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Several of my articles on Garden City were plagiarized word for word by novelist MEKKAWI SAID (winner of the Egyptian State price for literature!!!!) and re-published under his own name in a three-part series in El-Masry El-Youm daily in September 2015.

Cheers to our "talented" literature prize awardee. Your pain his gain !!!


by Samir Raafat
Cairo Times, 11 May 2000

Street Sign CDG
new fingerpost street signs introduced in Giza April 2000

Giza is now playing host to new 'fingerpost type' bilingual streets signs. They are decent looking, legible and uniform. Kudos to the governor for his efforts! More importantly someone consulted a spellchecker so that we won't be taken for a semi-literate nation. Which now brings me back to another question: the number of times some of these streets changed street signs.

For example, let's take the street running parallel to the river between Zamalek and Giza bridges. In the days when it was more of a sleepy alley than a lover's lane it was known as Sharia El Bahr El Aazam (Great Sea). It was not a through-road ending somewhere near where University Bridge would be built in 1960.

Some time after 1936 the street was widened and renamed King Farouk Avenue. Naturally this meant that shortly after 1952 it was renamed Gamal Abdel Nasser, but only for a decade. The re-introduction of Sharia El Nil spared Anwar al-Sadat an everyday reminder of his nemesis.

Ditto for the next street to the west. It too had its share of name changes starting off as Khedive Abbas Avenue in honor of a modern-day hereditary rulers and ending with Avenue Charles de Gaule on the occasion of President Chirac's state visit to Egypt.

Tritto the nigh bridge which changed its appellation several times. From Kobri Bahr al-Aazam, to Pont des Anglais, to Evacuation Bridge! Hmmm, let's not omit two of its popular nicknames: "Kobri Badia" after a notorious spy-belly-dancer that owned a casino across from the bridge, and much later "Kobri Sheraton" because of the nearby hotel by the same name.

All this says something about lack of lack of continuity, personal vanity and as we shall see, rancor.

Ok, so some name changes are more denotative than others as was the case with Pont Des Anglais (English Bridge) and its change to Kobri el Galaa (Evacuation Bridge). In this instance it signified the belated departure of the last British soldier from Egypt in 1955. Well done!

I can also understand that in a surge of anti-colonialism one of Alexandria's finest streets, Rue de Belgique, became Rue Lumumba. What I find contemptible however is when you change those streets and squares named after a former Egyptian ruler to that of his archenemy as was the case with Khedive Tewfik which became Ahmed Orabi.

Now let's look at what took place in September 1954 when the new military regime sought to re-write history on street signs. In their rush to eradicate the 150 year reign of the Mohammed Ali dynasty the Free Officers also did away with names honoring our greatest generals.

Ibrahim Pasha Street named after the general who expanded Egypt's realm as far as the approaches of Istanbul was renamed Sharia El Gomhouria (Republic). Soliman Pasha who helped establish Egypt's modern army became Talaat Harb (not that Talaat Harb does not deserve his own Street and square). Ironically, there was a time when streets were renamed in honor of certain Free Officers some of whom would ultimately lead to our defeat in June 1967.

Khedive Ismail Bridge reverted to its old name of Kobri Kasr El Nil. Fine. Midan Ismail was renamed Midan El Tahrir (Liberation Square). Understandable. Any new regime must invariably require that the city's main square act as a symbol of the country's new image. But when you substitute Ismail's name across the city with names of people no one heard just so that you can eradicate his presence is going overboard.

Any impartial historian will tell you Ismail's impact on modernizing Egypt, despite its ruinous effects, was second to none. Why then pretend he didn't exist? Why hijack his achievements including that which made world history: the opening of the Suez Canal?

Ismail's descendants did not fare well either. King Fouad Avenue became 26th of July Street. Midan Abdel Moneim, so named after the sometime regent of Egypt, became Midan El Missaha (Survey Square). Walda Pasha became Amrika El Latinia (Latin America) Street. Likewise, Zamalek's side streets named after Ismail's grandchildren Halim, Toussoun, Hilmi, Fadel were changed alongside Wilcocks, Garstin, Montcrief. Irrespective of origin and nationality ALL were retroactively declared enemies of the state.

And while everyone loves to ballyhoo the urban achievements of Baron Edward Empain including that gem which was recently transformed into the presidential palace, the only avenue named in his city of Heliopolis has long since been christened El Tayar (pilot) Nazih Khalifa

As though to demonstrate how Egypt reverted to macho-ism, streets named after modern queens of Egypt were renamed after male leaders. Queen Nazli Avenue became Sharia Ramses. Queen Nariman Street was renamed after Sudanese leader Sayed El Sayed El Mirghani. Giza's Princess Fawzia Street became Cheops Avenue.

