Ailsa (http://wheresmybackpack.com/2012/08/04/leading-lines/) has proposed that we find a photo containing ‘leading lines’. Well, I’m no photographer or artist, so this was a technical term I had to look up. I now know they are lines in an image that lead the eye to a point, either in or out of the picture. In my father’s 1941 album of Egyptian photos, there are a few urban scenes with streets disappearing into the distance. But in this one, below, the roads coming towards us are leading our eye to the centre of the photo.
It was taken in what was called, in the 1940s, Soliman Pasha Square, now known as Talaat Harb Square (Midan Talaat Harb), a short distance from Tahrir Square. In the centre of the square, in this photo, is a statue of Soliman Pasha which stood there from 1874 until 1964. Soliman Pasha was a general, born Joseph Anthelme Sève in Lyon, France, who served under Bonaparte and then in Egypt was a military expert in the army of Mohamed Ali. He converted to Islam and took the name Soliman Pasha.
At the far right of the photo is the once-opulent Groppi’s, formerly a Parisian-style café, tearoom and patisserie. Giacomo Groppi, a Swiss pastry maker, opened it in 1926 following success with other patisseries in Egypt. From the 1920s and through the war years, Groppi’s was the place to be seen. During the war, officers often stopped by for coffee or dinner or to find some female company.
While at the time this photo was taken the British were the resident colonials – hence the Australians were there defending Egypt – in the previous century it was the French who were leaving their mark. In the 1940s French influence is evident everywhere, not just the Frenchman on the plinth and the patisserie that sold pastries made from secret recipes written in French, but the architecture is also of French neoclassical style from the era of Soliman Pasha in the 19th century. Note some of the signs are also in French. In the late 20th century Egyptian governments wanted to remove reminders of colonialism and so today, so I’ve read, much of the European-style glamour is neglected and dusty. The statue of Soliman Pasha has now been moved to a military museum and a statue of Talaat Harb, an economist, stands in its place.