Cairo, Egypt - Downtown Cairo is not only a place where one can find architectural glory, but also a place that one can reminisce the past, through the newly painted buildings with the variety of architectural styles that all meet in the center of the Egyptian Capital.
The Khedive Cairo restoration project started in 2008, aiming to renovate and restore the facade for the historical buildings that were assembled during Khedive Ismail’s time in mid 1800’s, according to Sameh ElAlaily, former dean of the faculty of urban planning, Cairo University.
Al Ismaelia for Real Estate Investment is partnering with Cairo governorate in the renovation process. According to their official website, Al Ismaelia focuses on “acquiring and renovating prime real estate in Downtown Cairo with the aim of revitalizing the historic neighborhood and celebrating it unique, urban framework.”
ElAlaily elucidated that the parties involved in the renovation process are aiming to “remove all the distortions on the buildings, from banners to advertisements, as well as the interventions that were made by the shop owners or people who live in these buildings.”
The Cairo governorate passed a new law that prohibits any banners or advertisements to be put on the buildings of Khedive Cairo as to maintain a clean look for the buildings.
ElAlaily said that the Cairo governorate is overseeing the project, however the resources are limited. “The renovation process is also in partnership with the local community,” he added.
The project, according to ElAlaily, also aims to negotiate with shop owners to have a unified standard for the shop façade. “They are trying to have a well-equipped pedestrian areas, with well-paved sidewalks and benches, to make the place look more presentable.”
Albeit all the renovations that are taking place in Khedive Cairo, ElAlaily questions, “If you succeed in maintaining this project, after a while there will be deterioration for the buildings again, is there enough resources for carrying out this project again?”
ElAlaily clarified that the project is carried out on the exterior of the buildings. He continued explaining, “no stairs, elevators or anything inside is being restored.”
ElAlaily pointed out that the only way to sustain such a project is through having an economical return for the buildings. He elaborated that the buildings in the Khedive Cairo area could be used as ‘Bed and Breakfast hotels’, as not all tourists can stay at hotels.
“In this sense, there will be an economical return, and with this money, there will be an on going restoration to buildings to keep them intact and in a good shape,” ElAlaily expounded.
Of the most recent and ongoing renovations in Khedive Cairo is in Emad El Din Street, known in early 20th century with its theaters and nightclubs. With a diversity of Art Deco and Parisian style buildings, the street is now restored to showcase the architectural glory of the buildings in their original state.
Al Ismaelia owns one of the newly renovated buildings in the street, Gharib Morcos building, that was built in 1920, according to Al Ismaelia’s website. The building’s architecture follows the French New Baroque – Art Deco style.
One of the shops in the newly renovated building is a small clothing store that is overstored with a diverse collection of male and female daily apparel. Nabil Ahmed Shehab, 29, works as a sales representative in the store.
Mohy El-Sayed, 54, or El-Haj Mohy, as most of his clients call him, owns a small coffee shop in one of Emad El Din’s buildings, having adopted the ‘café trottoir’ concept said that, “Thankfully, there are more clients coming to the café after the renovation and restoration.”
ElAlaily added that Khedive Cairo was built during the rule of Khedive Ismail, who admired the architecture of Paris. “Ismail brought Haussmann [Baron Haussmann], who planned the French capital to plan a mini Paris in downtown Cairo,” he explained.
ElAlaily sees that “Starting from Khedive Cairo then moving to other places for renovations will make the city improve urbanely, and it will be appealing for tourism and other practices.”