This brings me to some worn out cliches and a recent remark made by a retired ambassador. "I fail to understand why the city's administrators can't come up with different name for the new mehwar--loop other than AGAIN '26 0f July.' Similarly, why no other name for the road serving eastern Cairo but El-Nasr?"

Granted, the streets of Cairo are a lot better today because our incumbent governor is a doer instead of a talker. But I also think many will agree Um El Dunya will not suffer too much if we resurrected some--not all--of the historical names.

Go for it Gov!

Reader's Comments
Subject: Cairo street's names
Date: Tue, 09 May 2000 14:31:06 -0400

Mr. Raafat,
My mother who is 73 years old still insists to use Sharaa Fouad and not 26 July, Soliman not Talaat Harb...etc which means for me these changes are not only for street's names but for the whole society as well. There is generation that still refers to the streets by their old names. Then there is a second generation calling the same street by its "revolution" name, and the newest generation talks of still another name??!!!
For me all of this is still better than what is going on in Nasr city (I'm wondering why they did not change its name too?!) You will find streets named after the contractors who build in the neighborhood: something like Sharaa Abdelbaky, Sharaa El Far...etc.
At least if they named a street after someone we all know. Good luck in your wars.

Subject: Cairo Street Names
Date: Tue, 16 May 2000 09:42:39 -0400
From: Stephen Papastephanou

It is a fun trying to remember Cairo's Street names. During a recent visit, it was a daily challenge to learn and remember the new names. Taxi drivers of course know all the names, even of 40 years ago. Visiting my old street in Dokki, I asked the driver to take me to Sharia Oswald Finney, which has a different name now. No problem. He knew exactly where to go. The funny thing though is that a drugstore occupying the site of what was our villa 40 years ago was named "Fini". Some other stores also referred to "Fini". So although names had changed some people tried to hold on to the phonetic sound of the name! In some places in Cairo, where the names had been written in Arabic by law during the "Nasser" days, reverting now to their European name underwent some interesting changes. Pontremoli became "Bountremoli", aquiring a new phonetic identity, more suitable to arabic pronunciation, and so on. Not quite a complete cycle to be sure. All this is quite funny and interesting. I suggest that somebody create a game, (on television) where the players would be challenged to name streets now and then, with their name's historic significance or insignificance, and win prizes. That would enhance the teaching of Egyptian History. Um El Dunyia never ceases to fascinate us.

Date: Thu, 25 May 2000 14:36:51 -0400
From: "Ibrahim, Essam"

Let's put aside for a moment the issue of who deserve to have a street named after him or her and who doesn't. As if getting around the streets of Cairo is not confusing enough, the brilliant bureaucrats decide to add to the confusion by changing street names. When the new name is longer than the original, people usually stick to the old name. Then, we have to remember both names and use the appropriate name depending on whom we speak to. I like Fouad Street better than Twenty-Six of July Street. This should not be interpreted that I am more sympathetic to King Fouad the 1st than to the 1952 revolution. Perhaps both had equal contribution to the misery of our people. Rather, I found the name Fouad Street a lot easier. Besides, it is the original.
In absence of democracy, it usually pays off to appease the rulers than to act in the public interest. If the person who was responsible for naming the Cairo Metro stations was thinking of us, he or she would have named the Tahrir Square station, simply Tahrir Station, not President Mohammad Anwar El Sadat Station, or is it President Mohammad Hosni Mubarak Station. When this happens, perhaps we will one day be on the right track.

Subject: Our old street names, our old flag.
Date: Tue, 06 Jun 2000 17:09:13 -0700
From: "M. Sami Fadali"

It is great that you are writing about our old street names and how they represent part of our history that should not be forgotten. How about the old Egyptian flag. Even though I was born in 1952 and did not grow up with the old flag, I still think it is far more elegant than the Syrian flag we now have. The new flag was for the "United Arab Republic", long since gone. It simply does not measure up to the beautiful deep green, the crescent and the three stars, why not bring them back?
M. Sami Fadali
Reno, Nevada, USA

Subject: Street Names
Date: Sun, 6 Aug 2000 23:27:20 -0700
From: "S. Michael Foty"

As usual, a stimulating topic. It is surprising that many a time the new names have less relevance than the old ones. Take for instance some of the streets and squares surrounding the Cairo Museum. What was inappropriate with Mariette and Antikhana?

articles posted on were published in the following books by Samir W Raafat: THE EGYPTIAN BOURSE, Zeitouna, Cairo -- CAIRO THE GLORY YEARS, Harpocrates, Alexandria -- HISTORY & SOCIETY IN A CAIRO SUBURB; MAADI 1904-1962, Palm Press, Cairo -- PRIVILEGED FOR THREE CENTURIES, printed digitally and bound by Elias Printing, Egypt

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