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Topographical Photography in Cairo: The Lens of Beniamino Facchinelli

Ola Seif
p. 195-214

Notes de la rédaction

Unless otherwise mentioned, all reproduced photographs are by Beninamino Facchinelli.

Texte intégral

1Nineteenth century photographs of Cairo, especially the last quarter of it, were commonly represented in compiled albums which followed to a fair extent, visually, the section on Egypt in Francis Frith’s publications. Typically, they contained an assortment of topics revolving around archaeological monuments from Upper Egypt, the pyramids and panoramic views of Cairo such as the Citadel, in addition to façades and courtyards of Islamic monuments, mainly the mosques of Sultan Hasan and Ibn Tulun. Also available, although they seem as a marginal topic included as a touch of flavour, were the photographs of the “petits métiers”, the typical Cairene Street and close ups of the mashrabiyya lattice protruding balconies.

  • 1  Known today as the Islamic art and architecture. For more on this terminology, see “Arab Art & Ara (...)
  • 2  A body of European archeologists, historians and philanthropists formed in 1881 with the mission o (...)
  • 3  This archive is stored at the Citadel’s branch office of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, the r (...)
  • 4  While further research in the unpublished documents of the Comité will reveal yet more names of co (...)

2Simultaneously, in the 1880s, the wide spread growing interest in the “Art arabe”1 but more precisely the creation of the Comité de conservation des monuments de l’art arabe2 in 1881 (hereinafter Comité), eventually redirected the photographic visuality into a new paradigm beyond the touristic repertoire that was already known. Since the Comité’s objectives and raison d’être were to survey and salvage Cairene Islamic art and architecture, its assigned photographers were asked to focus on a wider range of monuments than they had done so far in their production for tourists and, thus, systematically produced the “before and after” photographs of monuments in question for restoration by the Comité. As such, over the course of the Comité’s seventy-year life span, an extensive photographic archive containing thousands of glass plates, negative films and prints came to exist3. To date, the Comité’s photographic collection remains, for bureaucratic reasons, vastly under researched, which hinders our understanding of the formation of this collection, its methodology, scope, depth and context. The published bulletins of the Comité do reveal the names of some of the earliest commissioned contributing photographers. Those are, in chronological order between the first issue (1882) and that of 1901, Lékégian to whom most of the photographs published in the bulletins are credited, Facchinelli, C.M.A., Banget Bey, M. A. Marchettini, Luzzato, and V. Giuntini4. With the exception of the very prolific Gabriel Lékégian, whose name appears in many libraries’ holdings, and the lesser famous and moderately profuse Italian photographer Beniamino Facchinelli residing in Cairo between the early 1870s till his death in 1895 and known as the photographer of the album Sites et monuments du Caire in the Alinari collection, the known information about the other contributors to the photographic archives of the Comité is diminutive. This article aims at exploring two atypical and distinctive representations of Cairo distilled from Facchinelli’s repertoire which, in contrast with his tourist-oriented contemporary photographers, was largely tailored by the commands of particular orientalists, authors and publishers. Those topics are, firstly, the “Rue du Caire” which gained an iconic popularity during Facchinelli’s active years in Cairo due to Egypt’s pavilions in the consecutive World Fairs starting from that of Vienna in 1873, Paris in 1878 and again in 1889, and Chicago in 1893, and secondly, the subject of the crumbling domestic “Arabian” architecture, most of which is now non-extant.

1. Facchinelli at home, 1005 rue de l'Hôtel-du-Nil, holding one of his children in his arms.

1. Facchinelli at home, 1005 rue de l'Hôtel-du-Nil, holding one of his children in his arms.

“Rue du Caire” : Beyond the World Fairs’s representation

  • 5  I am thankful to Maryse Bideault and Mercedes Volait for pointing out that the Cairo photographs s (...)
  • 6  Album photographique comprenant soixante et une vues exécutées d’après les constructions élevées a (...)
  • 7  The Maglis Tanzim al-Mahrusa, or Cairo Embellishment Commission, was a subsection of the Ministry (...)

3The earliest photographs of Cairo as a city were confined to deserted cemeteries and panoramic upper views taken from a higher vantage point such as the citadel hills. Those were followed by the pioneers’ photographs of Cairo’s main thoroughfares such as Suq al-Silah by Francis Frith, Frank Mason Good, and Hammerschmidt while, on the other hand, Maxime du Camp fancied taking photographs of Cairo’s houses from either the roof or the first floor of opposite buildings. On the whole, two factors characterized the earliest photographic depictions of Cairo’s streets. The first is the inevitable presence of a minaret and/or a dome in the vanishing point of the perspective and the second is the remarkable stagnancy of the image and the absence of any street life bustling activity. Another unprecedented and rather rare development of the way the street of Cairo was photographed is presented by Émile Béchard who captured a set of domestic architecture façades without including a monument or minaret at the far end of the perspective, as was the norm then (ill. 2)5. In his set of “Rue de Touloun” [Tulun], he captured not only a profusion of mashrabiyya balconies that so strongly characterised Cairene medieval architecture but, more importantly, a demolished building that symbolised the late nineteenth century metamorphosis happening to traditional Cairo, a modernization movement that was tightly paralleled by the rapid emergence of new quarters such as the Ismailiyya quarter and the Gezira Palace to which Béchard dedicated exclusive albums6. Being a highly unpopular topic that hardly appealed to the taste of Béchard’s touristic clients who rather sought the more popular picturesque themes prevailing then, it is suggested that the capture of this demolished building is not random but meant to document a case whereby the Tanzim institution pulled down a protruding building to apply the prevailing rectification and street straightening regulations7. Subsequent images of the same location, by Béchard himself and other photographers, show in this very location a reconstructed building but abiding by the set street alignment specifications.

