Given the present decay, over-crowding, and haphazard planning in central Cairo, it may sometimes be difficult to grasp that the modern city was once architecturally attractive. However, the period from the end of the nineteenth century until the 1950s witnessed an architectural flowering, with a variety of styles existing side by side: baroque, neo-classical, art nouveau, art deco, rococo khedivial, colonial, Bauhaus, Italian renaissance, arabesque, and neo-pharaonic. Altogether this produced an eclectic riot of elegant buildings. This book records for posterity much that has already been physically lost and plenty that is threatened, and yet it is not designed as an architectural checklist. Samir Raafar has not merely charted the landmarks of Cairo's urban tissue but weaves therein tales and anecdotes of the people who once animated them. We meet, among others, Welsh department store owners, Swiss hoteliers, imperious Britons, politicians good and bad, night-club stars, socialites, and assassins. For any Cairo resident wondering why there is a neo-gothic pile at the end of the road, Cairo, the Glory Years can provide the answer.
Whether read at home or while pounding the streets, this book is a guide through the multicultural whirl that was Africa's greatest city during the first half of the twentieth century.