At the crossroads of the Middle East lies Egypt a land of ancient civilizations and the most populous Arab country.
Egypt has long attracted visitors with its numerous ancient sites, reputation for hospitality and the lure of the mysterious Nile River. Cairo, one of the worlds largest cities, currently with a population of 20 million, is often called the capital of the Middle East. Walking through Cairo, one encounters people from all over the Arab world.
The streets are filled with buses, taxis, donkey-drawn carts, camels and brand-new Mercedes! The Muslim calls to prayer, high-pitched Egyptian exchanges and music fill the air. And the smells of vehicles, animals, food stands, bakeries and spices greet the senses.
Maadi is a southern suburb of Cairo, where many expatriates choose to live, and is considered one of the city’s nicest neighborhoods. The climate is dry most of the year with less than one inch of rainfall per annum.
“Maadi” is the Arabic word for ferryboats.This is because the town of Maadi which is located on the Nile 10 kilometers south of Cairo was once upon a time an important crossing point for caravan routes coming from Arabia en route to the Nile’s west bank at Giza where several important towns were located and from where the long trek to Upper Egypt began.
Modern day Maadi gained its reputation for being Egypt’s enviable green suburb. Maadi’s history is best told in Samir Raafat’s 280-page book Maadi 1904-1962; Society & History in a Cairo Suburb published by Palm Press, Cairo, 1994. The book includes 70 pictures plus a map of old Maadi.
Here are some excerpts from book reviews: -The history of one district can tell you much about the history of a whole country—such is the case with the Cairo suburb of Maadi. Maadi 1904-1962 is a fascinating account of a planned suburban paradise where the events of world importance were mirrored in the everyday lives of residents during this turbulent period of Egyptian history.
-The successful British and Jewish businessmen constituting the Delta Land and Investment Company, which created Maadi in 1907, had meticulous ideas about their planned paradise. Build on British colonial lines…it was a place to be lived in. Its growth was carefully monitored. -World War I opened the gates of Maadi to Australian, New Zealand, South African and Indian troops and hundreds of orange tents.
-War passed and life of residents resumed its sedentary ease once again. In 1921, the British-run Maadi Sporting Club opened with ginger biscuits, Indian tea and an 18-hole golf course. Members could sit in the main garden enjoying a tall glass of iced coffee overlooking a beautiful pond designed by Maadi resident Llewelyn Hugh-Jones and inspired by Claude Monet’s “The Nympheas”.
-Before the cricket pitch was inaugurated, hundreds of sheep were enlisted to graze the fields for two or three days at a time, which seemed a suitable holistic approach in the absence of technology. The triangle within which the Maadi British Community operated was soon completed with the construction of the Anglican Church at St. John the Baptist in 1930 followed by the English School two years later.
-Within a decade, the effects of the war began to impinge again on the small insular Maadi community, polarizing it into different ethnic groupings, nationalities and religion. Prominent German personalities were welcoming Dr. Joseph Goebbels and making scant effort to obscure their Nazi sympathies much to the concern and chagrin of Maadi’s large Jewish population. Gas masks were distributed to British subjects by the British run Delta Land Company. The place was once again overrun, this time with 76,000 New Zealanders constituting the largest foreign community ever to have resided in and near Maadi.
-The end of World War II closed another chapter in Maadi’s history. The British were on their way out of Egypt -From among Maadi’s young Egyptians came the officers and the gentlemen. Eventually the officers gained preeminence as they unsettled the established order following the 1952 coup, which toppled King Farouk.
-After the British it was the turn of the French, the Greeks and the Jews.
Today Maadi remains a favorite with American and European expats because the American and French schools are located there. Both are run by their respective countries. Also, because Maadi offers many facilities such as shopping malls, fast food, including Pizza Hut and McDonalds, a sporting club (frequented today mostly by Egyptians) and two access routes into Cairo—the corniche and the autostrade (highway). The town is also served by the Metro with direct access to downtown Cairo.
The disappearance of many of Maadi’s villas and gardens notwithstanding, a few survived as though testimonials of its past. Those pulled down were replaced, in most cases, by nice apartment buildings. And yet, despite changes, Maadi remains Cairo’s greenest suburb.
The above was taken from an article by Samir Rafaat.