Monday, May 19, 2008

The tale of Omar Effendi

Omar Effendi is not just a department store in Egypt, in fact I think it is just like anything old and great from the 19th century holds too much inside.

Omar Effendi ad 1946
An Omar Effendi ad in 1946
Omar Effendi, if you do not know, is from the oldest department stores in Egypt, in fact it may be the oldest.

It was founded in 1856 by Adolf Orosodi, a Hungarian army officer who was a refugee in the Ottoman Empire, he opened in Galata a clothing store in 1855.

Then he and his son began to open similar stores and branches in Baghdad, Istanbul and Beirut before coming to Cairo and achieving that huge success.

For decades many Egyptians knew it as Orosdi Back, when the 20th century came already Orosadi Back had opened up over 60 branches in Egypt.

In 1920 the chain was sold to new owners who changed the name to become the iconic Omar Effendi, I think the new owners were French.

Already the first 6 story branch and its main branch downtown at the corner of Abdel Aziz and Rushdie Streets is considered a historical landmark in architecture.

It was designed in 1905-1906 by famous French architect Raoul Brandon on the French style and till now it stands beautifully giving you a hint of how Egypt used to look in the past.

Omar Effendi was the first Egyptian Chain to operate outside Egypt in countries like Syria, Iraq and Tunisia and after the 1952 revolution it had some branches in Gulf states like Qatar.

In 1957 it was nationalized still it continued to become a successful department store and a brand.
Omar Effendi was from the earliest brands in the Middle East that became a household for generations, it was like our Macy's, our Egyptian version of Macy's

From a couple of years, it was privatized and sold to some Saudi group called Anwal , which was stupid enough to change its historical logo and font to the western one, as if the westerners who made it did not have a vision for their store.

You know I think Omar Effendi become like Egypt , now it is facing a lot of trouble but I believe it will come back one day as a phoenix


  1. Thank you Zeinobia for yor really interesting post. I always loved Omar Effendi as a kid, it always seemed to have everything you could ever want! Most clearly I can remember the smell in the carpet section of the store :)
    I really enjoyed looking though your flikr photos of old really warms the heart, like watching an old movie with Anwar Wagdi or something :)

  2. @arima, do not mention it :) oh boy I still remember the big carpet section too and I still remember the smell
    unfortunately it is no longer :(

  3. fucking useless story...

  4. f.u.c.k.i.n.g useless story..

  5. useless story...

  6. reading this now, in use for my research, seeing it was written a while before the revolution, i am amazed. i had no idea such beautiful people like yu existed. Please do keep up the good work and telling stories of Egypt with such amazing imagery. For me, what i pretty much remember of Omar Effendi, was how much my dad loved their fabrics and trusted their quality so much, despite us living in ksa ironically enough, aand ofcourse me being just a kid, took it as a nuisance, im glad they re-opening their branches nw :)

  7. Actually, this is an incomplete story. Omar Effendi was a Jew, like many of the big merchants in Egypt before the creation of Israel. He was expelled from Egypt in the late 1950s because he was Jewish. It coincided with the period when Egypt became socialist and started nationalizing businesses. Chicorel, Sednawi, and Ben Yehuda were other big store chains, all owned by either Jews or Christians. All these stores were nationalized and eventually fell into disrepair by the inept government that took them over.

    1. The new owner who bought it from Hungarian family was a French Jew businessman and he changed the name to Omar Effendi. Omar Effendi was not a Jew , not to mention Omar is a Muslim name in Egypt :))))))))) The Jew was the owner and I think it was nationalized during the 1956 Suez war as a result of the war with French. By the way all big store chains and companies as well land owned the Muslims , Jews or Christians were nationalized :)) Your story needs a bit tweak :))

  8. no mention of Uri M. Kupferschmidt, The Orosdi-Back Saga, European Department Stores and Middle Eastern Consumers (Istanbul: Ottoman Bank Archives and Research Centre 2007)


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