2a. H. Béchard, “Rue Touloun” [Tulun], before the intervention works of the Tanzim.

2a. H. Béchard, “Rue Touloun” [Tulun], before the intervention works of the Tanzim.

Source : Cairo (Egypt), American University in Cairo, Courtesy Rare Books Special Collections Library.

2b. Unidentified photographer, “Rue Touloun” [Tulun], after the intervention works of the Tanzim.

2b. Unidentified photographer, “Rue Touloun” [Tulun], after the intervention works of the Tanzim.

Source : Paris (France), bibliothèque de l'INHA, collection Ballu, Archive 112, carton 11.

  • 8  For more on Ambroise Baudry, see Marie-Laure Crosnier-Leconte, Mercedes Volait, L’Égypte d’un arch (...)
  • 9  The small format series are in boxes Égypte I.12, I.13, I.14, I.15, I.16, and I.17. For further co (...)
  • 10  Rukub is an Arabic word signifying the practice of overlapping an architectural component over ano (...)

4Contemporaneously to Émile Béchard, or shortly after his departure from Egypt in 1880, Facchinelli navigated in the streets of Cairo with a purpose beyond photographing the conventional touristic shots. His album Sites et monuments du Caire that was commissioned by Ambroise Baudry and offered to his friend Arthur Rhoné in 1893 distinctively reveals a comprehensive approach to Cairo8. The photographs in this album being signed by Facchinelli’s embossed hot sealed stamp, enable us by correlation to credit, without a shadow of doubt, to him the long unattributed identical photos in the Jacques Doucet collection housed in the strong room of the Institut national d’histoire de l’art (INHA) in Paris9. Through a selection of four of those, Facchinelli’s approach unconventionally sheds light on the Cairene urban life in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Not only he succeeded in capturing the crowdedness of the Cairo Street but also the introduction of modernism, illustrated graffiti and the less known concept of rukub.10

  • 11  Rue al-Hamzawi, still carrying the same name, is the street perpendicular to Shari‘ al-Mu‘izz at t (...)

5With the “Rue Hamzawi’s” photograph Facchinelli merged together the reliability of architectural details that photography provided and the vivacity of the market animation that was henceforth uncultivated by photography and only limited to the compositions of orientalist painters (ill. 3)11. If the earlier and contemporary photographs placed the minaret at the background of the horizon, Facchinelli respected that compositional perspective but balanced it by revolutionarily introducing in the foreground another core of attention which was the vigorous dynamism happening in the alley as opposed to the standard emptiness that Frith and Hammerschmidt presented in their photographs of both Suq al-Silah and al-Darb al-Ahmar main thoroughfares. Facchinelli’s realistic selection of a side street, and ability to capture its vivacity, its crowdedness and the market animation contrasts with the absence of the human factor or its availability solely for scale reasons in the earlier examples. Photographing the narrowness of the alley with its limited lighting condition, technically, necessitated lower shutter speeds that caused the street crowdedness to appear in the image as blurred movement in the foreground. If by today’s standards this blurriness is considered realism and avant-garde photography, it must be realised that in the nineteenth century it was an absolute failure, lack of precision and a rejected poor photograph. This explains why the vibrant al-Mu’izz Street was not photographed by any of the abovementioned pioneers. Finally, although not the main message of the photograph, the minaret of Sultan al-Ashraf Barsbay mosque at the intercession of al-Mu'izz and al-Hamzawi Streets is hereby documented before the intervention of the Comité which replaced the Ottoman pencil shaped top of the minaret appearing in the photograph by the current typical Mamluk-looking onion-shaped finial as it might have originally looked in the fifteenth century.

3. Al-Hamzawi street

3. Al-Hamzawi street

Source : Paris (France), bibliothèque de l'INHA, collections Jacques Doucet.

  • 12  Another example of the rukub is the wakala of Khan al-Khalili that extends over the rab’ of Yashba (...)
  • 13  Now in the collection of Shafik Gabr in Cairo, see Masterpieces of Orientalism: The Shafik Gabr Co (...)
  • 14  Paul Chardin, “Ancienne porte de quartier, dans la rue conduisant à Bab-en-Nasr [Bab al-Nasr],” Ga (...)

6While the nineteenth century travellers and the orientalist paintings portrayed the street and alley gates of Cairo as a significant constituent of the Cairene urban fabric, it is worth noting its utter absence from photographic representation except in one of Facchinelli’s photographs (ill. 4). The uniqueness of this representation lies in the fact that the gate is unusually surmounted by a balcony protruding from the neighbouring house. This practice, locally referred to as rukub, was quite common in Ottoman and Mamluk times and its regulation fell within the domain of the muhtasib’s role of supervision of architectural violations.12 The German painter Gustav Bauernfeind has illustrated a similar rukub case in his « A Street Scene in Damascus » (1887) oil painting13. A croquis by the French Paul Chardin featured in Arthur Rhoné’s article “Coup d’œil sur l’état présent du Caire ancien et moderne” gives indeed an illustration of such doors, but in a truncated view leaving only a glimpse of the corner of the balcony surmounting the gate14. While Chardin’s illustration provided the known stereotype street gate to the distant western client, Facchinelli’s unedited version testifies once more to his observative eye which captured what seemed to him unusual although his understanding of the rukub concept is strongly questionable. Given Rhoné’s profound knowledge of Cairo, it is clear that his editorial guidance to Facchinelli and Chardin was highly orchestrated towards the production of publications ultimately enriched with Chardin’s illustrations using as a basis Facchinelli’s photographs as visual aids.

