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Several of my articles on Garden City were plagiarized word for word by novelist MEKKAWI SAID (winner of the Egyptian State price for literature!!!!) and re-published under his own name in a three-part series in El-Masry El-Youm daily in September 2015.

Cheers to our "talented" literature prize awardee. Your pain his gain !!!


Souk El Tewfikia

Samir Raafat
Cairo Times, October 29, 1998

Kyriazi cigarette factory

Created by Khedive Ismail in the 1870s, Cairo's European quarter of Ismailia was cut up into several sub-districts and the triangular precinct of Tewfikia was by no means the largest. Delineated to the south by 26th of July Street ex Boulak Street, to the west by the 3 kilometer long 120 meters wide Ramses Avenue ex-Boulevard Abbas (created in 1905 at a cost of LE 25,000), and to the east by Shari'a El Gomhouria ex-Ibrahim Pasha Street, it was conceived as a semi-residential semi commercial and diplomatic locale. Sure thing Tewfikia's only rondpoint was named Midan El Tewfikia and its main thoroughfare Rue Tewfik (both cynically renamed Orabi). And where there had been a fruit and vegetable market a few years earlier, the small street emerging thereof was christened Souk El Tewfikia. Was it coincidence or was it lack of viable names which accounted for this prolific Tewfik series? Neither, for Tewfik just happened to be the name of Khedive Ismail's eldest son and heir.

Now, a hundred and some years later, Souk El Tewfikia is one of the few surviving original names.

Not unlike malls today, Cairo's open air souks were more than just commercially designated areas where people bought, sold, haggled and bargained. In more ways than one, they were a 'living' threshold between East and West, traditional and modern, and where over the years, a cross-cultural spirit prevailed so that many a new product or fashion passed on. Souk El Tewfikia was no different. It was there that galabeya-clad peasants laden with fresh produce arrived early morning by foot, feluka or donkey from nearby rural areas. Having paid the required toll at the narrow Kasr El Nil bridge or at the entrance of the nearby Ismailia Canal, they converged like locusts settling aloft tiny straw mats or perching themselves atop rickety carts. Thus commenced a disunited human cacophony only souks know how. "It was certainly a lively place" recalls from Greenwich, Connecticut, Erwin Weiser, Egypt's former long jump champion who grew up in Tewfikia during the interwar years. "It was after WW1 that children's underwear began to appear next to the fruits."

It would be decades before mom'n pop corner grocery stores --later supermarkets-- took over from traditional souks so that if oranges, lemons and mangos fought for colorful shelf space, fresh onions, legumes and veggies were gradually replaced by home improvement tools, auto parts and plastic toys. But these were not the first changes to insinuate themselves into Souk El Tewfikia and its parochial entourage.

First to go was the nearby Ismailia Canal which was filled up and replaced by Boulevard Abbas. Cairo's then busiest and largest avenue was subsequently renamed Malika (Queen) Nazli Avenue and later Ramses. And before noisy Belgian streetcars were swapped for Africa's first underground French-built Metro, there were the interim and silent Hungarian-made trolley buses. Another native loss was the celebrated Tewfikia Tennis Club with its red clay courts and swimming pool giving way to government edifices including the massive Telegraph and Telephone building on Ramses Street. A perishing landmark is the red and beige Kyriazi Brothers Factory and its adjoining garden both of which occupied 3000 square metres in 1896. Later these became the Matossian cigarette factory before being transformed into a print shop. Now the factory is leached on to by parasitic boutiques and shops fronting Souk El Tewfikia Street and the perpendicular Chawarby Pasha lane.

Last to check out from the crowded landscape was the Souk's popular Cecil Bar and its Greek owners.

Despite these changes, Souk El Tewfikia is alive and well and still worth a visit, at least its three landmark buildings which stand guard at its east-west approaches. Standing at the Midan Orabi end are the Green and Homsi buildings. Built for Moise Solomon Green by architect Garo Balian in 1910, the massive Neapolitan building (Nos 2-4 Souk El Tewfikia) was tenanted by leading dentists, lawyers and architects with names like Bromberger, Aladjem and Balian. The building boasts a unique passage-turned-patio linking 26th of July Street to the souk. Once a demi-monde hideaway, this bustling frescoe-splattered enclosure is a favorite hangout for pony-tailed backpackers, con artists, backgammon champions and shisha regulars. They dub it Serenity Alley.

