Historic Restoration of Cairo, Egypt

Topic: Technical Assistance on the Restoration of Khedivial Cairo

Client: Al Ismaelia for Real Estate Company

Project duration: 2009 – 2011


Planned and partly developed by Khedive Ismail in the second half of the 19th century, Khedivial Cairo was Egypt’s political, financial and commercial center for a century. Modeled after the Paris of the 1830’s and built in the best art deco, neo-classical and neo-baroque architectural styles, the Khedivial Quarter was a buzzing cosmopolitan hub. Its landmark buildings still have ties to the leading personalities who lived and worked there, and regularly patronized its clubs and cafes.

The Challenge

Five decades of rent controls, nationalization, mismanagement and neglect have taken their toll. The built environment has deteriorated due to lack of maintenance. Many institutions and high-end commercial establishments that characterized the area moved to more modern quarters. Roads and passageways have been taken over by vendors and residents.

New Focus on Preservation

Starting in the 1980s, the slow dismantling of the controls that stifled the economy allowed for the emergence of a dynamic private sector. Among the new generation of architects was a greater sensitivity to the qualities of the historic architectural and urban heritage and an understanding of the value of the 19th and early 20th century urban fabric. Nevertheless, few investors looked to the city center. In 2008, regulations were passed to ensure the preservation of the historic character of the buildings and promote their restoration to historically compatible standards.

The Initiative

We are convinced that private investment is needed to reverse the cycle of deterioration and neglect eroding the city’s core and revitalize Khedivial Cairo’s dynamic economic and cultural role. Al Ismaelia Real Estate Company has taken the lead in refocusing investor interest in the city center. I2UD assessed the preservation and regeneration potential of the area just north of Tahrir Square and began developing urban design concepts for the reuse of buildings and improvements to the streets and public spaces. A pilot project to demonstrate the feasibility and potential of private investment in Khedivial Cairo’s renaissance was proposed. Since 2011, redevelopment plans for the area have been indefinitely postponed. Complementary government investment is needed to restore the quality of public spaces.

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