More than 120 years after it first came to life, La Viennoise rises from the ashes.
It was a sunny Spring morning when I made my way to Downtown for the opening of La Viennoise, a recently-renovated historical building. Nonchalant as I was, I couldn't have foretold I was soon to be standing before an architectural masterpiece that has risen from the ashes of neglect and disarray. As soon as I stepped foot in Champollion street, the unusually-vibrant energy on such a quiet weekend morning quickly made me realise that this is not just another work event.
It was 1896 when the Italian-Renaissance-style La Viennoise first opened. Amidst the Egyptian architectural renaissance of the era, the polygonal-shaped building came to life in the heart of what was quickly becoming the heart of the capital, Downtown Cairo. Originally owned by Heliopolis' founder Baron Empain's private secretary, Ḥanna S. Sabbāgh Bey, the three-story building's first floor was then briefly used an embassy for the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1912.
Not long after being acquired by a Lebanese-Egyptian businessman Abdallah Mirshak, in 1940, the building was appropriated by the Egyptian government during the nationalisation period, after which its ownership was transferred back to Mirshak's daughters in the 1980s. Since then, La Viennoise functioned as a low-key hotel until Al Ismaelia For Real Estate acquired it in 2009 with a revolutionary vision in mind.
In 2016, Al Ismaelia For Real Estate kicked off their massive renovation efforts to restore the building to its former glory, and turn it into Cairo's first environmentally-friendly historical building. The standards of Green Architecture were applied through meticulous re-designing by the virtuoso over at Alchemy Studios. Shortly before its opening last Friday, La Viennoise acquired the prestigious Tarsheed Commercial Renovation Certification.
For the opening party, a slew of Egypt's A-listers in politics, entertainment, and business made their way to Downtown to celebrate the unprecedented feat and voice their support for reclaiming Downtown as Cairo's beating heart for business and commerce. Among the attendees were prominent politician Amr Mousa, former Prime Minster Ibrahim Mehleb, and Ambassador Fayza Aboul-Naga, just to give you a hint of the star-studded frenzy that swept Downtown that weekend.
Former PM Ibrahim Mehleb and Ambasador Fayza Abul-Naga/MO4 Network
Now that La Viennoise is open for business, it will primarily serve as the headquarters for Tharwa Investment Company, in an effort to pave the way for other businesses to once again take to Downtown. Can you picture that... Downtown renovated, green, and full of young, savvy executives? Long overdue indeed, but it's never too late to start.
Main Photo: Downtown Cairo