Back to the complete issue
Thursday, 30 June 2022

European neoclassicism meets Pharaonic-inspired design

A melting pot of architectural styles: Architecture in Egypt during the 1920s — much like it is today — was composed of a wide ranging set of styles that are often referred to as the country’s “Belle Epoque” era. It’s difficult to pin down the most dominant architectural movement of a single decade, particularly in Cairo during the early 20th century, because of the many overlapping styles and the slower pace of change inherent in urban development. But broadly speaking, European neo-classical sensibilities were the most prominent physical features associated with large urban buildings being built in Cairo at the time.

Downtown Cairo’s late 19th century revamp is a good starting point to get an idea of exactly what that was like: In the 19th century under Khedive Ismail’s rule, Downtown Cairo underwent major reconstruction that was intended to “modernize” the city by making it look more European. European architects were hired to take charge of the project, which Ismail had famously wanted to look like “Paris on the Nile.” The outcome was that many of the buildings in the heart of the city were designed and constructed in a Beaux-Arts or classical revival style that closely resembles European cities.

enterprise

The Groppi Building: The iconic Groppi building overlooking Talaat Harb square in Downtown Cairo fuses elements of Art Deco with the more conventional European neo-classical style. Named after the Italian pastry maker who set up the famous tea room, Giacomo Groppi, the building was constructed in 1924 and designed by Italian architect Guiseppe Mazza, who was also responsible for a number of other buildings in Downtown Cairo and Garden City.

enterprise

Cairo University Campus: Cairo University's Campus in Giza was constructed between 1925 and 1937 by Eric Newnum and Ahmed Charmi in a style more in line with the broader and more generic neo-classical period of the Khedival era in the mid 19th century.

enterprise

But there were some stylistic fusions thrown into the mix: The Banque Misr headquarters, designed by Italian Architect Antonio Lasciac and constructed in Downtown Cairo in 1927, is a memorable and still visible monument that draws from the Beaux-Arts style of most of its surrounding buildings and puts a neo-orientalist spin on it.

enterprise

The Pharaonist movement made its mark on urban space: The decade saw a renewed interest in Egypt’s ancient past, a phenomenon that has been seen as one of the expressions of nationalist sentiment that rejected European influence on society. The Saad Zaghloul Mausoleum, designed by Mustafa Fahmy in the late 1920s shortly after Zaghloul’s death in 1927, is emblematic of how the movement influenced contemporary architects. Fahmy’s design incorporated various ancient Egyptian motifs like columns, scarabs and other figurines pulled from the natural environment.

enterprise

Abdel Hamid El Shawarbi Pasha Building: Built in 1925 and designed by architect Habib Ayrout, the Abdel Hamid El Shawarbi Pasha Building is primarily drawn from a Beaux-Arts and neo-classical tradition but also incorporates some Pharaonic elements like the sphinxes around the building’s exterior.

Enterprise is a daily publication of Enterprise Ventures LLC, an Egyptian limited liability company (commercial register 83594), and a subsidiary of Inktank Communications. Summaries are intended for guidance only and are provided on an as-is basis; kindly refer to the source article in its original language prior to undertaking any action. Neither Enterprise Ventures nor its staff assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy of the information contained in this publication, whether in the form of summaries or analysis. © 2022 Enterprise Ventures LLC.

Enterprise is available without charge thanks to the generous support of HSBC Egypt (tax ID: 204-901-715), the leading corporate and retail lender in Egypt; EFG Hermes (tax ID: 200-178-385), the leading financial services corporation in frontier emerging markets; SODIC (tax ID: 212-168-002), a leading Egyptian real estate developer; SomaBay (tax ID: 204-903-300), our Red Sea holiday partner; Infinity (tax ID: 474-939-359), the ultimate way to power cities, industries, and homes directly from nature right here in Egypt; CIRA (tax ID: 200-069-608), the leading providers of K-12 and higher level education in Egypt; Orascom Construction (tax ID: 229-988-806), the leading construction and engineering company building infrastructure in Egypt and abroad; Moharram & Partners (tax ID: 616-112-459), the leading public policy and government affairs partner; Palm Hills Developments (tax ID: 432-737-014), a leading developer of commercial and residential properties; Etisalat Misr (tax ID: 235-071-579), the leading telecoms provider in Egypt; and Industrial Development Group (IDG) (tax ID:266-965-253), the leading builder of industrial parks in Egypt.