stories of Cairo’s streets
The streets of any city are an open book narrating the history of this city and possibly the history of the whole nation, and the street signs are the pages of this book. Mohammad Ali Pasha, the founder of modern Egypt, was the first ruler who issued a decree to give names to Egypt's streets and a number to each building as well as putting street name signs.
It is one of El-Darb Al-Ahmar's most famous
streets, and it is the last one established in this area. Moreover, its
establishment marked the end of the Islamic era represented in the Fatimid
Cairo and the beginning of modernism in Egypt.
El-Qalaa Street extends from El-Ataba
El-Khadra Square to Sultan Hasan Mosque and Madrassa.
El-Qalaa Street was previously known
as Mohammad Ali Street after Mohammad Ali Pasha. The first thought of
establishing El-Qalaa Street was during Mohammad Ali Pasha’s era in 1846. Then
Khedive Ismail assigned the French architect Haussmann, the designer of modern
Paris, to design Khedivial Cairo a part of Khedive Ismail’s plan to
make the city a piece of Europe in which he succeeded, and Cairo became a
masterpiece known as “Paris of the East”.
The Egyptian Government then moved
all the cemeteries and bought all the shops and buildings from the owners to establish
the new street. Then in 1874, the Ministry of Public Works began the
construction under the supervision of Ali Pasha Mubarak. The buildings facing
the street were built with arches crowning the sidewalks to protect the
merchants and pedestrians from the heat and rains inspired by European
architecture which still exists in the boulevards of Paris.
El-Qalaa Street still has some famous
landmarks such as the Egyptian National Library, built by Khedive Ismail at the
suggestion of Ali Pasha Mubarak, Minister of Education then. They
aimed to collect manuscripts and valuable books that ottoman sultans, princes,
and scholars restricted to mosques, mausoleums, and schools. The library was
the nucleus of a public library inspired by the national libraries in Europe. Further,
there are other landmarks like the Islamic Museum, Mosque of Qaison, Hammam Bashtak, Souq El-Selah,
and Al-Mansara district, which is famous for the furniture manufacturing industry.
Al-Faggala or Al-Tabbala Street
Salah Jahin, the famous Egyptian poet
and playwright, says “streets are stories”. Some streets have secrets and beauty discovered by those who look passionately for them
and seek to reveal the features of that beauty that make them
more captivating. So, let’s find out the story of El-Faggala Street:
Al-Faggala Street extends from Ramses
Street to the beginning of Bab El-Shaaria Street.
Unlike many streets in Cairo which
were usually named after kings, Ottoman sultans, prominent figures, or a craft
that was famous in the area, Al-Faggala Street was given the name of an
artistic occupation the drummer “Al-Tabbala”. At that time, there was a
conflict between the Fatimid Caliph Al-Mostanser Bi-llah in Egypt and the
Abbasid Caliph El-Qaem Bi Amr Allah in Baghdad. The struggle ended with the
defeat of the Abbasid Caliph. So, the singer of the Fatimid Caliph started
singing and showing her jot at this victory, and because the Caliph admired her
songs, he gifted her this fertile area overlooking the Nile. Later, when the
commander of the armies of the Fatimid Caliph Al-Mostanser Bi-llah came to
Egypt and built orchards around this area, its name was changed to “Basatin
El-Geyoshi”. After a while, it became neglected until Khedive Ismail developed
the area of the railway and Al-Faggala was a part of it. Al-Faggala’s name is
associated with the radish farmers who inhabited the area at this time as well as foreigners and Syrians because
it was near Misr Station.
El-Faggala street which was once a cultural
center where there were bookstores, publishing houses, and libraries like” Misr Library” is now a center for selling sanitary
El-Room Catholic School, the Jesuit
Church, and the Chaldean Catholic Church are the most significant landmarks on
Cairo has long been home to numerous historical
monuments, and it is full of famous landmarks and tourist attractions that
always are a top destination in the world. One of which is Saliba Street that
bears witness to the masterpieces of the Mamluk era in Egypt.
