suggests following articles

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 !!!


An Architectural Landmark Everyone Notices

by Samir Raafat
Cairo Times, 10 May 2001

El Borg Hotel
al-Borg Hotel; Godless architecture. Cairo Tower to the right

Once known for its villas and narrow shady streets, Cairo's blessed Gezira Island was eventually overtaken with large, squat, tall but mostly ugly apartment buildings. In due time, it was the turn for the big hotels to stake their claim. First the Marriott followed shortly by the cylindrical Gezira Sheraton. And of course there's that ignominious box-shaped so-called hotel which, up to this day, no one can tell me what it really is.

Guessed which hotel I'm talking about? Guess again and here's a clue. It is most probably the most wretched building on the island. Another clue is that location-wise it occupies the city's most spectacular spot. You got it? It's al-Borg Hotel!

Al-Borg Hotel facing Kasr al-Nil Bridge could've been anything but a five-star hotel! Or perhaps its designer thought this would be the ideal place for travelers seeking out architectural mayhem. Small wonder how none of the leading names in the hospitality industry want to be associated with this concrete plague. They'd be quarantined forever.

Contrary to the ministry of tourism's caprice and despite frantic searches for any redemptive virtue justifying this project, serious hotel connoisseurs and any self-respecting architect will tell you al-Borg wasn't, isn't and shouldn't have been a hotel of the first category. A home for mad cows or a refugee camp for the homeless is more like it. And as things continue to go downhill, one may think it is currently used as target practice for World War III.

Built in the dreary Soviet-era '60s when architects forgot there was a God, al-Borg Hotel earned its place in urban history as the vanguard in Cairo's uglification. The uncomfortable truth is this infamous hotel, with its thicket of concrete walls and garish stucco was a precursor to a trend that went unabated across the nation's capital and beyond.

But then there's this other capital sin. Notice how this Nile-front horror faces Kasr al-Nil Bridge, the Nile Hilton, the Ramses Hilton and the Semiramis Intercontinental otherwise known as the 5-star mile. Where can you go from there?

So we all agree Hotel al-Borg occupies Cairo's most precious real estate. Who then is the lucky one who owns that priceless chunk of real estate in addition to the two or so acres that surround it? How about the Teacher's Syndicate!

The land was given almost free of charge to the budding Teacher's Union back in the 1930s with the intent that developers and builders of the day would conceive some urban coherence. In this case, they would create a park and a clubhouse surrounded by existing trees so that teachers from all over Cairo would have a place where they could retire, get inspired and, why not, enjoy themselves.

Although it didn't exist officially, there was, believe it or not, some form of neighborhood development ordinance ensuring that no single person or group of individuals could introduce at random anything that pleased them thus subverting the rest of the community.

And so it was for many years. Set on the fringes of the Zohria and Andalusian Gardens, abutting the Gezira and National Sporting Clubs, the Teachers Union was just another rustic patch of green.

But what baffles many of us today is how, with their straightforward cahier des charges and sensible zoning regulations, the builders and town planners of the 1910s had devised practical ways in order to wield an explicit and positive influence? An influence that went beyond the projects they planned and designed each year.

These were the days when government played a minimal role in urban development which is precisely why new towns such as Garden City, Maadi, Heliopolis, Koubbeh Gardens were developed with such high standards. It was therefore a sad day when the developers of these towns and districts were done away with in the 1960s. Even sadder when the central government subsequently took over every aspect of our daily lives.

And what did our tateless Big Brother come up with in the meantime? Nasr City and Monadessine! Ah, yes, and al-Borg Hotel.

And that's not all.

What should have been marvelous models for creating other new suburbs, we began to wantonly destroy. The days of Heliopolis, Garden City, Zamalek, Maadi were numbered. Enter the municipal laissez-faire of the '70s and '80s coupled with those ridiculous rent-control laws.

We are now at the break of a new millennium. The time has come to reverse the bias. Already more people agree that preserving historic buildings and districts is a good thing. That old-fashioned buildings and commercial downtown Cairo could become great pleasures. And that if this new trend is destined to continue and grow, then maybe the prevailing architectural madness can turn into hope.

Yet if we really mean business, and in order to make the point clear that there is no returning to architectural mayhem, the first thing to be done is the instant removal of the ignoble al-Borg Hotel.
Reader Comments
Subject: El-Borg Hotel
Date: Sun, 17 Jun 2001 04:08:22 -0400
From: John P R McCulloch

I was a little Boy who grew up in Egypt in the fifties... My Mother a Copt, my Father, a British Army Officer. Once in the mid-seventies, my wife and I arrived at the Nile Hilton, only to be told they were overbooked. We were put in a Cab and sent to the El-Borg Hotel where we spent one night before returning to the Hilton. The El-Borg was as horrific and experience as it is an eyesore... It was the product of that (Soviet-Inspired) Socialistic mumbo-jumbo of the early Nasserite era.... an era that may have perhaps been politically inspired, but has, thank God, been relegated to the filing cabinet of history...
Dr J P Ron McCulloch

Subject: El Borg Hotel
Date: Mon, 14 May 2001 09:48:25 -0400
From: Shulkami
El Borg hotel is the ugliest site in Cairo. And to think this has one of the most beautiful spots in the world is just preposterous. Hope the governor will take notice and will order its demolition. What a great service he will do to Cairo. They definitely can built a beautiful tower at its place, and have thousands enjoy the spectacular and breathtaking view.
I second Allen Hansplant opinion. Please do put all your articles in a book. It will be a best seller. Thanks again for enriching our daily life with your excellent articles.
Subject: No Subject
Date: Fri, 11 May 2001 23:30:46 EDT
From: Allen Hansplant

Samir, Samir, Samir: What a perfectly marvelous piece about that perpetual eyesore squatting on the landscape like some malevolent blob! It is an offense to any of the senses. It is an intellectual insult. It is simply a screaming horror that destroys the dignity of the Cairo skyline. To see it is to become nauseous and, at the same time, outraged at the absence of any 'taste' in its construction. You have done Cairo a huge service and I applaud and salute you.

Now, I know that I am being a pest with this notion, but you have such a wealth of beautifully written and fascinating articles at hand that I cannot imagine you not gathering together so many and incorporating them into a book about this miraculous city. If this were just my fantasy it could be regarded as suspect. But the dozens of people that I know and who wait for each new article are just as adamant. Believe me; a book by you would fill a huge void as there is nothing on the market to compete with you.

There are quite a lot of people who love Egypt wandering about out here and I know in my bones that they would throng to your writing.

You have it all: the stories, the style, the grace of your writing. A book by you would be on the coffee table of any and everyone who loves this city and nation.
Please consider this. I implore you.
Allen Hansplant
Doylestown, PA, USA

Received: 5/10/01 9:35:59 PM
From: Paul Schemm
Subject: Borg hotel

LOVED the Borg Hotel article!!! I have felt exactly the same way about that god awful eyesore for years now and just wished desperately that somehow it could be torn down and restore the lovely skyline (or lack there of) to that part of Gezira island. Especially liked the line about the 60s and 70s, when "architects forgot there was a god." Truly sums up my feelings everyday in Cairo, especially when I'm in Mohandiseen or Nasr City.

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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