4a. Paul Chardin, Ancienne porte de quartier, dans la rue conduisant à Bab en-Nasr [Bab al-Nasr].

4a. Paul Chardin, Ancienne porte de quartier, dans la rue conduisant à Bab en-Nasr [Bab al-Nasr].

Source : Arthur Rhoné, “Coup d'œil sur l'état présent du Caire ancien et moderne”, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 24, 1881-1882, p. 422.

4b. Rukub of an add-on balcony on the gate of an alley.

4b. Rukub of an add-on balcony on the gate of an alley.

Source : Paris (France), bibliothèque de l'INHA, collections Jacques Doucet.

  • 15  The first house is unidentified. The graffiti on the house of Bayt al-Razzaz disappeared.
  • 16  Riikka Haapalainen, Goran Schildt, Vidar Lindqvist, On the Pilgrimage: The tradition of Hajj paint (...)

7If street graffiti is widespread in Historic Cairo streets today, it has roots that cross the nineteenth century even if it was widely unnoticed by the famous photographers of the time. Facchinelli has photographed, at least, two street illustrated graffiti examples. The first is of an unidentified house (ill. 5) and the other is on the side façade of Bayt al-Razzaz (ill. 6). Interestingly, both entrance portals are adorned with primitive paintings of popular folk art composed of lions, horses, palm trees and other mythological and zoomorphic creatures whose naivety strongly contrasts with the sophistication of the Ottoman domestic interior murals15. What first comes to mind is that they represent heroic scenes of “Abu Zayd al-Hilali” and other epics that are typically told in the coffee shops by the storyteller known as al-hakawati. However, on the grounds of correlation and resemblance with similar still existing drawings found in Upper Egypt a more plausible suggestion is that they represent the welcome and home coming celebration for returning pilgrims. A study on the hagg mural tradition of Upper Egypt reveals that they can be read as eclectic puzzles in which a new image incorporates fragments of both oral and written tradition, Islamic culture and the image of culture of ancient Egypt and the preferences of the family that commissioned the painting16. The regrettable absence of successive photographs of the same folk art subject hinders us from figuring out when the nineteenth century patterns of pilgrimage-welcome drawings started to be altered into the contemporary imagery that includes cars, airplanes and ships as they are represented currently. Whether Facchinelli photographed the graffiti out of documentation purposes, astonishment or dislike is unclear but he did instinctively capture a deeply rooted street phenomenon that adds a colourful accent to our knowledge and understanding of a common but overlooked Cairene street practice of the previous century.

5. Graffiti on the entrance gate of an unidentified house.

5. Graffiti on the entrance gate of an unidentified house.

Source : Paris (France), bibliothèque de l'INHA, collections Jacques Doucet.

6. Graffiti of the entrance gate of Bayt al-Razzaz.

6. Graffiti of the entrance gate of Bayt al-Razzaz.

Source : American University in Cairo (Egypt), Courtesy Rare Books Special Collections Library.

  • 17  This is a house on Saliba Street located after Qaytbay’s Sabil Kuttab, before the Mosque of Qaniba (...)
  • 18  Edward William Lane, Cairo Fifty Years Ago, London: John Murray, 1896, p. 54. The book was publish (...)

8Since the mashrabiyya, as an element, was the core of the “Rue du Caire”, the icon of its medievalism and at the origin of its picturesqueness, its gradual substitution by a new domestic typology was a trend that puzzled and repelled photographers of the time. Interestingly, Facchinelli wittily adapted to this change of paradigm and photographed the developing style. The house built on Saliba Street is a photograph that raises many issues (ill. 7)17. First, it does not, in any way, fit in the European architectural symphony launched by Khedive Isma’il and the building boom that was taking place in the Isma’iliya quarter nor does it resonate with what came to be known locally as the “rumi” style of architecture that replicated the Balkan domestic model on the Darb al-Ahmar and Muski Streets. Another interesting occurrence is the evolution of the mashrabiyya proper and its persistence under a variant form although it had become a banned element by law. The discontinued lattice turned wood is replaced by elongated windows with shutters that open in such a way as to allow less privacy than the masharabiyya, which may suggest that the function of the protrusions holding the mashrabiyyas also evolved. On the whole, it is safe to say that the remarkable depth of the newer mashrabiyya version, its poor corbelling and the overall diminished elegance was a transitional architectural phase that appeared on the streets of Cairo at the dawn of its modernity, that a few photographers and travellers understood it and that it remains understudied up till the time of writing these lines. The fact that Facchinelli was himself living in a traditional courtyard house by the Muski district might have helped him realise the strangeness of this façade and new prototype. If travellers, historians, illustrators and chroniclers of Cairo dedicated chapters to the streets of Cairo and its mashrabiyya, their demolition process was mentioned only by passingly and the post-demolition transitional architecture was overlooked, regarded regretfully and unrepresented visually. Today, this building and its likes, from the same period, are representative of historicity but equivocally this photograph’s value and significance lies in the modernity that Facchinelli wanted to present. This can be understood from the literature of the epoch that are in agreement with Lane’s statement in 1896 that “Until about the end of the first quarter of the present century Cairo was wholly an Arabian city”18.

7. A house on Saliba Street between the Sabil Kuttab Qaytbay and Qanibay al-Muhammadi Mosque and Shaykhu Complex.

7. A house on Saliba Street between the Sabil Kuttab Qaytbay and Qanibay al-Muhammadi Mosque and Shaykhu Complex.

Source : Paris (France), bibliothèque de l'INHA, collections Jacques Doucet.