Al-Saliba Street which means “Cross Street”
runs from Al-Qalaa Street to the beginning of Abdel Magid Al-Labban Street,
near Al-Sayeda Zeinab area and intersects with Al-Rakiba Street and Al-Seyoufia
Street making the shape of a cross.
It is called Al-Saliba because it
looks like a cross.
Al-Saliba Street is one of Egypt’s
historic streets that houses numerous Islamic monuments, including mosques,
schools, kuttabs, sabils, khanaqahs, hammams, and
palaces. The Street was the residence of princes and dignitaries during the
Ayyubid Era because of its strategic location on the outskirts of the ancient
Islamic capitals of Egypt. Moreover, the Ayyubids built their military
facilities and weapons factories in this area, including an arms workshop at El-Houd
Al-Marsod area in 1813 and a military academy in 1855.
Furthermore, Al-Saliba Street was a
theatre for many political and social events such as ceremonial parades,
wedding celebrations, and Mamluks’ plots against each other. It was also the
place where El-Nasser Qalawun held his daughter’s wedding celebrations for
three consecutive nights and free food tables were offered to the public.
During Mohammad Ali Pasha’s era, many
statesmen built houses and palaces in this
area due to its significance like Amir Abel El-Latif Pasha House in front of Qanibay
El-Mohammady School. The Alawite dynasty (Mohammed Ali’s dynasty) also built
three pharmacies in the street as pharmacies were a paradigm shift in the field
of manufacturing medicines at that time.
Al-Saliba street houses an abundance
of Islamic monuments like Ibn Tulun Mosque, the only remaining monument of the
city of Qata’i; the third Islamic capital in Egypt, Al-Ashraf Qaitbay Kuttab
and Sabil, Qanibay El-Mohammady Madrasa, El-Amir Sheikho’s khanaqah Madrasa,
Sabil Um Abbas and the School of ibn Tagriberdi, Gayer-Anderson Museum, and
Amir Sarghatmish Madrasa.
Port said Street
Port Said Street or previously
“El-Khalig El-Masry” in Cairo is a living witness to Egyptian history from the
Pharaonic era until now. It is also a silent one that does not reveal much,
especially to strangers and young people. While strolling down the street, it
may never cross your mind to ask about its meaning and significance, and perhaps
some have seen it on envelopes or addresses list “10 El-Khalig El-Masry
Street”. Now it is called Port Said and is one of Cairo’s most famous streets where
significant events and popular
celebrations took place.
Port Said Street is considered the
vital artery that separates Fatimid Cairo and Khedival Cairo. It is located
near Al-Azhar area and extends from Madinet El-Khosos to Fam El-Khalig Street
in El-Manial area.
Port Said Street was known as
El-Khalig “the bay” as it had one of Egypt’s artificial waterways
(canals) that Egyptian farmers used to irrigate the lands that did not get
enough water from the Nile River. Over the ages, the Street was given many
names like Khalig Ptolemy during Ptolemaic era in Egypt, Khalig Misr, Khalig
El-Fustat, and Khalig Amir El-Mo’minin after Omar Ibn El-Khattab, the second
Muslim Caliph. Then in 1952 after the July revolution, the Street’s name was changed
to Port Said after the Egyptian city Port Said.
Just like Venice in Italy, Port Said
Street in Cairo was built on the waters of an old canal built up by Egyptian farmers
for irrigation purposes. So, back then you would see boats and
bridges instead of vehicles and sidewalks, and people used to take long walks
on its banks. Then in 1899, the canal was backfilled when Khedive Ismail built
Cairo water Company.
Khurunfush Street is
one of Fatimid Cairo’s remarkable streets. It is an extension of Cairo’s
historic street El-Mo’ez Ledin Allah. It is where Fatimid caliphs, ministries,
and princes had lived and held their official ceremonies.
