A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Turtlegate: Did King Farouq's Turtle Die (Again?) Last Week, or Not?

Apparently not. I was too busy last week to mention the widespread report that a turtle that had once belonged to King Farouq and that was believed to be the second oldest turtle in the world, had died at the age of 270 at the Cairo Zoo in Giza. The story may have originated with the sensational paper Yom 7, but was widely repeated, for example here.

There were variants. The turtle was not 270; it was 280. Or 217. It had been given to the Giza Zoo by King Farouq in 1936, or by Khedive Ismail in the 1870s. Or Khedive Tewfiq.

It was suggested it was the turtle that Farouq's daughter Princess Ferial is riding in this picture, from the late 1930s or 1940-ish (Ferial was born in 1938.)
Gradually, someone must have noted the varied stories weren't terribly consistent. Then someone noticed that the King's turtle had reportedly died in 2009. Oh, and again in 2011. And again last year.

A couple of Twitter posts:
As the first of those posts suggests, people were grasping at any story linking to King Farouq as a contrast to the present situation; this may be one reason why the story spread so quickly. This story in Britain's Independent debunks the whole story, saying the turtle, named Samir, actually died 15 years ago, quoting Egypt's Director of Regional Zoos. (But what would he know?) It suggests the story was made up (fairly clearly true) to discredit President Morsi (less clear).

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