Stories Behind Closed Doors of Saad Zaghloul’s Shrine

By Ahmed Yasser, Maydaa Abo El-Nadar

CAIRO, MAR.11 (SEE)-100 years passed since Egypt’s 1919 Revolution. 100 years and its political, social, economic, and cultural repercussions are still under study and assessment. So, SEE presents new aspects of the inspiring revolution.

The revolution’s leader was Saad Zaghloul (1857-1927), the nationalist leader of modern Egypt and the founder of the Wafd Party.On the 27th of August 1927 and after his death, the Egyptian Cabinet held a meeting where they decided to commemorate him. They agreed on building two statues depicting him, one in Cairo and the other in Alexandria, and a shrine.

Due to political disagreement over the building’s style, designed and constructed by Mustafa Fahmy, the shrine was finished over a period of several years, in 1931. The style was debated: should this be in the neo-Paranoiac style of the 1920s, or should it be a Napoleonic style?

In June 1936, Zaghloul’s remains were transported from a modest cemetery at the zone of El-Imam Shafii to his newly erected monumental tomb.

The delay was because it was suggested that the shrine would include the remains of several politicians, an idea strongly refused by the leader’s wife Safiya Zaghloul. Zaghloul’s current tomb is a gem in central Cairo that is often overlooked by locals and excluded from trips by tourists and visitors. Aside from the attractive design, the building tells fascinating stories.

The shrine, located between Mansour and Falaky streets in Monira, is an important destination for those interested in the development of modern Egypt.

Another interesting fact is that the shrine is situated close to Beit EL-Umma (the People’s House) where the leader and his wife were residing.

Giving some details about the interior space, Fahmy had combined contemporary design elements ”art deco” along with a modern re-invention of ancient Egyptian form and motifs to create a modern building.In addition, it has steps leading to a symbolic pylon gate set between two red granite columns rising around 15m, a shallow portico leads to the entry doors decorated with re-imagined ancient Egyptian iconographies such as the snake, the sun disk and the lotus flower.

Centered in a small garden, the edifice is a neo- Pharaonic with the fence that has always been part of the design; it features an interesting motif of deco triangles and corn husks.

Currently, the site is included amongst Cairo’s Specialized Gardens presided over by Mohamed Sultan. After around 20 years, the site will be affiliated to the Ministry of Antiquities, as one of Egypt’s monuments.

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