The word Khurunfush is a deviation of
Khurunshuf, which refers to the fossilized material produced from old baths
fuels and used with lime mortar for construction works. The street became known
as Al-Khurunfush when the Fatimid Caliph El-Aziz Billah used this material to build
back stables next to the western palace.
It became fixed in the minds after giving
the name to the house of Prince Saif El-Din Abu Said Khalil, one of the Mamluk
princes and the Deputy Sultan
Mohammed Ibn Qalawun on Damascus. This house was described by Al-Makrizi as
Cairo’s most beautiful and magnificent house.
Dar Kiswat El-Kaaba and Saint Joseph
School “Frères School” are the most famous landmarks in Al-Khurunfush Street as
well as silver and brass workshops. It is also the street where president Gamal
Abdel El-Naser lived with his father in 1933 as his father worked at Khurunfush
district’s post office. Moreover, Haret Khamis Ads “Khamis Ads alley” is one of
Khurunfush most important alleys and is named after “Maundy Thursday”, a
Christian holy day in which Egyptian Christians cook lentil soap. While in the past the Fatimids used to
participate in the celebrations and issue commemorative gold coins that were
distributed to State officials.
Al-Seyoufia Street branched off
El-Mo’ez Street is one of Cairo’s most ancient and significant streets that
derived its importance and authenticity from Cairo’s great history. It was the
place of forging swords in Cairo.
Al-Seyoufia Street runs from the
intersection of Mohammed Ali Street to Al-Saliba Street.
It was called Al-Seyoufia because it
was full of sword forging workshops during the Mamluk era.
Al-Seyoufia Street dates back to the
Tulunid period as it was part of Al-Qata’i city. After urban development, the Street
developed to a residential area during the Ayyubid period, then an aristocratic
neighborhood where Mamluk royalty and elites had lived.
Al-Seyoufia Street is famous for its
rich diversity in Islamic monuments. It is home to different types of Islamic
architecture; a Sufi mosque, palace, sabil, kuttab, tekyeh, and Khanqah.
Tekyehat El-Darawish is the most
famous landmark on Al-Seyoufia Street.
It was established by Egyptian whirling dervishes on the remains of
Sonqer El-Saady Palace and Madrasa. Tekyehat
El-Darawish comprises four sections: a student hostel surrounded by a garden
with a fountain, Sama' Khana "Sufi
theatre", service and
reception area, and main entrance. The Street
also houses Amir Taz Palace which is currently an artistic creativity center.
El-Barabra “El-Barabra Alley”
If you are a bride-to-be or you are
having a baby, Darb El-Barabra is the ideal place for you.
Darb El-Barabra is located in Musky
There are different stories about the
reasons behind the name of Darb El-Barabra. Some say that it was named after
the Berber tribes of Morocco, who came with the Fatimids to conquer Egypt, which
is the most likely opinion. Others say
that it is associated with the Nubian workers who came to Cairo in the early 19th
century, and Darb El-Barabra was where they gathered. The Fatimids were the
first to establish el-darb and introduce the dessert industry to Egypt as they
used to distribute desserts and gifts to Egyptians on special occasions and
celebrations. Further, they made candles used in lighting before inventing
In modern times, Jews and Greeks
lived at Darb El-Barabra and introduced
Chandelier and antique industry into Egypt, which made the street more attractive
Darb el-Barabra is related to Egypt’s
history, especially during the British occupation and monarchy as the word
“Barbara” is associated with “El-Haggana”, a group of military guards who rode
camels and were responsible for dispersing demonstrations. Moreover, it still
retains its name even though the name of the street was changed to Kamal
El-Husseiny, Egypt’s first martyr during the tripartite aggression on Egypt in
Khan El-Khalili is the most famous
and favorite destinations in Cairo for visitors from all over the world.
Khan El-Khalili is located in
El-Hussein district, and it is parallel to El-Mo’ez Ledin Allah Al-Fatimi Street.
