United Arab Emirates

‘Blindsided by the beauty’: architects struggle to save Cairo’s historic heart

Alaa al-Habashi was looking for ingredients for a Ramadan feast when he stumbled on an Ottoman-era mansion being used as a slaughterhouse and butcher’s shop in Cairo’s historic Islamic district. “I was blindsided by the beauty,” the US-trained architect said of the house which he first saw more than two decades ago. Built of brick and stone, it has a large inner courtyard and a number of rooms with decorative painted wooden ceilings. He struck up a friendship with the butcher, who owned the building, and received a call from him several years later saying a property developer wanted to buy it and tear it down. Determined to save the building, Habashi bought it in 2009, only to be told he could raze it but not ...