hidden europe 9

Kiosk culture

by Nicky Gardner


The street kiosk is a little temple of tradition, an iconic element of the European urban scene.

In The Story of Sinuhe, a contemporaneous account of life in Ancient Egypt by a palace official, there is an interesting early mention of a 'kiosk' - yes, the antecedent of those roadside huts where we might nowadays stop off for a newspaper or packet of cigarettes. In Sinuhe's day, kiosks were evidently a bit more upmarket than in modern times:

The courtiers who usher through the forecourt set me on the way to the audience-hall. I found His Majesty on the great throne in a kiosk of gold.

Actually, as anyone who has made the rounds of the great Egyptian tombs on the Nile will know, there were kiosks aplenty in the times of the Pharaohs. And, in London, the British Museum has a fine wall frieze of Ramses II seated in a small kiosk.

These ancient Egyptian kiosks, it must be admitted, were a tad more elaborate than the commercial kiosks of our time. But we have, on our meanderings through Europe, developed a certain affection for the homespun charms of the simple kiosk. The traditional kiosk, especially the kiosk constructed mainly of wood and glass, which was for decades a mainstay of everyday life in so many European countries, seems to be on the demise.

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