  • 19  For one of his main patrons, see Mercedes Volait, “Arthur Ali Rhoné (1836-1910): Du Caire ancien a (...)

9The topic of “Rue du Caire” has proven that it had more to offer than just the superficial outlook of a few façades backed by a minaret at the vanishing point of the perspective. By capturing some of its aspects Facchinelli earned himself the title of “photographe du cru” because he had carved himself a niche of catering not to the tourist industry but to the travelogues who would have labelled themselves, by today’s standards, independent researchers or even anthropologists, historians, architects, urbanists, sociologists or scholars at large.19

Facchinelli’s contribution to Cairene domestic architecture

  • 20  Those are in vol. II (plates 50 to 56): Birkat-al-Fyl [Birkat al-Fil], Azbakiya [Azbakiyya], panor (...)
  • 21  See István Ormos, “The Cairo street at the World’s Columbian Exposition, Chigaco, 1893”, in L’orie (...)

10Other than the five houses illustrated in the Description de l’Égypte20 and orientalists’ paintings, Cairene domestic architecture was, photographically speaking, largely overshadowed by the opulence of antiquity. Courtyards of Gustave Le Gray and Shaykh al-Sadat houses were the earliest to be photographed and thus the westerner’s knowledge of domestic architecture was limited to these two examples until Gamal al-Din al-Dhahabi’s house was replicated in 1893 at the Chicago World Fair21. In the meantime, Facchinelli was inaudibly capturing aspect of lesser known Cairene domestic architecture examples, many of which were subject to the massive demolition movement that swamped Cairo in the 1880s.

  • 22  The definition of maq‘ad is a first storey covered balcony overlooking the courtyard of a house.
  • 23  The Creswell photographic collection at the American University in Cairo holds over thirteen thous (...)

11The image depicting Sultan Qaytbay’s elaborately painted façade (the outer wall of the maq‘ad)22 photographed by Facchinelli represents a colourful revelation to its viewers (ill. 8). While the topic of painting in Cairene domestic architecture is totally understudied, it can at least be mentioned that the two earlier known similar representations are the paintings on the courtyard walls of ‘Uthman Bey and Qasim Bey’s houses illustrated in the Description de l’Égypte. Thus, this raises the question of whether the paintings on the courtyard of Qaytbay’s house are original from the Mamluk period or a later layer from the Ottoman period. On stylistic basis, the absence of vegetal motives and the predominance of geometric pattern and the presence of Qaytbay’s typical ranks all suggest that the paintings are original from the Mamluk period. This contrasts with the Ottoman mural found on the side wall of the same maq‘ad which features in another photograph by Facchinelli housed in the Creswell photographic collection at the archives of the American University in Cairo23.While this mural has long disappeared and the only evidence of it is in Facchinelli’s photograph it can be paralleled by other Ottoman natured murals recently restored in the houses of ‘Ali Effendi Labib in al-Darb al-Ahmar district and that of Sitt Wasila’s house in al-Azhar district. As such, it can be safely said that the value of the photograph of Qaytbay’s maq‘ad lies not in the fact that it is the only evidence of an extant building that once had a painted façade overlooking the courtyard but it clearly reveals its details and on the other hand, it confirms the credibility of the Description’s illustrations, represents an aspects overlooked by orientalist painters and furthers our understanding about the decorative interiors of wealthy and notable Cairene Mamluk houses of the upper echelon of the society in the late fifteenth century.

8. Maq‘ad overlooking the courtyard of the house of Sultan Qaytbay.

8. Maq‘ad overlooking the courtyard of the house of Sultan Qaytbay.

Source : Paris, bibliothèque de l'INHA, collection Ballu, Archive 112, carton 11.

  • 24  Georges Pangalo was the organizer of the Egyptian pavilion at the Chicago World Fair in 1893. Supp (...)

12While Georges Pangalo24 was salvaging his seventy five mashrabiyya balconies during the massive demolitions of houses in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, he did not document their exact provenance and context. Similarly, the fast demolition of Mamluk and Ottoman houses was an obscure event that was scarcely represented visually. Crumbling stones in a selection of photographs by the lens of Facchinelli were meant to be associated with the eleventh hour of many Mamluk and Ottoman houses rather than to indicate restoration works as is often the case in the Comité’s photographs. Another peculiarity is that it sheds light on variable examples of how Cairene medieval houses creatively adapted themselves to the architectural requirements of its owners. In many cases, the spatial expansion adjoining another building to the preexisitng one often required architectural challenges. The most interesting one encountered is that of a niche carved specially to harbor the entrance door of the newly added annex (ill. 9). In other frequently occuring cases, the maq‘ad’s arches were blocked by wooden panels perhaps because the house fell into disuse or that this was a way of incorporating the maq‘ad into the house by converting it to a closed room. Unintentionally, while photographing the base of al-Muayyad’s minaret, Facchinelli captured a tiny and hardly noticed mashrabiyya protruding from the side of Bab Zuwaila’s right tower (ill. 10). This is, to date, the earliest photographic evidence of the conversion of Bab Zuwaila into residential spaces. Photographed from the front of the tower, it complements David Roberts’s famous illustration depicting the rear view of the same tower which once accomodated appartment lodgings that were removed by the Comité in a restoration later than Facchinelli’s time. Another surprising example is the rukub of a mashrabiyya balcony onto the back entrance of Imam al-Shafi‘i’s mausoleum in the Southern Cemetery (ill. 11). The inconsistent mashrabiyyas are suggestive of variable living standards on each floor of the building, different expansion phases and an unusual encroachment of a residential unit to the mausoleum.

