Sunday, February 3, 2013

Villa Casdgali : Rebuilding is more than possible if only there is ...

I wanted to blog about that hidden diamond in the rough I found out unfortunately only by accident during the Simon Bolivar clashes in 2012. Yes that hidden neglected villa caught my eyes when I went to the square after the clashes that took place there between security forces and protesters. I did not know its name then but then I found out that its name is Villa Casdgali and it has got a very interesting tale. I took bunch photos for the villa from outside  on two different occasions.

It seems to be beautiful but badly neglected. It looked to me that it was being used then as a shelter for the street kids especially its main fence was broken and anyone can get inside easily.
As I was alone in both times , I could not go around the villa to see if I can get inside it. The Staircase was badly damaged as you can see.
I was planning to write about it but I could not with all the jazz taking place in Egypt since last November 2012. Last Friday the beautiful villa caught fire during the clashes that erupt from time to time for no reason between protesters and security forces. The fire was put off and parts of the villa were damaged but the villa itself was not damaged.
I did not know how the villa looked from inside and it seems that the fire was good opportunity to know more its history and its amazing interior. Thanks to Cairo Observer , we knew how much damage the 19the century villa is suffering and how beautiful it is from inside.

The little chapel is beautiful.
Little history background about Villa Casdgali
It was built late 19th century by Austrian Edward Matasek “who designed many of the 19th and early 20th centuries landmarks in Cairo” for the Levantine family called “Emanuel Casdagli” that lived in Egypt during that time. Needless to say that during then Garden City was the crème de la crème society most exclusive neighborhood with all the embassies and Royal palace there. You can read more about the history of the villa in by Samir Rafaat.
The villa turned in to a school after the nationalization like many other villas and palaces and was named after Ali Abdel Latif of Sudan. The idea is good and bad at the same time. You educate generations but at the same you kill some time fantastic architecture landmarks like Villa Casdagli. Despite it is officially recognized as heritage site since 2006 and that United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the American Research Centre in Cairo (ARCE), developed a comprehensive restoration project for the building in 2008 , there are no restoration works at all in the sit. As you can in the photos. It is a miracle that it still exists.
It is worth to mention that in 2010 Al Abdel Latif school was relocated so the buildings now are empty.
The villa is looted and partially destroyed as you can see. There is no protection for it at all despite a state owned building officially.
Anyhow I wish and pray that Villa Casdagli turns in to some sort of Cultural center and a library in Downtown Cairo instead of turning it in to some sort of governmental institute.
In the end I will quote the amazing Cairo Observer FB Page when it said : Regarding the now burned/damaged Villa Casdagli: rebuilding is always possible, what is needed is a political will to rebuild.
I think this also applies to everything in this country too besides Villa Casdagli.
By the way You must bookmark : The Cairo Observer blog and Facebook Page. You must follow them if you want to know more about our modern architecture in Cairo and in Egypt. 


  1. Great slide shows! Looks like a haunted house.

    Glad you had the good sense not to go inside alone.

  2. In all this destruction going on in Egypt there is a need for something to be built, or at least repaired to minimize the damage done. Reconstruction of this villa could be one example of putting hand in-hand to do something useful. You don't need political will, you need just will period. There are a plenty of talented engineers: architect, structural, civil, electrical and mechanical activists in the revolution. Can a group organize themselves, identify their skills and start a reconstruction project plan. This group could be a mix secular, MB, salafi or progressive with one objective to work as a team and complete a successful project. I'm certain if a serous group will initiate the call on volunteer basis, the necessary funds and grants will come either locally or beyond.

    What could be a possible objective for reconstructed villa?
    What about a library specifically dedicated to Egyptian women. A resilient and amicable force that can't be silenced. And in spite of their tireless contribution, they have to endure stupidity and sexual harassment.

    1. khaled the dreamer2/04/2013 07:46:00 AM

      A great idea if we could start by turning this building into a cultural center. I always wished if we could transfer the
      British in particular and American embassies and even the American University into arts and cultural centers.I guess I dont live in reality.

    2. The US diplomatic missions in Egypt should be turned into vacant buildings. What you do with them after that is up to you.

  3. "...since 2006 and that United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the American Research Centre in Cairo (ARCE), developed a comprehensive restoration project for the building in 2008 ..."

    What the hell? Do American taxpayers know their money is being spent to restore buildings in Egypt that were trashed by Egyptians?

  4. This appeared on Facebook Sunday afternoon, Feb 3 at 5:00 pm from the neighbours to this villa; ‘…This is a call for help on behalf of the Casdagli Villa on Midan Simon Bolivar (formerly Midan Kasr el Doubara) The villa was burned two nights ago, and eventually in the early hours of Saturday morning the fire was put out, by the fuire department. The fire department had been able to get to the fire only through actions by the security forces to clear the square, for the demonstrators were doing everything possible to stop the fire dept from putting out this fire. Yesterday several adolescents set fire to it again in the interior of the villa, and they were chased away by casual passer-by’s. Early this afternoon there was a fire smouldering in the upper floors, and there is smoke coming out through the windows, as of 4:30 this afternoon. At the same time there seem to be plunderers at work ripping out anything of value still in the interior.
    I have asked the fire dept to revisit the premises but they are disinclined as there is no roaring fire apparent, and they don’t want to venture out and possibly cause another violent demonstration. They believe they would need CSF protection to undertake this job, and the security forces are disinclined to break the calm, that has prevailed in our area over the last 36 hours.
    This villa is located right next to Tahrir Sq, and is considered a gem of 19th century architecture, it is under the ‘protection’ of the Ministry of Culture, although no official from this Ministry has checked on it, visited it, or done anything at all in recent memory.
    Perhaps a reaffirmation of the commitment to cultural and structures important to Egypt’s heritage by Liberal Parties may be in order, I wonder if this msg could be passed along to some relevant party who can actually do something about this present situation….’

    1. These goddam opposition protesters need to stay at home! They are ripping the country apart and setting fire to beautiful buildings!

  5. Good post! Here are more pictures from other villa's and palaces:


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