Arts & Culture

A French Muse: Beit al-Sennari

A French Muse: Beit al-Sennari

image via wikiwand

An old loveliness, sitting in the district of al-Sayeda Zeinab, is Beit al-Sennari, or the Sennari House. Scientists and artists sought this forgotten place, where culture encased its hardwood floors and history is plastered on its off-white brick walls.

Beit al-Sennari is a standing relic and a physical heritage.

A remnant of the French bourgeois era in Egypt, the house is located in al-Nasseriya neighborhood, just off the dead-end of Harat Monge (Monge Alley).

Built by a wealthy merchant named Ibrahim Khatakhuda al-Sennari in 1794, the house is manicured with the finest wooden mashrabiyya screens, and has a stunning courtyard as well as a well-preserved room complex.

The French seized the house by the time of the French expedition in Egypt in 1798.

The house served as a place and residence for the members of the Institute for the Commission of Science and Arts that accompanied Napoleon Bonaparte’s military expedition.

Their mission was to conduct a systematic study of Egypt, resulting in the composition and publishing of the Description de l’Egypte in 1809.

Similar to L’Institut de France, Beit al-Sennari was divided into four sections, mathematics, physics, political economics, and literature and fine arts.

The institute was headed by renowned French mathematician, Gaspard Monge, its deputy was Napoleon Bonaparte, and Joseph Fourier, also a French mathematician, served as its secretary.

The French expedition in Egypt ended in 1801, and so did the activities of the institute as it lost its main purpose.

In 1992, the infamous Cairo earthquake caused severe damage to the building, and it was restored by the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), in collaboration with the French mission, in 1996. After extensive renovations, the house reopened as the Institute for Applied Arts, with displays of crafts and work by many local artists.

The Founding Director of Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Ismail Serageldin, requested the affiliation of Bibliotheca Alexandrina with Beit al-Sennari, to serve as a cultural hub with the aim of raising awareness around art, science, and culture, as well as to encourage youth engagement.

Beit al-Sennari is an epicenter of culture, art, and science. Its heritage tells stories of Egyptian civilization and history, across epochs of power and prosperity, as well as periods of weakness, conquest, and defeat.

Uncovering the Fayyoum Mummy Portraits
Saladin's Citadel: Cairo's Urban Fortress

Subscribe to our newsletter

Arts & Culture

Dual Degree in Political Science and Multimedia Journalism. I have a special love for storytelling, history, big cities, gender, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

More in Arts & Culture

How Beyoncé’s Egyptian Tour Photographer Found Courage in the Shadow of Cancer

Mirna Abdulaal30 June 2022

Oaks and Corks: The Brief History of Wine in Egypt

Farah Rafik29 June 2022

Old Egyptian Songs that Scream Summer

Farah Rafik28 June 2022

“Obelisks in Exile”: The Ethics of Obelisks Abroad

Mona Abdou27 June 2022

In Photos: Discovering the Dazzling Art of Sham’adan Belly Dancing in Egypt

Farah Rafik24 June 2022

Master Traditional Egyptian Crafts at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization’s Art Workshops

Marina Makary23 June 2022

Egyptian Amir El-Masry Cast as Mohamed Al-Fayed in Season 5 of Netflix’s ‘The Crown’

Seif Saleh23 June 2022

Soad Hosny: From Egypt’s ‘Cinderella’ to Tragedy

Farah Rafik23 June 2022