9. Corner of the courtyard of an unidentified house.

9. Corner of the courtyard of an unidentified house.

Source : Paris, bibliothèque de l'INHA, collections Jacques Doucet.

10. A mashrabiyya hanging out of the side of Bab Zuwayla's tower at the level of the slits.

10. A mashrabiyya hanging out of the side of Bab Zuwayla's tower at the level of the slits.

Source : Paris, bibliothèque de l'INHA, collections Jacques Doucet.

11. Back entrance of Imam al-Shafi‘i’s mausoleum in the Southern Cemetery with several examples of unplanned mashrabiyya grills, one of which in a rukub overlap position on the gate.

11. Back entrance of Imam al-Shafi‘i’s mausoleum in the Southern Cemetery with several examples of unplanned mashrabiyya grills, one of which in a rukub overlap position on the gate.

Source : Paris, bibliothèque de l'INHA, collections Jacques Doucet.

  • 25  The photograph in the 1898 issue of the Bulletin is taken by Lékégian: pl. II (façade), pl. III-IV (...)
  • 26  “Quatre-vingt-quatrième séance du 7 juin 1898,” Bulletin, 1898, p. 78. The Awqaf is the Arabic wor (...)
  • 27  The takhtabush is an area overlooking the courtyard, covered by a loggia that is supported by a ce (...)

13The topic of representing domestic architecture in nineteenth century photography cannot be closed before considering Facchinelli’s Maison Waqf Ahmad Husayn 1757/1798 AD-1171/1213 AH at Bab al-Sha’riyya (ill. 12). Although a few photographs from this house were published in the Comité’s 1898 bulletin, this preliminary research did not trigger the Comité’s attention to the importance of preserving the remaining examples of domestic architecture by urgently classifying them in the Index to the Muhammedan Monuments of Cairo25. In fact, the only reason Ahmad Husayn’s house was investigated is that the Awqaf administration requested Herz Pasha’s assessment on the level of damage resulting from a theft. Herz’s recommendation to acquire from it all remaining items of historic value suitable for the Museum of Arab Art (now Museum of Islamic Art), not to restore the damage and to declassify the house can be translated as an assumption that the Comité was implicitly and short-sightedly signing the decree of knocking down the Maison Waqf of Ahmad Husayn26.Today, after its demolition, what the photographs of this house reveal to us is a unique example of two rare architectural features that are absent from all the extant examples of Cairene domestic architecture. Those are the widest mashrabiyya screen extending throughout the width of the courtyard and the rare closed takhtabush through which a glimpse of the capital of its column appears27.

12. Mashrabiyya at the house waqf of Ahmad Husayn.

12. Mashrabiyya at the house waqf of Ahmad Husayn.

Source : Paris, bibliothèque de l'INHA, collections Jacques Doucet.

  • 28  Stanley Lane Poole, Cairo: Sketches of its History, Monuments and Social Life, London: Virtue & Co (...)

14The privacy of the oriental household, specially its harem, is the major reason that kept European photographers from penetrating it. Facchinelli’s infiltration can only be justified by the fact that the houses he entered were abandoned or half demolished. If the orientalists were somewhat imaginative and legendary in their representation, Facchinelli’s focus was purely architectural and contrasted with the social approach of the Description’s depiction of Cairene houses. The variable examples that he presented discredits Stanley Lane Poole’s statement mentioning that “But all Cairene houses of the old style are very much alike : they differ only in size and in the richness or poverty of the decoration ; and if our merchant’s house is better than most of its neighbors, we have but to substract a few of the statelier rooms, and reduce the scale of the others, to obtain a fair idea of the houses on either hand and round about.28” Further, he implicitly presents the visual hypothesis about the versatility of the masharabiya module and its adaptability to various economic and architectural contexts, to date, an understudied topic.

15Facchinelli’s lens yielded some rarely seen representations of Cairo that stand out from the diverse kaleidoscopic spectrum of topics revolving around the exotic “Orient”, or the “en vogue” that his contemporaneous photographers produced. His lens spotted the colourful animation of the “Rue du Caire” and translated them with spontaneity to black and white albumens, it also composed a storyboard of Cairo’s modernity “in the making” by documenting the photographs of the rumi buildings in contrast with those of the demolished houses. The visual testimony of the death of Cairo’s traditional domestic architecture is a singular historical record that may not have drawn much of the attention of the Comité in the late nineteenth century but certainly does challenge today’s social historians, urbanists, architects as much as the collectors of vintage photography.

  • 29  “Soixante-quatorzième séance du 9 mars 1897”, Bulletin, [1898], p. 72.

