Arts & Culture

Sednaoui El-Khazendar: Egypt’s Galeries Lafayette

Sednaoui El-Khazendar: Egypt’s Galeries Lafayette

Sednaoui | image via Instagram @amina.kadous 

It is a Saturday morning in the 1920s: errands are run just in time to make your way to Sednaoui El-Khazendar, Egypt’s once-iconic department store.

The Sednaoui El-Khazendar building sits gloriously in the al-Mosky district, one of Cairo’s oldest quarters. Established in 1913 by the Sednaoui brothers, Selim and Samaan, it is considered the “first mall in the Middle East.”

Khedive Ismail’s Cairo was vibrant with European flair; under his rule, Cairo underwent transformations that reflected the grandeur of Europe’s architecture. He hired engineers from France, Italy, and Germany to complete his visions of a Westernized Egypt.

Ismail dreamed of converting Cairo to “Paris of the East,” and years later, the Sednaoui brothers embraced his visions, replicating France’s iconic department store, Galeries Lafayette.

The building started off as a small shop in the al-Azhar area, but the two brothers decided to expand it into a larger building. They called it after their family name Sednaoui, and its location was in El-Khazendar square, landing it Sednaoui El-Khazendar.

image via Al Wafd

It was designed by famous French architect, George Parcq, who also designed the Alexandria Opera House and the Cairo Stock Exchange. Parcq’s marvelous architectural design of the building led it to be registered as a “building of distinct value.” One of the most beautiful buildings of the 20th century, with stone masonry lining its outer walls and a spacious courtyard, it consisted of a basement, a ground floor, and three additional floors.

After it opened in 1913, the store branched out to Alexandria, Mansoura, Tanta, and other governorates until it reached 72 branches by 1961. Sednaoui El-Khazendar, however, was nationalized after the 1952 revolution, and all of its branches were owned by the public sector – shifting from “lavish and glamorous to economic and convenient.” It was also exposed to the infamous Cairo Fire in 1952 which had ravaged the city, burningd other buildings.

Although the initial Sednaoui El-Khazendar stood as a testament to Egypt’s rich history and architectural splendor of the 19th and 20th century cosmopolitan Cairo, it was overshadowed by the prolific existence of street vendors who surrounded the building, contributing to a chaotic setting.

Neglect, misuse, and lack of maintenance defined Sednaoui El-Khazendar in recent years, although many attempts sought to rehabilitate the building. A project by the Holding Company for Tourism, Hotels, and Cinema and the National Organization for Urban Harmony was launched in an attempt to reuse the structure as a cultural commercial center. Though its state-of-the-art nature is hard to duplicate, the mission stands to go back to the roots of an era that once allowed Egyptian architecture to stand in close comparison with international masterpieces.

Homesickness, Performance Anxiety, and Fear of Missing Out: Struggles of Egyptian Youth Abroad
Porters, Protesters, and Presidents: How Ahmed Zaki Portrayed the Essence of Egypt

Subscribe to our newsletter

Arts & Culture

Farah Rafik is a graduate from the American University in Cairo (AUC) with a dual degree in Multimedia Journalism and Political Science. After being an active participant in Model United Nation (MUN) conferences both locally and internationally, Farah discovered her love for writing. When she isn’t writing about Arts & Culture for Egyptian Streets, she is busy watching films and shows to review. Writing isn’t completed without a coffee or an iced matcha latte in hand—that she regularly spills. She occasionally challenges herself in reading challenges on Goodreads, and can easily read a book a day.

More in Arts & Culture

Women-Led and Directed Series to Watch this Ramadan

Amina Abdel-Halim24 March 2023

Empowering the Next Generation of Female Athletes: Egypt’s Khadija Hegazy

Mirna Abdulaal22 March 2023

How Arabs Are Being Represented in Entertainment: Are Orientalist Tropes Still Pervasive?

Dina Khadr22 March 2023

Egyptian Streets’ Team Eats: Our Staple Ramadan Dishes on Every Table

Farah Rafik22 March 2023

A Playlist: Arab Songs that Feel Like Spring

Farah Rafik19 March 2023

A Blast from Ramadan Pasts: Egypt’s Nostalgic Song Commercials

Farah Rafik15 March 2023

Translating Sound: Towards an Accessible Cinema for Egypt’s Deaf Audiences

Amina Abdel-Halim13 March 2023

Remains of Ancient Egyptian People in Museums: Is There Such a Thing as Ethical Display?

Chau Chak Wing Museum Egyptian community initiative10 March 2023