9 Feb 2024

Cigarettes Marouf, Ghent, Belgium

Many years ago I was on a train from Amsterdam to Bruges and, while passing through Ghent, I saw an incredible pictorial ghost sign advertising the Cigarettes Marouf. I was unable to jump off the train to take a closer look, but always thought that one day I’d return, which, as yet, I haven’t.

Fortunately, the ghost sign was photographed by Edwin Deschepper. In spite of being listed, it has decayed substantially since it was revealed in 2006, and a newer (supposedly temporary) building also obscures what remains.

Fading painted advertisement on a red brick wall. It depicts a slender woman against a plain, bright blue background. She is shown from just below hip height, in side view, with her head turned to the left. She raises, with bent arms, a red-blue striped ball, in front of which is a yellow banner that reads "Marouf".

Towards the bottom of the sign is an extension of the black border that surrounds the whole composition, and set within this in yellow block letters is "Cigarettes Marouf".

There are some white letters below this, although are faded beyond legibility.
Cigarettes Marouf ghost sign in Ghent, Belgium. Photo: Edwin Deschepper.

The citation for the sign’s listing gives some historical notes, and dates the sign to the 1920s. The following is an extract from this via a basic online translation.

Cigarettes Marouf were the product of cigarette manufacturer Matossian. Matossian was a household name in the cigarette industry from the late nineteenth century until the 1920s. The company was founded in Egypt by two Armenian immigrants: Hovhannes Matossian founded a small workshop in Alexandria in 1882, and his brother Garabed did the same in Cairo in 1886.

In 1896 the brothers merged their firms. The company eventually grew into the largest Egyptian producer, with a factory in Cairo. In 1927 it merged with British American Tobacco under the umbrella organization Eastern Tobacco Company.

The first evidence of Matossian activity in Belgium dates to 1920, and the Marouf brand was marketed here from that date.


Cigarettes Marouf

205 Prinses Clementinalaan, Ghent, Belgium [Streetview, 2009]

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