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Zamalek: little Paris

art & culture

In this quarter, you go back to the time when Cairo was living in Parisian style.

It all began when the Khedive Ismael fell in love with Paris. On his return in 1867 he began to transform Cairo, building palaces and gardens, including a replica of the Buttes Chaumont and another of the Jardin d'Acclimatation. All these works were entrusted to French architects and landscapers. Gradually, the Khedive was imitated by the Cairo bourgeoisie and by rich expatriates, including Baron Empain, who conceived an Indian palace in Heliopolis. Many of these villas were destroyed, including that of Umm Kulthum, and the buildings were abandoned, but Zamalek kept a Parisian air, so the area is still very popular with the Cairo elite and expatriates.

As soon as you cross the bridge that connects the island to the coastal road, you discover a very different residential Cairo from other neighbourhoods. It is also the neighbourhood of antique shops and art shops. Push on as far as the Sporting Club, and also see the Opera House and Cairo Tower. At 187 metres, it was at the time of its construction in 1961, the highest concrete building in the world, and its history is worthy of a spy novel…

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