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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 !!!


VILLA HUG: Part of an Endangered Specie

by Samir Raafat
Cairo Times, 17 February 2000

Villa Hug designed by Raoul Brandon


I can't think of a better candidate for the "Rare Buildings Collection" then the assortment of pre-1950 mansions situated directly on the Nile. There are only 14 of them left in the whole of Cairo. The eleven most important are located on Zamalek's Aziz Abaza and Mohammed Mazhar Streets. These include the Greater Cairo Library, the Modern Art Museum and those prime properties currently owned or leased by the governments of India (Villa Hamida Faizi and Dr. Mohammed Reda Villa), Russia (ex-Ali Mahmoud Villa), Vatican, Iraq (ex-Rea-ya Faizi villa), Saudi Arabia (ex-Tewfik Doss Pasha Villa), Hungary (ex-Ezzedine Omar villa). Of the remaining three, two are on the island of Manial al-Rhoda and the third is bayt al Monasterli in the Bahr al Aazam district of Giza.

If I were governor of Cairo I would put these villas on the list of endangered species placing an ironclad moratorium on their destruction or structural alteration. And as a resident of Zamalek of which I am not, I would hold perpetual vigil to ensure the present owners comply with the basic rules of preservation. I would also ask the island's elders for the history of these buildings so that the information could be put in a brochure. For sure, these landmarks are part and parcel of the island's architectural heritage.

An example of what could be written in the brochure about one of those 14 endangered species would probably read as follows:

The neo-gothic Villa Hug is located at No. 3 Aziz Abaza Street.

Built in 1907-8 it is one of the oldest villas in Zamalek. Its first owners were Jean (b. 1862, Heinfelden, Switzerland) and Marcelle Hug. Monsieur Hug (pronounced the French way) was the founder of Banque Hug & Cie located at No. 9 Cherif Pasha Street (ex-Madabegh) in downtown Cairo.

Whereas Hug was responsible in part for the growing trade between Egypt and Switzerland, he had nothing to do with the renaming of the street. In fact, it was only after 1952 that Amir Saiid Street was renamed Al Maahad al-Swissri in honor of the Swiss Archeological Institute located further down the street (also a member of the endangered specie).

In the late 1980s the street was once again renamed, this time as Aziz Abaza in honor of the renowned Egyptian literati who lived at No. 17.

The villa is a fine example of the eclectic movement that characterized Cairo's architecture during the first half of the 20th century. While Villa Hug's French architect was not as prolific as his Cairo contemporaries, he is nevertheless the dsigner of the handsome Orosdi-Back department Store on Abdelaziz Street in downtown Cairo.

One may easily point out similarities between Villa Hug and the Music College on Zamalek's Ismail Mohammed Street allegedly designed earlier this century by court architect Ernesto Verucci Bey for account of a prosperous senator from Upper Egypt.

From a 1910 publication we learn that Villa Hug's contractor was the Italian firm of Guiseppe Garrozzo & Figli the very same contractor of the Egyptian Antiquities Museum--Antikhana in 1900-3.

Because Villa Hug's exterior remained intact up to the close of the century we need not second-guess its style or motif. Characterized by special masonry, round balconies, buttresses and an abundance of stucco, one surmises it is the only neo-gothic revival edifice on the Nile. Note also its pointed roof walls, its awesome gargoyles and the superbly glazed windows imported especially from France. Examine the villa's main entrance and discover the letter "H" spun into an amazing web of stained-glass motifs.

After Hug died, the villa was leased to the Institute of Education for Girls "Amira Fawkia al-Gedida." This is where daughters of the elite went if they were not already enrolled in the French-language Lycée Francais, Mère de Dieu or Sacred Hearts.

Unlike the state-run schools of today which have the propensity to turn concrete buildings into a rubble heap, the frangible Villa Hug survived its school years intact.

When the time came, Hug's widow, Marcelle, sold the villa to Mr. and Mrs. Mohammed Sameh Moussa. In his capacity of Secretary of the pre-1952 Saadist Party, Moussa Bey entertained Egypt's top-drawer politicians. Moussa's wife (Wadood "Toutou" Faizi) meanwhile was very much at home on the island of Zamalek especially since her siblings were also her neighbors owning three of the exclusive--and now endangered--riverfront mansions.

Venezuela flag

In the 1970s, Villa Hug was leased to the government of the Republic of Venezuela. Among the prominent Latin Americans who stayed there were Venezuela's president Senor Rafael Calderas and ambassador Nava Carrillo who was later nominated his country's minister for foreign affairs.

Four years ago the Venezuelans moved to an apartment flat in Maadi, which is why Faizi Beys's descendants could now sell Villa Hug and reap a handsome profit.

At the writing of this story, the new owner of Villa Hug is the leading Egyptian educator Ms. Nawal al-Degwi, owner of several private educational institutes. Fronting for Prince Bandar Ibn Sultan of Saudi Arabia she purchased the villa from Wadood and Sameh Moussa's only son Yussri.

Degwi on behalf of Prince Bandar is currently restoring the villa's interior and adding modern amenities here and there. So if you happen to see something protruding from the roof, it is not an old gargoyle gone agog or a statue heaving out of synch. It is simply an elevator shaft as the villa prepares for its second century of existence.

Indeed, each one of the remaining 14 villas fronting the Nile has a telling story to relate.





photos courtesy Jenk A.Y Yalcin

Faizi Faizi
newlyweds Ra'aya Hassan Faizi and Ahmed Abdel Wahab Pasha (future finance minister)
owners of what later became the Iraki embassy residence on zamalek's Mohammed Mazhar Street; the late Mohammed Hassan Faizi owner of villa on Aziz Abaza Street

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Between them the Hassan Mohammed Faizi Bey family owned four exclusive riverfront villas in Zamalek. His only son, Mohammed Hassan Faizi, owned what became the Russian Press Bureau on Amir Saiid (now Aziz Abaza Street). His three daughters starting with Hamida Faizi (Mrs. Mohammed Aboulella) owned the Indian embassy chancelery at No. 5 Amir Saiid Street; Ra'ya Faizi (Mrs. Ahmed Abdelwahab Pasha) owned the Iraki embassy on Mohammed Mazhar Street; and Wadood Faizi (Mrs. Mohammed Sameh Moussa) owned Villa Hug. Their grandfather, Mohammed Faizi Pasha, was the long time director general of the Awqaf with the rank of minister during the reign of Khedive Abbas Hilmi. His own outstanding home stands out on Cairo's Sheikh Rihani street. For details click on khedivial folly

From: Isis Sabet Mikhail
Alabama, USA
Added on 05/14/00 at 09:42:56
I lived in Zamalek since 1959 and went to the German School (Deutsche Oberschule - D.E.O) on El Mansour Mohamed Street. In my last trip, I saw another high building arising in part of the school location. I hope the remaining area will not be yet another highrise. (My neighbors always used to joke that the Zamalek may "sink in the Nile" from the heaviness of all the new highrises!)I live in the US now but frequently go back home. Despite the noise and traffic jams, Cairo remains so fascinating to me.

Your article on the Zamalek Villas (Villa HUG: Cairo's Endangered Species) touched me because it indicates that "someone" still cares and has the sense to try to preserve whatever is still left after the senseless destruction of the beautiful villas and trees of the Zamalek and Cairo in general! However, on a positive note, in my trip last year I have noticed some improvement. Zamalek remains (to me at least) one of the most charming suburbs of Cairo. Please keep up the good work. This is as a breath of fresh air for the preservation of endangered architecture in Cairo.

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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