These landmarks influenced Egyptian history since 1869.
You may have recently heard that it's the 150th anniversary of a certain national landmark, but you might be surprised to learn that the Suez Canal is not the only Egyptian landmark turning 150 this year. Back in 1869, under the rule of Khedive Ismail, Egypt was undergoing a grand campaign to modernise the nation and bring it on par with its European contemporaries. Many of the architectural, industrial and economic developments from the time have survived to this day, in one form or another. Here's a retrospective of Egypt's gorgeous landmarks and how they've come to influence us, 150 years later:
The Gezirah Palace, now part of the Cairo Marriott Hotel, was commissioned by Khedive Ismail to be built as a guest house for the attendees of the Suez Canal inauguration ceremonies. It was designed by Austrian architect Franz Bey and De Curel Del Rosso. German Architect Carl von Diebitsch designed the beautiful and intricate interior.
The Gezirah palace hosted several notable guests, such as Empress Eugenie, Napolean III’s wife, among various European monarchs. It was also the venue for Khedive Ismail’s children's wedding ceremonies, which ran for a shocking forty days.
The Mena House, now known as the Marriott Mena House Hotel, was initially built as a hunting lodge for Khedive Ismail and his guests to rest in after horse-riding and pyramid excursions.
Following the opening of the Suez Canal, a road was built to connect Cairo and the pyramids. In 1887, an English couple named Hugh and Ethel Locke-King bought the Mena House and turned it into a hotel.
In 1854, a French former diplomat under the name of Ferdinand de Lesseps spoke to the Viceroy of Egypt, Mohamed Said, and urged him to approve the construction of a 100-mile shipping canal to connect Africa and Asia.
The canal was officially opened in November 1869 and a statue of de Lesseps was built to honour his efforts. The Suez Canal is the shortest route between Europe and the lands around the Indian and western Pacific Ocean. It greatly facilitated global trade and maritime transport. A new side channel of the canal was opened in 2016.
Port Said Lighthouse
Khedive Ismail commissioned French Industrialist François Coignet to design the Port Said Lighthouse to guide the ships going through the Suez Canal. This was one of many lighthouses built around that time, but this one stood out due to its connection to the canal.
The composition of the lighthouse was considered quite innovative due to the use of reinforced concrete in its construction. Despite the fact that it is no longer lit, it serves as one of the most significant historical sites in Port Said today.
Khedivial (Royal) Opera House
The Khedivial Opera House was built following a commission from Khedive Ismail. Designed by Italian architects Avoscani and Rossi, the Opera House was built in only six months.
Khedive Ismail envisioned it as a space that would showcase grand performances which would compete on a global scale. Located in Attaba, the Khedivial Opera House was tragically burned down in 1971. It was soon to be replaced by the Cairo Opera House in Zamalek, which opened in 1988.