 will expand every year and become one of the
most famous German book and art shops.
1937 – Birth of Landrock's stepgrandson
1938 – For the first time in 14 years
Landrock spends his holidays in Germany. He makes out the threat
of the war, returns to Cairo and sells 80 per cent of the company
to Kurt Lambelet. Starting from the 28th of September the company's
name is "L & L Succ. Ernst Landrock & Co.".
War and revolution
1939 – During the outbreak of the World
War II the couple Landrock again stays in Germany - for their
last journey, they never will see Egypt again. In the same year
Lehnert stops his professional activities and withdraws into
his house in Carthage.
In Cairo the British close the supposed German shop, but the
efforts of the forceful Kurt Lambelet with reference to his
citizenship of Switzerland enable him to get his 80 per cent
share back. But he has to adjust on the modified situation,
has to be flexible. Therefore he offers local products like
leather and silver jewelleries to the allied soldiers. Because
imported items from Germany are forbidden, from England rationed,
and he is only allowed to rint in the then very poor local printing
– After his wife passes away Lehnert lives in the house
of his daughter and son-in-law in Redeyef in the oasis Gafa.
1945 – The English sequesters hand over
the 20 per cent share of Landrock to Egypt. On 19th of November
Lambelet buys this share, registers the company now by the name
"Lehnert & Landrock, K. Lambelet succ.".
1946 – Lambelet starts to re-organize
the bookshop, expands it with technical specialized literature
in English language, to re-establish the German department.
1948 – On 16th of January Lehnert passes
away in Redeyef, is layed to rest in his adoptive country beside
his wife in Carthage.
1952 – The revolution in Egypt makes
everything in the country and the world of business upside down.
A national uprising sets Cairo in fire, destroys shops owned
by foreigners. Dr. Edouard Lambelet remembers: "Our Nubian
employees rescued our bookshop from destruction. They protected
it, as if it was their own property. Without our loyal Nubians
we would have lost our shop. It was the most difficult time
1954 – General Gamal Abdel Nasser takes
over the rulership from General Mohamed Naguib, becomes President
of the Arabic Republic of Egypt.
1956 – All big companies are nationalised.
But good luck for Lehnert & Landrock, the company is too
small. On 1st of January, 1965, Kurt Lambelet with Edouard and
his leading employee Georges Angelidis as a partner are founding
the "L & L. K. Lambelet & Co." . Edouard Lambelet
leaves Egypt, absolves in Switzerland his highschool diploma
and military service and his university studies of geology in
Hamburg/Germany. In Heidelberg he meets Roswitha Götz,
student of 'Romance languages and literature, and marries her.
1966 – Ernst Landrock passes away on
30th of April in Kreuzlingen/Germany.
Restlessnes, movement, hidden treasures
1968/69 – It becomes more and more difficult
to get the licence for imported items. Thanks to his connections
the Egyptian Farid El-Bahnassawi can get the urgently needed
licence for "L & L" and make arrangements for
the money transfers. Kurt Lambelet hires him, but therefore
he looses Georges Angelidis. And then something totally unexpected
happens: on behalf of the the good word of the former Minister
of Culture Sarwat Okasha after 40 years a request to open a
branch in the Egyptian Museum gets an approval. "L &
L" expands its offers of books in the touristic field in
German, English, French, Italian and Spanish language. 1984
Japanese, 1995 Russian languages are added.
– After employments as a geologist with oil companies
in Spain and Holland, Dr. Edouard returns in his profession
back to Egypt.
1978 – His father calls on him, to join
their company fulltime. After some doubts Edouard agrees, starts
his new job in 1st of January.
1979 – Kurt Lambelet gets the Egyptian
citizenship, on 9th of July the new company "L & L,
K. Lambelet, El-Bahnassawi & Co." is registered. They
print again in Egypt, mainly with the printing house Nubar.
The postcards printed there nearly reach European quality. The
demand for art prints is increasing, the department for touristic
books develops to one of the best in the country.
1982 – In a store Dr. Edouard Lambelet
discovers the hidden treasures of the family, hundreds of historical
glasplates with photographs of Rudolf Franz Lehnert covered
in dust. He starts to clean, to sort, to categorize. With the
help of a photographer and an old laboratory he develops and
prints the first shots in the old working method.
1984 – In November the author and journalist
Philippe Cardinal publishes an article about the discovery in
the French newspaper "Liberation".
1986 – Cardinal also publishes a portfolio
with 20 photographs printed in the old method in the Institut
d’Orient in Paris. In several French cities exhibitions
are organized, Lehnert's daughter Eliane Bernet, she lives meanwhile
in Uzes in the south of France, supports Lambelet with some
photographs of her father. From 12th of September until 3rd
of November 1991 the work of Lehnert is exhibited in the Musée
de l’Elysée in Lausanne/Switzerland.
1985 – Farid El-Bahnassawi retires, the
flourishing business continues under the new company name "L
& L, Kurt & Edouard Lambelet". Kurt is responsible
for the traditional department of the art prints with its postcards,
calendars, books, posters and prints on genuine papyrus. Edouard
gives his attention to the bookshop, from time to time writes
and publishes touristic books himself. His wife Roswitha manages
the branch in the Egyptian Museum.
1987 – The publishing house Editions
Favre, Lausanne, publishes the book "Lehnert & Landrock,
l’Orient d’un photographe" of Philippe Cardinal.
1997 – On 11th of March Kurt Lambelet
passes away in the age of almost 92 years, is burried in Rüschlikon
at Lake Zurich. As his father would have approve, again the
company name changes, is called now "L & L, Edouard
Lambelet & Co.". Co. stands for Roswitha Lambelet and
1995 – By chance Dr. Lambelet meets with
the Canadian photographer Chris Langtvet, a lover of historical
photographs. Lambelet and Langtvet – again two L‘s!
– they clicked, they agreed to work together. The ambitious
Langtvet sets up a photographic laboratory in Cairo, studies
the old method of developing and starts with the tedious reproduction
of the large old negatives in original size. So Lehnert's work
of life can be preserved for prosterity.
1999 – The result of the strenuous and
tiring work for the first time shows up in the public limelight:
in the "Mubarak Public Library", in the Goethe Institute
in Cairo and in the "Institute for Foreign Relations"
in Stuttgart/Germany. Since this time Edouard and Roswitha Lambelet
concentrate more and more on the photographs, organize smaller
and bigger exhibitions.
2003 – The first CD with Lehnert's photographs
is available (for details click here).
Now everybody (unfortunately Windows users only) can compile
his personal exhibition on the computer. A new chapter in the
history of the old photographs has started.