Garden City riverscape

I was at the Thomas Cook Archives in Peterborough, 45 minutes north of London, recently, doing some last-minute picture research for my forthcoming Nile steamers book. I came across the images below, of a dahabiya against a low-rise river bank of what look like villas. I couldn’t identify where it was at first until I noticed in the background of the top image the distinctive silhouette of the Citadel (click on the pics to enlarge). So Cairo then. And then I noticed on the extreme left of the middle picture a familiar building: it’s the old Semiramis hotel. So this is Garden City, some time post 1907. The building on the right in the bottom picture is the British Residence, now the embassy. But what is the building in the middle, anyone know?

001_Thomas Cook

002_Thomas Cook

Thomas Cook 05-07-1424982


Filed under Lost Egypt

9 Responses to Garden City riverscape

  1. Wonderful pictures!

    I am currently reading and thoroughly enjoying your book The Grand Hotels of Egypt and am very much looking forward to your book on Nile Steamers.

    As you know of course, the building you mention in the photograph above is still the British Ambassador’s residence (it was the embassy in the past) The embassy itself is just around the corner at 7 Ahmed Ragheb Street. I used to visit the residence fairly regularly seven or eight years ago.

    I have one question that I need help with, if you don’t mind me asking.. I know the Thomas Cook Nile steamers used to leave from a wharf at the southern tip of Gezira island. Were they able to get under the Abbas II bridge after it was built (in 1906, I think) and if not did Cook’s have to set up a new wharf?

    Keep up the amazing work!

  2. Ahmed Elaref


    I could be wrong, but I suspect that that building might be the Khdeiv’s mother’s palace. Search the website for ‘Palais de la Khédiva Mère.’ There are no pictures that show the palace as a whole, however, many of the comments under the images refer to a structure between the (former) British Residence and Semiramis as the Palais de la Khédiva Mère. The comments under the following images are of particular interest: (4th image in the right column) (7th image in the left column) (9th image in the right column) (3rd image in the right column)

    If you don’t understand French, just translate it online. I used a translation software that comes with my computer.

    Hope this helps!


  3. Christina Harris

    Hello Andrew,
    I lived in Cairo from 1978-1981. My husband was a commercial secretary at the British Embassy, so I know the Residence and the Embassy well.
    In 1889 the old palace grounds of Kasr al-Doubara that ran between Kasr al-Ali and the east bank of the Nile, were divided into streets and plots, and the palaces torn down. Lord Cromer persuaded Whitehall to purchased one of the properties. The house became the new British Agency, as this was how the old Agency on Adly Street (formerly Magrabi) had been known. At that time the garden ran down to the Nile where beyond the wall, Thomas Cook’s boats were moored.To the north of the Agency was Kasr al-Shoobra, where the Pasha’s brother, Sultan Hussien Kamal had lived. It eventually became the Semiramis Hotel, (which I saw in 1976 when it had been nearly totally been demolished). A second palace to the south was Kasr al-Walda, where the Khedive’s mother (Ismail’s grandmother) lived, and on the bank of the Nile, Kasr al Doubbara, the residence of Ibrahim Pasha.
    The Agency was often referred to as Bayt Al Kurd (the Lord’s House), in reference to Lord Cromer. The crescent-shaped Chancery entered through guarded gates by way of Ahmed Rageb Street came much later, about the same time as the new Shepheard’s Hotel a block away. Six high-rise buildings were also built in the space occupying the demolished Doubara palace.
    When the British Agency became known as the British Embassy in 1936, the daily business of Her Majesty’s government was dealt with at the new crescent-shaped Chancery building joined between the garden of the Residence. The smaller, flat roofed structure to the left, and a little behind the Residence (seen from the aerial photo) became the Visa Section. It has now been reinstated as the original grand ballroom that was built by Lord Kitchener in 1912-13. It boasts the only sprung dance floor in Africa.
    In 1954 the Egyptian government built a new road between Maadi and al-Madabegh Station; straight through the bottom of the Residency’s garden.
    I enjoyed you book, Grand Hotels, immensely, and look forward to your second.
    Christina Harris author of ‘The Garden Ran Down to the Nile.”

  4. Ahmad AL-BINDARI

    The building in the middle is Qasr Dubbarah, the house of Princess Princess Emina Naguiba Elhami (1858-1931), the wife of Khedive Mohammad Tewfik Pasha (1852-1892) and Khedive Abbas Hilmi II’s mother. She was known as well as “The Khediva Mother” and “The Benefactors Mother” (Om al-Mohsenin). The Palace was pulled down a couple of years after her death in 1931. It was replaced by several buildings: the Shepheard’s Hotel, al-Shams, François Tagger and 2 other buildings (Isis and Osiris) on Latin America Street.

    • Hussein

      This is the most probable explanation I guess. This palace, situated between the UK residence and Semiramis, can’t be Walda Pasha palace, because in Grand Bey’s 1874 map, Walda pasha is shown to be further south opposite to Roda Island, and it’s front facing the Nile. This palace we are talking about here is shown in later maps and in the aerial view posted in this blog, facing south. It is clearly facing south here in this photo as well.

  5. Alexander Hed

    This was a Cairo of 1 million people before all those ugly concrete buildings and the huge influx of peasents from the country side..

  6. Hussein Roshdy

    What is the building to the right of the British residence? Is it Ibrahim Pasha palace??

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