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EGY.COM - ZAMALEK
HOW GABALAYA BECAME HASSAN SABRY PASHA STREET
Cairo Times, 25 May 2000
In my previous column I discussed name changes of several important Cairo streets and how this confused transiting generations. But puzzlement also occurs when street names move from one place to another. Here's why.
"Why," asked the London Times correspondent "is Gabalaya House (No. 20 Hassan Sabry Street, Zamalek) standing on the wrong street?" Many others asked the same question over the years and with good reason.
In this instance the hubbub arises because there is a Gabalaya Street in another part of Zamalek, so why then is this unique-looking neo-Islamic apartment house standing at the corner of Hassan Sabry and Ibn Zanki Streets? Why is it not stuck somewhere between the mountainous Lebon and Union buildings on Gabalaya Street? Better still, why isn't it abutting the newly repainted and homely Embassy Court building instead of that unsightly Tonsi high-rise?
The truth of the matter is that the purportedly misnamed building is standing exactly where it was meant to be. Moreover, when Italian architect Mario Rossi (famous designer of several mosques including 'Omar Makram' on Tahrir Square) decided to pattern the name "Gabalaya House" on the building's handsome fašade, he was most certainly sound of body and of mind.
At the building's groundbreaking in the late 1920s, the street was without doubt known as Gabalaya Street, so named because of a man-made bluff created there in the late 19th century when that entire area was part and parcel of Gezira Palace (now, Marriott) Hotel.
The name change and the resultant enduring confusion came about when Hassan Sabry Pasha died in the most unpropitious manner.
It was during the first five years of his reign that King Farouk elevated his former ambassador to London to the post of head of government. A widely respected man, Sabry rose above bipartisan conflicts. Equally important and unlike Wafd leader Mustafa al-Nahas, or the pro-German Ali Maher Pasha, Sabry had no bone to pick with either the palace or Miles Lampson, the country's de-facto British regent. He was an ideal compromise Prime Minister. But only for 138 days!
On 14 November 1940, in the presence of King Farouk, the entire cabinet and members of the two Houses of Parliament, plus an assembly of accredited ambassadors and their spouses, an eager Sabry Pasha suddenly dropped dead while reading the Speech from the Throne. Cause of death: fatal heart attack.
Aside from a state funeral, flowery telegrams and drawn-out obituaries plus an endless parade of floral wreaths, particular homage had to be paid to the country's first wartime shahid-martyr. What better tribute than to name a street after him! And since the late PM lived in a villa on Gabalaya Street (where the "Beneton Building" stands today), why not convert Gabalaya into Hassan Sabry Pasha Street. (Note: Years later, the northern part of Hassan Sabry Street would be renamed Brazil Street as though honoring the Brazilian embassy that once occupied presmises on the street.
No one was about to contest the will of the ruler. Likewise, none within Sabry's 15-strong coalition cabinet was going to let the side down. Indeed, the homes of four of his ministers: Helmy Issa Pasha (now, French Embassy Economic Section on Aziz Osman), Abdelhamid Soliman Pasha (today, Embassy of North Korean), Mahmoud El Keissy Pasha (today, Embassy of Libya annex) and Hussein Sirry (today, Embassy of Tunis) lived within walking distance from the ex-Gabalaya Street.
Also accepting the new status quo was the Emile Ganage family. There was litle they could do save defacing the name off the fašade of their building. Wisely they did no such thing and left the original name for posterity. Ditto for Mrs. Steven's Pension 'Gabalaya House' at No. 20 Hassan Sabry Street which kept its name up until it was closed in the mid 1950s.
Rather than put an old name to rest, especially since the bluff after which it was named has almost been flattened out over the years, the Cairo governor of the day thought better of it and transferred the name two streets to the west. What had up to now been Bahr al-Aama (Blind Sea) Street, was re-christened Gabalaya. With only seven villas and a few dahabiehs-houseboats fronting that narrow back road (in those days), the confusion would be minimal. Or so he thought at the time.