16Facchinelli’s active years in Cairo (1873-1895) coincided with not only the rise of the Comité in 1881 but with a European collecting fever of “Arab art” objets d’art, the establishment of the Museum of Arab Art in 1881, the compilation of the Index by the Comité and the interventions of the Tanzim institution in the execution of the urban master plan that was to carry Cairo into modernity. But Facchinelli’s involvement with the above was indirect and his Comité contributions were marginal as can be deduced from consulting its published bulletins. Not only none of his photographs were published in the Bulletins but he is not mentioned in them until 1895, fourteen years after its foundation when the photographs acquired by the Comité had increased to reach the point of being called a “collection” and accordingly Julius Franz Pasha proposed in 1897 to conserve it by entrusting Max Herz Pasha with the responsibility to commission a cupboard suitable for the conservation and storage of the photographic materials29. And since the bulk of this collection was focused on the état des lieux of the monuments that were subject to a Comité’s decision of either destruction or restoration or the selection of relics for the museum it is, thus, understandable that the Comité was not responsible for Facchinelli’s focus on the “Rue du Caire” nor for his interest in the demolition of domestic architecture photographs which surpassed their flat and unilateral scope. However, it may confidently be stated that Facchinelli’s collection of “Arab” art, which also included photographs of monuments, developed simultaneously and in parallel to that of the Comité. One such outstanding evidence of overlap is the example of the photograph in the courtyard of the house of Ahmad Husayn (see above) which is credited to Lékégian in the Bulletins of 1898, as well as photographs of the mosques of al-Hayatim and Abu Bakr Mazhar often encountered in Facchinelli’s repertoire. Facchinelli was neither a trained urbanist conducting socio-physical structural studies of historic Cairo and its neighbourhoods nor an architect wandering around Cairo but rather a freelance responsive photographer who seized the momentum of the happenings and reflected them faithfully with a visual manifestation that surpassed the limitations of the Comité’s limited photographic approach which could easily be labelled “descriptive”.

17Alternatively, Facchinelli’s fresh optical and insightful depiction of Cairo and its domestic architecture is likely to be closely linked with the French architect Ambroise Baudry in his capacity as a collector of Arab art rather than as a founding board member of the Comité. Baudry who arrived in Cairo in 1871, noted in 1897 at the head of the Sites et monuments du Caire album, that Facchinelli’s photographs were produced between 1873 to 1895. The extent to which Baudry coached Facchinelli during these twenty two progress years of the photographic archive from which Baudry made his selection are yet to be explored from their correspondence together. Whether explicitly assigned by Baudry or not to cover the “Rue du Caire” or the demolition of domestic architecture, Facchinelli approached these early realistic and factual topics with a sharper eye than that of an orientalist fantasist catering to the tourist industry and more perceptive than that of the scholar seeking to leave no stone unturned. While a portion of his production resembled the unsystematic documentation program of Islamic monuments that the Comité engaged in, his representations of the “Rue du Caire” and the demolitions would have fitted reasonably well ‘Ali Mubarak’s al-Khitat al-Tawfiqiyya al-Jadida (1886-1889) inclusiveness and comprehensiveness, or ironically contrasted with the photographs taken by Lékégian of Egypt’s pavilion in World Exhibitions, especially that of Chicago in 1893.

  • 30  Such as, but not limited to, Lékégian’s albums on the Egyptian and British armies or Abdullah Frèr (...)

18Upon his death, Facchinelli’s archive was regarded as a specialized collection of “Arab” art. In 1899 the Comité decided to buy from his archives the photographs that matched their scope of interest to enrich their own collection. The Comité’s photographic archive was followed between 1940s to the 1973 by an equally substantial collection credited to K.A.C. Creswell where some of Facchinelli’s topographical views of Cairo found their way but, surprisingly, labeled Giuntini on the back, yet an Italian photographer whose name started to feature in the Bulletins after the death of Facchinelli. By the 1890s, the focus of photographic albums evolved from general selections to specialized topics30. But a thorough visual evidence of “Rue du Caire” and domestic architecture remained widely absent and remarkably superficial in both, the albums of the period and the two major collections of Islamic art and architecture. It is hoped that the emergence of hidden specialized albums and/or loose photographs in Diaspora accentuates the study of these two topics, enhances the understanding of their form and function, supports available and ongoing research and triggers newer perspectives about their metamorphoses in the last quarter of the nineteenth century

Notes

1  Known today as the Islamic art and architecture. For more on this terminology, see “Arab Art & Arab Monuments” in Alaa el-Habashi’s unpublished PhD thesis: From Athar to Monuments: The Interventions of the Comité de Conservation des Monuments de l’Art Arabe, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 2001.

2  A body of European archeologists, historians and philanthropists formed in 1881 with the mission of conserving and documenting the “Arab” architecture of Egypt. This Comité has been publishing an annual report, hereinafter Bulletin. See below in this volume: István Ormos, “Max Herz Pasha on Arab-Islamic Art in Egypt,” p. 311-342. URL: https://inha.revues.org/4898.

3  This archive is stored at the Citadel’s branch office of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, the restructured body that succeeded the Comité after the 1952 coup d’état in Egypt.

4  While further research in the unpublished documents of the Comité will reveal yet more names of contributors to their photographic archive, it is likely that they may also have purchased some of the commercial photographs readily available on the market.

5  I am thankful to Maryse Bideault and Mercedes Volait for pointing out that the Cairo photographs signed H. Béchard refers to Hippolyte not Henry as is wrongly widespread, and that Hippolyte Béchard never went to Cairo. Accordingly, it can be assumed that all Egypt photos signed “H. Béchard” are really by his brother Émile Béchard, who had a studio in the Azbakiyya gardens, but reprinted later by Hippolyte in France.

6  Album photographique comprenant soixante et une vues exécutées d’après les constructions élevées au nouveau Caire sous le règne de S. A. le Khedive Ismail Pacha, 1874. One copy is in the private collection of the late Max Karkégi and has been bequeathed to the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris, France. A copy of the Album des jardins du palais de Guezireh appartenant à S. A. le Khédive Ismaïl Pacha comprenant 22 vues photographiques exécutées par Émile Béchard, 1874 is kept in the holdings of the Geographical Society in Cairo.

7  The Maglis Tanzim al-Mahrusa, or Cairo Embellishment Commission, was a subsection of the Ministry of Public Works since 1879. Its main function was to regulate streets and buildings. On its history and activity, see Mercedes Volait, Architectes et architectures de l’Égypte moderne (1830-1950): genèse et essor d’une expertise locale, Paris: Maisonneuve et Larose, 2005 (Architectures modernes en Méditerranée), ch. 3.

