Paris of the East
After a long period of decline, Egypt, especially Cairo, witnessed a new era when Muhammad Ali Pasha, the founder of modern Egypt, started his rule in 1805. He shortly began extensive development projects throughout the country. Muhammad Ali’s efforts established the foundations for his grandson, Khedive Ismail (c. 1863-1879), to initiate his own urban development projects. His visit to the “ Paris World Exhibition” in 1867 was one of city’s greatest milestones. Just as Georges-Eugène Haussmann was hired to develop Paris, Khedive Ismail charged Ali Pasha Mubarak with the task of executing a new urban plan for Cairo. Ali Pasha Mubarak himself had received an education in France, and was appointed Minister of Public Works, overseeing Cairo’s urban development. The inauguration of Suez Canal in 1869 was a pivotal stage in Cairo’s development. The old city was left intact, while a new westernized city was developed in parallel to the west, encircling the old one from the north. The “new” city was developed and equipped with spacious squares, bridges, gardens, and lavish palaces. One of its most famous buildings was the khedival Opera, which was a smaller model of Milan’s “Teatro alla Scala”. The city also contained the largest national library in the region. With the turn of the century, Cairo underwent such a transformation as to reflect diverse architectural traditions, bringing together the expertise of French, Italian, German, and Egyptian engineers.