Salvaging the neglected heritage of Cairo is an ambition of a new company, Al-Ismailia for Real Estate Investments, which has been buying up properties in the centre.

Cairo before the 1960s had gracious belle époque buildings, smart department stores and lively cafés frequented by a cosmopolitan elite of Egyptians, Europeans, Jews and Armenians.

The past 50 years, however, have been a story of decline. So the buildings have been decaying for decades, their elegant facades hidden behind rows of garish shops.

Yet, whatever their state, the buildings of central Cairo represent a rich architectural heritage. Most date from the early 20th century, a time when Cairo was a meeting place of civilisations and itself a centre of culture and the arts. The architecture reflects a wide variety of European styles, including baroque, neoclassical and art deco.  

Financial Times