8  For more on Ambroise Baudry, see Marie-Laure Crosnier-Leconte, Mercedes Volait, L’Égypte d’un architecte : Ambroise Baudry (1838-1906), Paris: Somogy Éditions d’art, 1998.

9  The small format series are in boxes Égypte I.12, I.13, I.14, I.15, I.16, and I.17. For further confirmation, the comparison of the identical photographs in the Jacques-Doucet lot with that of in the Alinari album yielded a matching serial number.

10  Rukub is an Arabic word signifying the practice of overlapping an architectural component over another element or structure. Frequent examples are either the floor of a building extending over the roof of the neighboring building or protusion of balconies spreading out over gates.

11  Rue al-Hamzawi, still carrying the same name, is the street perpendicular to Shari‘ al-Mu‘izz at the angle where the complex of Sultan Barsbay is found. It was described in the early Baedecker guidebooks as the street of the foreigners’ market.

12  Another example of the rukub is the wakala of Khan al-Khalili that extends over the rab’ of Yashbak Min Mahdi al-Dawadar discussed in Ola Seif ’s M.A. unpublished thesis at the American University in Cairo, 2005, The Khan al-Khalili district: Development, Topography and Context from the 12th to the 21st Century. Further court examples are presented in Nelly Hanna, Construction Work in Ottoman Cairo 1517-1798, Cairo: IFAO, 1984 (Supplément aux Annales islamologiques, 4).

13  Now in the collection of Shafik Gabr in Cairo, see Masterpieces of Orientalism: The Shafik Gabr Collection, Paris: ACR, 2008, p. 58; 63.

14  Paul Chardin, “Ancienne porte de quartier, dans la rue conduisant à Bab-en-Nasr [Bab al-Nasr],” Gazette des Beaux-Arts. Courrier européen de l'Art et de la Curiosité, vol. 24, 1881, p. 422. Rhoné’s visit to Egypt in 1879 was part of the campaign in favour of the creation of the Comité of which he was later a corresponding member.

15  The first house is unidentified. The graffiti on the house of Bayt al-Razzaz disappeared.

16  Riikka Haapalainen, Goran Schildt, Vidar Lindqvist, On the Pilgrimage: The tradition of Hajj painting in Upper Egypt, Exhibition Catalogue (Cairo, American University in Cairo), Tammisaari : Christine ja Göran Schildtin säätiö, 2004, 14. Similar drawings were found in Luxor photographs of the 1970s.

17  This is a house on Saliba Street located after Qaytbay’s Sabil Kuttab, before the Mosque of Qanibay al-Muhammadi (n° 151 on the Index list to Muhammadan Monuments of Cairo).

18  Edward William Lane, Cairo Fifty Years Ago, London: John Murray, 1896, p. 54. The book was published in 1896 and thus the word “present” refers to the late nineteenth century.

19  For one of his main patrons, see Mercedes Volait, “Arthur Ali Rhoné (1836-1910): Du Caire ancien au vieux-Paris ou le patrimoine au prisme de l’érudition dilettante,” Socio-Anthropologie, no.19, 2006, p. 17-30. URL: https://socio-anthropologie.revues.org/543. Accessed on November 25, 2015.

20  Those are in vol. II (plates 50 to 56): Birkat-al-Fyl [Birkat al-Fil], Azbakiya [Azbakiyya], panoramic views, gates of Cairo. The four houses depicted by the Description de l’Égypte were Osman Bey [‘Uthman bey], Soleyman Agha [Sulayman Agha], jardin du Palais d’Ezbekiya [Azbakiyya], et Hassan Kashef [Hasan Kashif] (dôme and shukhshaykha), Ybrahim Kikheyh el-Sennary [Ibrahim katkhuda al-Sinnari].

21  See István Ormos, “The Cairo street at the World’s Columbian Exposition, Chigaco, 1893”, in L’orientalisme architectural entre imaginaires et savoirs, Paris: Picard ; CNRS, 2009 (D'une rive l'autre), 195-214 and about Gamal al-Din al-Dhahabi’s house, see in this volume, István Ormos, “Max Herz Pasha...,” fig. 10, 14 and 22.

22  The definition of maq‘ad is a first storey covered balcony overlooking the courtyard of a house.

23  The Creswell photographic collection at the American University in Cairo holds over thirteen thousand photographs of Islamic architecture almost half of which are dedicated to Cairo. While Creswell’s own photographs constitute the majority of the collection, he also assembled work by other earlier photographers. K.A.C. Creswell was a British officer considered the doyen of the first generation of scholars of Islamic art and architecture. He lived in Cairo since the 1920s till his death in the early 1970 during that time he surveyed and photographed the Islamic monuments of Cairo in unprecedented detail and bequeathed his archives, photographic collection and library to the American University in Cairo during his lifetime.

24  Georges Pangalo was the organizer of the Egyptian pavilion at the Chicago World Fair in 1893. Supported by the Hungarian Max Herz Pasha, then head of the technical department of the Comité, he was able not only to reconstruct an entire street but to render it convincing by transplanting seventy five real mashrabiyya grill balconies purchased from the dismantled houses of Cairo.

25  The photograph in the 1898 issue of the Bulletin is taken by Lékégian: pl. II (façade), pl. III-IV (qa‘a). The house was also referred to as École des aveugles located on Shari’ Margush in the Bab al-Sha‘riyya district. For more on the compilation of the index see Alaa El-Habashi, Nicholas Warner, “Recording the Monuments of Cairo: an Introduction and Overview”, Annales Islamologiques, no.32, 1998, p. 81-99.

