Weekly photo challenge: Urban

This photo from my father’s album of 1941 is captioned by him “Electric trains”.  I initially believed this building was the old Palace Hotel in Heliopolis, a suburb of Cairo, but today I contacted someone in Heliopolis about my photos and he has corrected me.

This building is in the same area as the Palace Hotel which is now one of the presidential palaces, but the photo shows the el-Korba (the curve) district of Heliopolis which was once occupied by aristocratic Egyptians and some Europeans.  The architecture of the area was commissioned by the Belgian Baron Empain in the early 1900s;  the building in the photo was built in 1907.  The architecture is unique, consisting of European-style arcaded balconies and broad colonnaded sidewalks combined with Islamic (Moorish-Persian) domes and geometric and arabesque patterns.  The area was neglected at the end of the twentieth century as a reaction against old colonial influences, but after Heliopolis celebrated its centenary in 2005 the locals began to plan for the preservation of the architecture as part of Cairo’s heritage.  Since 2005 a festival has been held annually to celebrate the Korba district and its uniqueness.  In January this year a group of volunteers established the Heliopolis Heritage Initiative (HHI) with a vision to revive the area’s architecture and culture and to reduce the gridlocked traffic, which was clearly, looking at this photo, not a problem in 1941.

Electric trains, Heliopolis, Egypt, 1941

8 thoughts on “Weekly photo challenge: Urban

    • I’ve read that a walk through this area leaves you with an idea of its atmosphere of 100 years ago, with the wide footpaths and European-style cafés and boutiques. But now you have to battle the hordes and the traffic.

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  1. true Korba comes from the french word “courbe” which means curve as u mentioned, in fact that Ibrahim St. (Ibrahim Al-lakany St.) u can look for Baghdad St. its the main St. now in korba

    once more I’m glad I came by ur amazing collection, & I can provide links if u’r still interested to no anything about the modern Cairo or the places in your father’s spectacular pictures. all the best

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    • Thanks for offering information about these photos. I’ve never been to Cairo so I’m only going by what’s written under the photos and what I can find online. You’ve been really very helpful.

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