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Caption: First act of the people of Egypt … The punishment…. The genius of Egypt awakens from its long sleep and drives out the evil government officials, Tewfik and his courtiers flee, Paris, 1882.
Yacoub (James) Sanua’s Abu Naddara (1877 – 1912), was incredibly significant on visual culture in Egypt primarily because of its accessibility to a transnational audience, which not only included the educated European elite but also the illiterate Egyptian citizens. He was able to accomplish this through providing captions in multiple languages (French, Arabic, and colloquial Egyptian are just some of the many) and through integrating other comic devices from the British, particularly the use of symbolic figures.
In this particular image we see Sanua’s deliberate intentions to capture the attention of a global audience by writing the image captions in both French and Arabic. The image itself refers to the British-sponsored “genius of Egypt,” or Chamber of Delegates written in French above the figures on the right, commanding Tewfik Pasha, Khedive Isma’il’s eldest son, and his followers to leave the government. This is made clear through the exil, French for exile, above the figures running away (Tewfik & co.). Between the Egyptian public and Tewfik is Libertas, the Roman goddess of liberty, identifiable by the torch she carries in one arm and the sword in the other. Libertas is another very familiar symbol for the French. Thus in this image, although critiquing Egyptian politics, would be clearly understandable to an educated European audience in addition to an Egyptian public. As a result we can see that Sanua is consciously trying to engender a transnational public.
Khedival Opera House
As part of Ismail Pasha’s mission to westernize and polish Egypt in time for the celebration for the Suez Canal, he commissioned the building of this opera-house near the Ezbekiah gardens. It was built within five months and its first premier occurred just in time for the canal celebrations in November 1869. The rococo style of this building models the the pre-eminent French style of art in the eighteenth century, such as that of the Scala of Milan. On its opening, it was visited by the monarchs, dignitaries, and elite of the world for the viewing of Verdi’s Rigoletto. From the style of this house to the purpose of it, Ismail Pasha catered specifically to his anticipated European audience. The speed with which this house was built reflects the flurry of urban developments and planning Ismail Pasha’s rule was characterized by. He was truly inspired by the art of Paris and exerted his energies to remodel Parisien style in Egypt.
Sabil wa Kuttab Tusun Pasha
This Ottoman styled Sabil was erected for Ahmad Tusun Pasha, the son of Muhammad Ali Pusha’s son who died in 1816 from the plague. Built in his honor, the sabil, which is a facility that provides free, fresh water for thirsty people who are passing by. The connected kuttab is a primitive kind of elementary school where children can be taught to read and write. Located in the Bayn al-Qasrayn area of Cairo, the lavish styling of the Ottoman building was constructed with metal, wood and marble along with painted plaster; a common style choice for the Muhammad Ali Pasha period. The two-story sabil is connected to the kuttab through winged halls on either side. In the sabil room there is a wooden dome that is the ceiling, which is highly notable in the design. The domed ceiling is covered in tan and green coloring that create a floral pattern, in which the center acts as a flower blossoming as the curled leaves grow and stretch to all sides of the circle. Fascinatingly the immediate circle that forms the dome is done in an outline of buildings ranging in size. The exterior and inside of the sabil have highly decorative floral motif that was already seen in the dome, with the continuation of fruitful vines and leafs in circular motions, like the Qajar clouds. On the exterior, one of the facades offers four windows that offer that floral motif above, but above the window arches, enclosed in the columns there is Arabic scripture. Along with a curvature awnings made by wood with circular flower designs. With bronze grillies, wooden projected eaves, and marble inscription plaques, there is a lot of Ottoman styled features that create such a glamorous sabil in the name of Muhammad Ali Pasha’s son Ahmad Tusun.
Abdeen Palace is one of a few architectural projects commissioned by Khedive Isma’il. Although planned out in 1863, it took 10 years of construction before opening in 1874. Interestingly, it was named after Abidin Bey, a military commander who owned a small mansion around the site. Although located in eastern Downtown Cairo, part of the ‘New’ Egypt being built by the elite, it was supposed to replace the Citadel as a new official residence and Palace of the new regime. The fact that the architect, Rousseau, was French and the decorators included people from Turkey, France, Egypt and Italy, speaks to the global representation of the city’s identity.
Looking from the outside, it would remind contemporary viewers of Buckingham Palace in London. The facade recalls French neoclassical architecture, which was inspired by Italian architecture. The Building’s architectural features emphasize on flatter decorations with modest additives on the surface, rather than ornate sculptural decorations of the Rococo. The entrance (as seen from the first image) consists of columns and pediments. A focus on uniformity and pattern downsizes the scale of the building without making it any less formal. Windows line the whole building, a departure to the more private intentions of Islamic architecture. The gates would also be a European gesture on a landscape that is not geographically similar, yet as part of the New Downtown Egypt, would fit in well with its surroundings. There are faint traces of neither the medieval nor Islamic architecture, which could echo how the Egyptian elite would like to represent themselves and their view of the country’s political reform.
Pande Putu Sri Wahyuni
Mosque of Muhammad Ali, Cairo, Egypt
The Mosque of Muhammad Ali was built between 1829-1848 in Cairo, Egypt, and represents one of the most visually and politically compelling mosques in the Middle East. The mosque was named after a leader of the same namesake who ruled in Egypt beginning in 1805 and is credited with removing French power from Egypt. The rise of Muhammad Ali would effectively end the Mamluk era in Egypt, although Mamluk influences in architecture would remain, and Muhammad Ali ushered in a new era of cosmopolitanism that featured a variety of outside influences, including the Ottoman-influenced designs that dominate the architectural style of the mosque.
The mosque has a large central dome surrounded by several smaller domes that is gilded with iridescent clusters of grapes and roses. There are four prominent minarets that exemplify power, and the structure sits atop a hill overlooking a valley, casting a domineering political, visual, and religious presence over the city. The eclectic mixture of influences includes Ottoman Baroque (Western decorative influences in design that is seen in the floral patterning inside and out of the Mosque), side entrances (not common in Ottoman mosques), windows that are not aligned (also unlike Ottoman-style mosques), and an overall building design that showcases the mosque as spectacularly different in shape and style depending on which direction you are viewing the mosque from-north, south, east or west. The windows were painted to resembled the glowing sun with radiate sunbeams sprouting from all corners. Owing to its conflicting nature, the Islamic inscriptions, unlike the side entrances and windows, do follow an Ottoman formula. The ablution fountain set in rococo design with vibrant neoclassical arches. The clock tower-a decidedly Western addition-adds an additional outside element to the structure that further shows both Western influences and the desire of Muhammad Ali during this time to incorporate a variety of influences into Cairo, yet ultimately to define a structure like the mosque in his own terms. The stated reason for building the mosque was to provide a place for government workers to pray, but the sheer size of the mosque belies this fact. The mosque became, as intended, a commanding structure that represents an architectural shift in Egypt. Its grand, powerful style, created through a variety of influences, would come to define both the mosque and the political rise of many Egyptian rulers during this time.