26  “Quatre-vingt-quatrième séance du 7 juin 1898,” Bulletin, 1898, p. 78. The Awqaf is the Arabic word for the Endowments foundation. Max Herz was the chief engineer of the Comité. For more on him see István Ormos, Max Herz Pasha (1856-1919): His Life and Career, Cairo: IFAO, 2009, and in this volume p. 297-310. URL: https://inha.revues.org/4898.

27  The takhtabush is an area overlooking the courtyard, covered by a loggia that is supported by a central column. It’s main function was to host certain visitors without letting them in the privacy of the house.

28  Stanley Lane Poole, Cairo: Sketches of its History, Monuments and Social Life, London: Virtue & Co, 1895, p. 124.

29  “Soixante-quatorzième séance du 9 mars 1897”, Bulletin, [1898], p. 72.

30  Such as, but not limited to, Lékégian’s albums on the Egyptian and British armies or Abdullah Frères’ two albums of the visit of Khedive Tawfiq to Upper Egypt, etc.

Table des illustrations

Titre 1. Facchinelli at home, 1005 rue de l'Hôtel-du-Nil, holding one of his children in his arms.
URL http://inha.revues.org/docannexe/image/4884/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 128k
Titre 2a. H. Béchard, “Rue Touloun” [Tulun], before the intervention works of the Tanzim.
Crédits Source : Cairo (Egypt), American University in Cairo, Courtesy Rare Books Special Collections Library.
URL http://inha.revues.org/docannexe/image/4884/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 740k
Titre 2b. Unidentified photographer, “Rue Touloun” [Tulun], after the intervention works of the Tanzim.
Crédits Source : Paris (France), bibliothèque de l'INHA, collection Ballu, Archive 112, carton 11.
URL http://inha.revues.org/docannexe/image/4884/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 660k
Titre 3. Al-Hamzawi street
Crédits Source : Paris (France), bibliothèque de l'INHA, collections Jacques Doucet.
URL http://inha.revues.org/docannexe/image/4884/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 612k
Titre 4a. Paul Chardin, Ancienne porte de quartier, dans la rue conduisant à Bab en-Nasr [Bab al-Nasr].
Crédits Source : Arthur Rhoné, “Coup d'œil sur l'état présent du Caire ancien et moderne”, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 24, 1881-1882, p. 422.
URL http://inha.revues.org/docannexe/image/4884/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 552k
Titre 4b. Rukub of an add-on balcony on the gate of an alley.
Crédits Source : Paris (France), bibliothèque de l'INHA, collections Jacques Doucet.
URL http://inha.revues.org/docannexe/image/4884/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 572k
Titre 5. Graffiti on the entrance gate of an unidentified house.
Crédits Source : Paris (France), bibliothèque de l'INHA, collections Jacques Doucet.
URL http://inha.revues.org/docannexe/image/4884/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 564k
Titre 6. Graffiti of the entrance gate of Bayt al-Razzaz.
Crédits Source : American University in Cairo (Egypt), Courtesy Rare Books Special Collections Library.
URL http://inha.revues.org/docannexe/image/4884/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 200k
Titre 7. A house on Saliba Street between the Sabil Kuttab Qaytbay and Qanibay al-Muhammadi Mosque and Shaykhu Complex.
Crédits Source : Paris (France), bibliothèque de l'INHA, collections Jacques Doucet.
URL http://inha.revues.org/docannexe/image/4884/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 572k
Titre 8. Maq‘ad overlooking the courtyard of the house of Sultan Qaytbay.
Crédits Source : Paris, bibliothèque de l'INHA, collection Ballu, Archive 112, carton 11.
URL http://inha.revues.org/docannexe/image/4884/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 328k
Titre 9. Corner of the courtyard of an unidentified house.
Crédits Source : Paris, bibliothèque de l'INHA, collections Jacques Doucet.
URL http://inha.revues.org/docannexe/image/4884/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 340k
Titre 10. A mashrabiyya hanging out of the side of Bab Zuwayla's tower at the level of the slits.
Crédits Source : Paris, bibliothèque de l'INHA, collections Jacques Doucet.
URL http://inha.revues.org/docannexe/image/4884/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 568k
Titre 11. Back entrance of Imam al-Shafi‘i’s mausoleum in the Southern Cemetery with several examples of unplanned mashrabiyya grills, one of which in a rukub overlap position on the gate.
Crédits Source : Paris, bibliothèque de l'INHA, collections Jacques Doucet.
URL http://inha.revues.org/docannexe/image/4884/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 496k
Titre 12. Mashrabiyya at the house waqf of Ahmad Husayn.
Crédits Source : Paris, bibliothèque de l'INHA, collections Jacques Doucet.
URL http://inha.revues.org/docannexe/image/4884/img-14.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 349k

Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Ola Seif, « Topographical Photography in Cairo: The Lens of Beniamino Facchinelli », in Le Caire dessiné et photographié au XIXe siècle, Paris, Picard (« Collection D'une rive l'autre »), 2013, p. 195-214.

Référence électronique

Ola Seif, « Topographical Photography in Cairo: The Lens of Beniamino Facchinelli », in Le Caire dessiné et photographié au XIXe siècle, Paris, Picard (« Collection D'une rive l'autre »), 2013, [En ligne], mis en ligne le 03 février 2017, consulté le 25 mai 2017. URL : http://inha.revues.org/4884

Auteur

Ola Seif

Curator of Photography Collections, American University in Cairo.

Droits d’auteur

Tous droits réservés