Across the street from Serenity Alley stands a fanciful 1925 immeuble de raport (No. 1 Souk El Tewfikia) designed by Marco Olivetti. If its neo baroque facades on Souk El Tewfkia and Midan Orabi froth with Venetian follies, its two other sides are contrastingly plain and simple, the fallen plaster acknowledging Olivetti's covert reliance on modern building techniques. Abandoned by its rent control-shackled owner, the schizophrenic building's cavernous entrance makes an ideal background for the next Batman movie.

At Souk El Tewfikia's western entrance stands the modern Weiser Building (No. 19) designed circa 1934 by Mario Rossi for account of pharmacologist Gaston Weiser. To this day Weiser's skin irritation treatment "Poudre Suisse" is regarded the best of its time which is perhaps why the building's subsequent owner thought better of changing the name on the building's ground floor laboratory. Also domiciled in the building is an antique lab created by Adolphe Del'Mar a.k.a. Mr. Boots of Egypt. It was Del'Mar who launched the Societe Anonyme des Drogeuries d'Egypte which became the country's leading drug company.

Whereas Del'Mar, Weiser and the Cecil are gone, the place is just as lively today as it was during Kyriazi Pasha's days. So anyone planning to buy children' poopoo-undies, a large spanner or a kilo of Hindi mangoes, should do so at Souk El Tewfikia. And remember, a bubbling shisha awaits you at Serenity Alley!

Picture of Kyriazi Factory on Tewfikia Street

His Excellency the Governor of Cairo Dr Abdel-Azim Wazir,
Cairo Governorate,
25th July 2006

Your Excellency,

I am writing to bring to your attention a current breach of civic building regulations in Downtown Cairo, which adversely affects an historic building. It is located at nos. 2-4 Souq al-Tawfiqiya Street and contains a unique passage running through from the souq to 26th July Street. This ‘landmark Neapolitan building’ as it is described by Samir W. Raafat in Cairo, The Glory Years (Harpocrates Publishing, 2003, Alexandria) was designed in 1910 by the architect Garo Balian. (He subsequently built the elegant neo-Islamic palace for Prince Amr Ibrahim in Zamalek that is now the Ministry of Culture’s Gezira Art Centre.) The two arched entrances to the Downtown passage are ornately decorated, a detail of the 26th July arch being reproduced in Paris along the Nile by Cynthia Myntti (AUC Press, 1999, Cairo).

A clothes shop, on the 26th July corner of this distinctive building near Talaat Harb Street, is at present being partially rebuilt and its new raised surround extends dangerously onto the pavement and into the passage. On this surround a new outer wall of plate glass is being erected, which has an additional angle protruding into the passage and a large and garish overhang to which a series of lights has been attached, further projecting into the passage. Viewed from points in both 26th July Street and the passage itself, the extension to this shop looms over half the passage. Quite apart from any aesthetic and environmental considerations, and possibly those of safety, this unsightly new extension is illegally occupying part of the pavement and the passage.

Local people say that the new owner of what was and will be a clothes shop is an Upper Egyptian from Assiut who is ignorant of Cairo building regulations and his infringement of them, but that there are two building engineers concerned. Whether they have knowingly or unknowingly broken the law, in either case they are not competent to practise their profession in my opinion. I have read several times that Your Excellency is committed to the preservation of the magnificent architectural heritage of Downtown Cairo in conjunction with the area’s regeneration. Tourists as well as residents are increasingly attracted to Downtown Cairo and often to this passage with its popular and picturesque coffee shop and proximity to the famous souq.

I request Your Excellency to order the appropriate department to urgently investigate this violation. I believe that this flagrant extension could not possibly have been authorised and that it should be removed, and the renovated shop confined to the original dimensions. I have enclosed relevant photographs taken on Monday 24th July 2006. Yours Respectfully,
Caryll Faraldi (Mrs)
Flat 47, 42 Talaat Harb Street, Cairo.
cc Al-Ahram Weekly and Egypt Today

articles posted on were published in the following books by Samir W Raafat: THE EGYPTIAN BOURSE, Zeitouna, Cairo -- CAIRO THE GLORY YEARS, Harpocrates, Alexandria -- HISTORY & SOCIETY IN A CAIRO SUBURB; MAADI 1904-1962, Palm Press, Cairo -- PRIVILEGED FOR THREE CENTURIES, printed digitally and bound by Elias Printing, Egypt

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