This collection of autochromes taken in the 1920s by Gervais Courtellemont and W. Robert Moore for National Geographic reveals the everyday life of Egyptian women, men, merchants, and children. They show familiar Cairo city locations and famous sites such as the pyramids.
In the 19th century, there was the rapid growth of communities of unassimilated foreigners, mainly European, living in Egypt; these acquired a dominating influence over finance, industry, and government.
In the 1920s, which was a peak period, the number of foreigners in Egypt exceeded 200,000, the largest community being the Greeks, followed by the Italians, British, and French.
The arrival of the Europeans in Egypt remade Cairo. The modern quarters of the city were taken over by European arrivals who built European shops and built exclusive clubs.
The new quarters of the city grew into vast blocks of apartment buildings. Two new sections were added to Cairo: Maadi, to the south, was built as an exclusive European enclave shortly after the turn of the century, and Heliopolis, to the northeast, was built in the 1910s.
These areas were built with the latest in modern conveniences: running water, electricity, and a tramway that connected Heliopolis to central Cairo. By contrast, the older sections of the city were not modernized.
According to most scholars the history of modern Egypt dates from the start of Muhammad Ali’s rule in 1805 and his launching of Egypt’s modernization project that involved building a new army and suggesting a new map for the country, though the definition of Egypt’s modern history has varied in accordance with different definitions of modernity.
Muhammad Ali’s dynasty became practically independent from Ottoman rule, following his military campaigns against the Empire and his ability to enlist large-scale armies, allowing him to control both Egypt and parts of North Africa and the Middle East.
In 1882, the Khedivate of Egypt became part of the British sphere of influence in the region, a situation that conflicted with its position as an autonomous vassal state of the Ottoman Empire.
The country became a British protectorate in 1915 and achieved full independence in 1922, becoming a kingdom under the rule of Muhammad Ali’s dynasty, which lasted until 1952.
(Photo credit: Gervais Courtellemont and W. Robert Moore for National Geographic / Wikimedia Commons).