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Its call sign was Fernleaf Cairo, and between 1939 and 1946, around 76,000 Kiwis of the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force passed through Maadi Camp. Around 17 kilometres south of Cairo, the camp appeared almost overnight, as this country's permanent overseas base during World War Two. By 1945 the camp had tar-sealed roads, two cinemas, an open-air amphitheatre, canteens, bars, chapels, sports fields, a meat-pie and ice-cream factory, and - thanks to General Bernard Freyberg - swimming baths. Egypt was a source of boundless amazement, sly humour and some disgust to the New Zealanders, an experience which left its mark, both on our language - taking a shufti - and more tangibly, the Maadi Rowing Cup. With unpublished images and first-hand accounts, Fernleaf Cairo offers a fascinating insight into the unlikely bond young New Zealanders forged with the people and city of Cairo, including their many highly colourful experiences on leave.
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