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Report - - Abandoned Mansion, Egypt - Jan 2009 | European and International Sites |

Report - Abandoned Mansion, Egypt - Jan 2009

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28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Surrounded by low rent apartments, garages, mechanic's shops, bearing stores, coffee shops, and large trash piles sits an old mansion in the heart of Cairo slowly decaying while being ignored by most of the people who walk past it every day.

The story told on the streets about this place is that this mansion was the home of Jean-Francois Champollion, the man who discovered the Rosetta Stone. They say that this mansion is where he spent months translating the hieroglyphic and demotic from the greek below it and helping unlock the secrets of ancient Egyptian writing.

The reality is that this mansion was built 60 years after Champollion's death for Prince Said Halim, one of the grandsons of Muhammad Ali, the founder of modern Egypt. Halim was obsessed with Rome which is ironic since it was in Rome where he was assassinated in 1921. He had his architects design this place to look like it belonged in Rome and even had all of the building materials imported from Italy.

The mansion was taken by the British in WW1 and kept by them as punishment to Halim who sided with the Ottomans during the war. It was eventually turned into the Al-Nassiriyah Secondary School For Boys where many future leaders of the Egyptian government would receive their education. Over the years the building was poorly maintained as can be seen and was later moved to a new location and for decades now the school has sat abandoned. A few years ago the building was finally cleaned out of all of the old school supplies and beds and was added to the country's roster of historic places. Since then it has sat empty and guarded waiting for someone to come and reuse the building. The size of the rooms were normal for the late 1800s for a house, but as a school these rooms must have been packed to the brim with students and their desks. The lack of space to capture the rooms even with a 17mm lens was amazing, I can only imagine what this place would have been like filled with students. Many of the chalkboards weren't even chalkboards, they were chalkboard paint painted onto the wall with crude framing put up around them. I wish I could have seen what they used for desks here.

Although empty the architecture of this place is amazing and the environment it is in has helped minimize the deterioration of the place. When I heard about the place I was interested and when my friend who lives near by sent me a few photos he took of the place I knew I had to see it. I needed to pack light for my trip so I brought a small travel tripod that unfortunately was not strong enough for my D300 + 17-55, but it mostly worked with the D300 and the lighter 18-200. The travel tripod only went as high as 43" and the ball head on it didn't like to stay locked. The 18-200 likes to go crazy with the barrel distortion at the wide end. The lighting in this place made some shots very difficult to take and trying to add a flash for filling in otherwise dark places in my photos didn't totally come out. These aren't my best shots, but still overall this is an extremely cool place that I enjoyed getting to shoot and I'm glad I got to see it since most likely I won't ever be back there. Oh how I wish I had brought my regular tripod, but I was here now with this wimpy underpowered tripod and I was just going to have to make do.

I almost didn't get to see this place, for 2 days in a row I kept stopping by the main gate but the guard wasn't there. My friend had bribed him before and he got in but he was only allowed into a few places before the guy told him to leave. My trip was about to end and I still had not been inside this place. Climbing over the walls surrounding this place weren't an option since the streets are packed and busy with people hanging out at coffee shops set out into the street and mechanics taking apart cars in the middle of the streets as well. With a ton of cops in the area due to political protests the risk just wasn't worth it. There were however a few chained gates that had enough slack in them that sliding between the gate was a possibility (THINK THIN!) If only these streets weren't packed with people. One of the streets is more residential then the rest and I caught a break, it was nearly deserted. I quickly squeezed past the gate and I was in. I set up and started taking photos, during that time the guard finally showed up, unlocked the main gate, and took a seat in the middle of the courtyard in front of this place. Crap. I kept on going upstairs taking my photos and went about my business until I heard the guard walking up the steps. Crap. He quickly went back downstairs and I continued on my way taking photos. When I was finished I was close by the main gate which was still open and there was no sign of the guard. I bolted for the gate but as I got close to it he came out of a small building next to the gate and began to shout at me. I tossed him a few Egyptian pounds and he shut up and let me leave.

Just another day in Egypt...


First take

From an empty apartment across the street


Ghetto chalkboard

I loved this room

The Joker

Flag day



More outside awesomeness

Back of the house

Steps and a door

Yes, it's a lonely chair


Sketchy ladder

Getting a head of myself


Sweet architecture

More sweetness

Another classroom

Going down?

Even under the steps they were well decorated

Ornate doesn't even begin to describe

X marks the steps


Alice Hellfire

28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Holy find, what a beautiful place. The X stairs are so unique and damn i wish i had them in my house... if only