An Outline of 20th Century Egyptian Architects
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An Outline of 20th Century Egyptian Architects

Egyptian architecture came under either the direct influence of the work of foreign architects working in Egypt, or the indirect impact of Western architectural publications as well as the influence of Egyptian scholars trained in Europe. This resulted in the loss of a sense of identity on the part of Egyptian architects and in the nationÂ’s architecture.

Egyptian architecture came under either the direct influence of the work of foreign architects working in Egypt, or the indirect impact of Western architectural publications as well as the influence of Egyptian scholars trained in Europe. This resulted in the loss of a sense of identity on the part of Egyptian architects and in the nation’s architecture.

During the early ages of Islam, the sultan (ruler) gave the responsibility of building mosques and palaces to foreign architects. These architects merged into the local environment and interacted with the local laborers. Although Egyptian Islamic architecture was the product of foreign thoughts, it was built by Egyptian laborers and expressed local and regional features. When Muhammad Ali Basha ruled Egypt (1805-1848), on the contrary, its architecture was designed by foreign architects and exhibited alien architectural features. This phenomenon has increased from the time of Khedive Ismail (1863-1879) right up to the present day.

From 1910 onward Egyptian architects began to have a tangible role among European architects working in Egypt at the time. Ali Labib Gabre, graduate of the Liverpool School of Architecture in 1926, was influenced by European architectural theories and principles, which he applied in his public and residential work. This influence can be traced in his design for a villa for the renowned singer Umm Kalthoum. Another Egyptian architect, whose influence was also significant, was Dr Saiyed Kaream, who rebelled against traditional architecture. Kaream finished his architectural training in Zurich, Switzerland, and was influenced by many of the contemporary European architectural styles.

Villa Umm KalthoumAli, Cairo, by Labib Gabr

In the 1940s, when the late architect Hassan Fathy began his search for Egypt’s architectural identity, Kaream published and edited the Magalet Al-Emara (The Architectural Magazine) in order to promote his modern approach and ideas. The philosophy of the magazine was to introduce modern architectural theories and ideas of the Western intellect to Egypt, such as the ‘Organic Architecture’ of Frank Lloyd Wright, the ‘Rationalism’ of Mies van der Rohe, the ‘Expressionism’ of Erich Mendelsohn and the ‘Functionalism’ of Le Corbusier. Although the magazine was significant for the development of 20th century Egyptian architecture, it lasted for only five years.

Residential building designed by Dr. Sayed Karim

There were other architects who were concerned about the issue of Egypt’s architectural identity. Among them was Mahmoud Pasha Fahmy, who was the chief architect of the Awaqaf ministry. This Building represented an expression of the neo-Mamluk buildings. Mahmoud Pasha Fahmy was followed by his son, Mustafa Pasha Fahmy, who was the architect of the king. Fahmy made an attempt to outline the features of a new architectural style which he called ‘Islamic Baroque’. This style was expressed in public buildings and palaces, and exhibited features of traditional Arabic architecture. Among these buildings are the main building of Gezeirah Fair Land (1913), Dar Al-Hekma building, and the Shrine of the famous Nationalist Leader Saad Zaghloul.

Image credit: The Awqaf Ministry Building, Cairo, by Mahmoud Basha Fahmy

The Shrine of the Nationalist Leader Saad Zaghloul in Cairo, by Moustafa Fahmy

In the same period, many other Egyptian architects, including Mahmoud Riyad, who built the Badrawi villa, Abu-Baker Khayrat and his brother Ali Khyrat, studied Islamic architecture and supervised the buildings of numerous mosques.

Villa Abdel-Magid Al-Badrawi, Giza, Egypt, by Mahmoud Riyad

Mobil Company Building, Cairo by Abu-Bakr Khayrat

The early 1940s witnessed another wave of architects, who opposed the invasion of the western alien styles and preferred to revive their country architectural character. Among them were the renowned Hassan Fathy, whose work and architectural theories reached, not only the developing countries, but also the progressed western countries. Ramsis Wissa Wassef also succeeded in asserting his nationalistic artistic approach, which can be detected in his seminal work for Al-Haraniya Village.

Seif Al-Nasr Residence, Al-Fayoum, Egypt by Hassan Fathy

Al-Haraniya Village, Giza, Egypt by Ramsis Wissa Wassef

Another Egyptian architect whose work from the 1960s onwards has stood out in clear contrast with much modern architecture has been Abdelbaki Ibrahim. He published several books discussing the historical perspective of Islamic architecture and the Arab houses. Ibrahim’s Al-Nawras Tourist Village, Isma'iliya, Egypt, 1989, is an expressive example of the integration between modern architecture and abstracted traditional vocabulary.

Image credit: Al-Nawras Tourist Village, Egypt, 1989 by Abdelbaki Ibrahim


1.Abdelbaki Ibrahim, The Historical Perspective of Architecture in the Arab World. Cairo, 1987, pp. 43-44. (in Arabic).

2. Images credit: Unless otherwise mentioned, all photos are credited to this link


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Comments (28)

Wow! Great job, wonderful presentation. Thoroughly enjoyed this!

Ranked #11 in Architecture

Well presented valuable information on Egyptian architecture.

Ranked #1 in Architecture

Excellent analysis, based on thorough research. Thanks for posting.

excellent reading. voted.

Thank you everyone for your valued and appreciated comments

A very enjoyable presentation.

Ranked #10 in Architecture

Another truly informative post about Egyptian architecture. The pyramids were simply fascinating how they came to be built.

excellent article on Egyptian architecture as usual. nicely illustrated with images too!

Thank you Pearl, your comments are always valued and appreciated

Superb work my friend.

Thank you for this informative article. Very well done. Voted up.

I can see that Egyptian architecture reflects its environment.

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You did and outstanding job in putting this article together! The illustrations are beautiful and add visual stimulation to the content. Love reading your articles. Thanks for sharing. Voted up!

Thanks Donata for your thoughtful and kind comment......appreciate

Provides nice and worth reading.

Excellent work. Thanks for sharing.

Thanks Bristow for your kind comment

Nice One- Thanks

When I was in Egypt I marveled at the assortment of different architectual sights. Thank you for the great history of what I had seen. I appreciate your article but am out of votes, promoted.

Returning with a well deserved vote up.

Interesting topic. The Egyptians are indeed one of the best architects in the world. FB liked.

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Thank You, Abdel-moniem ... Fascinating read and beautiful pictures.

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Thanks Bonnie for your valued comment.appreciate