Four Novembers later, old Gabalaya Street would make history again. But that's another story (to be continued).
Note: The numbers changed in 1944. Those reflected here are the numbers as they appeared up to that date.
MOHAMMED GHEITA bey 1 Gabalaya
DEICHES, Cavaliere STASCHE & Mme Nee KRAMER, 3 Gabalaya, Villa Billy
ADES, MAURICE A. 4-6 Gabalaya (replaced by El Abd-Building; Four Corners Restaurant
MOSSERI, MAURICE N. 10 Gabalaya (replaced by German Embassy)
CATTAUI pasha Mme Vve MOISE de 13 Gabalaya
CATTAUI, EDGARD de, 13 Gabalaya
COHEN, RENE M. 13 Gabalaya
MOHAMED BIDAIR Pasha, 18 Gabalaya
LEVY, ISAAC 18 Gabalaya
NAGGAR, JACQUES 20 Gabalaya
ZARMATI, MOISE LIONEL, 20 Gabalaya
ZEIDAN, CHOUKRI & EMILE, 20 Gabalaya
ZANANIRI, FERNAND 26 Gabalaya Zamalek (today abandoned Villa)
LEVI, GUIDO 24 Gabalaya Zamalek (today Dutch Embassy)
GANNAGE, EMILE & Mme Commercant 26 Gabalaya, Gabalaya House
TEMPLETON, Dr J. 26 Gabalaya, Gabalaya House
CEYSENS, ALBERT 26 Gabalaya, Gabalaya House
BARNE, H.H. 32 Gabalaya
COATES, E.W. 32 Gabalaya Zamalek
KELSEY, EASTON T 40 Gabalaya
MACKINTOSH, CHARLES A.G. 41 Gabalaya, Villa Scarabe
NEUVILLE, PAUL 41 Gabalaya, Villa Scarabe
TOUSSOUN, Prince OMAR 51 Gabalaya (today government offices RITSEC)
HUSSEIN, WALY 55 Gabalaya
CURIEL, BENJAMIN 69 Gabalaya (today Algerian Embassy)
MAHMOUD, ZAKI 69 Gabalaya
MOHAMED ABDELLATIF 70 Gabalaya (today school)
KHALIFA, MAHMOUD 71 Gabalaya (today Bahrein Embassy)
MAHFOUZ bey, Dr. ABDELHALIM Gabalaya
REYNOLDS, ALEXANDRE Gabalaya, Villa Egizia
Subject: Gabalaya Street, Zamalek
Date: Sat, 9 Nov 2002 15:11:42 +0200
From: Alaa Gheita
The first name on your 1936 list of property owners and residents on Gabalaya Street is my grandfather Mohamed Bey Gheita. His villa was demolished and replaced by the Barakat Building.
As for my other grandfather, Mohamed Bey Bidair (later Bidair Pasha), as correctly mentioned his villa was at 18 Gabalaya later to become No. 12 Hassan Sabry Pasha Stret. In fact I was born in this villa before it was demolished in 1954. My family replaced it with the present building. My late uncle Abdelhamid Bidair (my mother's brother and a son of Bidair Pasha) sold it to the Military Insurance Fund in 1964.
Seems that most of the neighbourhood at the time consisted of British, Egyptian-Italians and Egyptian-Jews with two exceptions: my grandfathers.
Dr. Alaa Gheita
Subject: Gabalaya Street
Date: Sun, 18 Jun 2000 22:55:22 EDT
Ismail Sidki Pacha, also prime minister, lived at the corner of what was Gabalaya Street and ex-El Mahad el Swissry (now, Aziz Abaza) Street. We lived across the street from him. When he became PM in the thirties he expropriated part of our garden and made it into a "midan" so his house could be seen and also his convoy of guards in cars and motorcycles would have space to park. Our house is now the Embassy of Bahrain with greatly reduced space. At one time we had a total of 6000 sq.metres.
Regards from the US