Khan El-Khalili bazaar was named after
its founder Emir Djaharks Al-Khalili from El-Khalil city in Palestine, and he
was one of Sultan Barquq’s princes. This bustling street is full of shops,
mosques, and, monuments that attract tourists and locals alike. In the past, it
was part of Fatimid caliphates’ graves, and then in the Mamluk era, the graves
were transferred to be replaced by this bazaar.
El-Khalili bazaar is globally famous for being a market. It offers tourists some of Egypt’s oldest industries
and crafts created by the Egyptian artist embodying Khan El-Khalili’s
authenticity. In khan El-Khalili, you will find all kinds of goods such as
souvenirs, handicrafts, jewelry, antiques, and decorative carpets. Moreover,
Khan El-Khalili was an inspiration for many Egyptian writers like Nagib Mahfouz
as he wrote his famous novel “Khan el-Khalili”.
Amir El-Geyosh is one of Fatimid
Cairo’s oldest Streets. The street is famous for manufacturing food trucks and
carts. It is full of workshops that forge iron to make colorful shapes of food carts.
If you ever pass through it, you will never miss the endless sounds of
hammering as a symphony played by a group of musicians.
Amir El-Geyosh connects Bab
El-Shaaria Street to El-Mo’ez Street, near Bab El-Futuh.
The residents of the area call it “Maragosh-Margosh”
and this name is perhaps an abbreviation for Amir El-Geyosh “prince of the
armies” Badr El-Din El-Gammali, commander of the armies of the Fatimid caliph
El-Mostanser Bellah and the second founder of Fatimid Cairo. He redesigned the
city of Cairo and carried out several expansions making Cairo the world’s
largest city. The street still retains its name and sometimes it is also called
“El-Nahasin Street” for the spread of copper industry craft on it.
Amir El-Geyosh Street is
characterized by its old architectural features which are a blend of Fatimid
and Mamluk styles. Moreover, the armies used to pass through this street, and
it was the first one where the “city croft” bus operated in the early fifties.
Once you are near Misr El-Qadima
area, you will be impressed by the magnificent and ingeniously built structure
“Magra El-Oyoun Fence”. This historic five-century old fence structure holds
the fragrance of a prosperous past and the agonies of a deteriorated present.
Magra El-Oyoun runs from Fum
El-Khalig area in Masr El-Qadima to El- Sayeda Aisha
The street took its name from Magra
El-Oyoun Fence that was built in the area five centuries ago.
Magra El-Oyoun Street was an empty area
separating Misr El-Qadima area, where the Fustat and Amr ibn Al-Aas Mosque is,
and Fatimid Cairo. When Salah El-Din Citadel was built and became the seat of
government, Salah El-Din dug a well
“Yousef well” to supply the Citadel with water from the Nile River, but the
well did not provide enough water. So, the architects of Sultan Mohammed Ibn
Qalawun government built Magra El-Oyoun Fence to carry the water from the Nile
River to the castle. Magra El-Oyoun is considered one of the hugest
Ibn Sender Street
Street begins from the garden in Hadaak El-Qobba district to El-Tahra Palace in
Tahra Square. El-Tahra Palace built by the Italian architect Antonio Lasciac
for Princess Amina Aziz, daughter of Khedive Ismail in the early 20th
Ibn Sender Street
was named after Al-Sahabi Masroh ibn Sender, one of Prophet Mohammad’s companions.
Ibn Sender was a slave to Rawh Ibn Zinba El-Guthami and
one day Ibn Zinba got angry at Ibn Sender and punished him by piercing
his nose and ears. So, Ibn Sender rushed to Prophet Mohammad complaining from Ibn
Zinba. Prophet Mohammad then sent a letter to Ibn Zinba asking him to free ibn
Sender. After his freedom, Ibn Sender asked Caliph Omar ibn El-Khattab to send
him to Egypt. When he came to Egypt, Amr ibn Al-Aas gave him a plot of land,
which is surrounding Ibn Sender Street now.