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Hulwan: Fountains of health

In the second of our winter destination series, we proudly present you Hulwan: Fountains of Health

Ahram Online , Wednesday 31 Dec 2014
Hulwan
Hulwan famous therapeutic water springs
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In the second edition of our winter destination series, we proudly present you, Hulwan. This southern suburb of Cairo is Egypt’s oldest health retreat. Twenty-five km away from the outskirts of Cairo, and very close to Old Maadi, Hulwan was originally a small village by the nile opposite to Memphis (Badrashieen) and a main stop for the alabaster gypsum trade route in ancient Egypt (1600 BC). According to Arab historians Al-Macrisi, Abdel Hakam and Al-Kenedi, the village was named after Hulwan Ibn Babelion (Babylon) in 1358 A.D

During the period of 685-605 AD, ruler Abdel Aziz Ibn Marawan fled to Hulwan for safety when a plague broke out in the country's former Islamic capital of Al-Fustat. Hulwan's natural therapeutic water springs, and location on a hill, high and secluded, preserved it from the plague. Ibn Marawan invested in Hulwan and planted trees and charted streets, seeking to make it Egypt's next capital. Unfortunately however, these intentions died with his passing.

Fountains of Health

Therapeutic water springs in Hulwan
Therapeutic water springs of Hulwan

In the year 1849 Khedive Abbas I allowed medical studies to be conducted by Cairo Medical school to see the therapeutic nature of the springs and its potential health benefits. In 1868, Khedive Ismail began a digging project that would create baths allowing people to benefit from the sulphurous springs. During the project, workers discovered a semicircular basin 26 feet in diameter flagged with limestone and bordered with arabesque.

water springs
Therapeutic water springs of Hulwan

Both the hot and cold springs contained minerals such as potassium chloride that could cure rheumatic pain. Sodium chloride, magnesium sulphate, iron as well as sulphuretted hydrogen were all found in the springs. In 1896 Abbas Helmi II oversaw the establishment of the therapeutic baths as a public site. A railway line from Cairo to the southern suburb was built and eventually Khedieve Tawfik built a hospital there. Over the years though, Hulwan lots its edge due to the lack of maintenance, an ailment that plagues many historical sites in Egypt.

water springs of Hulwan
Therapeutic water springs of Hulwan

However in the mid 1950’s, a national call to revive the springs made headlines and Al-Ahram Newspaper dedicated a full page to promote the springs along with Hulwan’s other touristic sites. Sadly the attempted revival resulted in the spread of factories as part of Egypt’s industrial revolution. The factories ate up much of the natural wonder of Hulwan; the springs continue to exist but are uncared for, awaiting maintenance as they always have.

 
The Japanese Garden
In 1917, Egyptian judge and later ambassador to Iran, Zulficar Pasha decided to create a quite unique garden in Hulwan. The garden was built in Japanese style and equipped with numerous Buddha statues. This is the only Japanese style public garden in Egypt, the gardens are well-maintained and still open to the public.

The Japanese Garden
The Japanese Garden

The japanese Garden
The Japanese Garden

the japanese garden
The Japanese Garden


The Wax museum
In 1934, Egypt's talented artist George Abdel Malek created the country's first wax museum in Hulwan. In 116 statues and 26 scenes, the museum documented the history of Egypt from the time of the pharaohs to the 1952 revolution with wax sculptures depicting historical icons and scenes documenting Egyptian lifestyle. After being moved to three destinations (Tahrir square, Oasis area) the museum has returned to Hulwan near the water springs and is open to the public.

The Wax museum
The Wax museum

The Wax museum
Statue of Cleopatra carelessly piled up among other wax statues during the several relocation attempts of the wax museum before it finally settles down once again in Hulwan

The wax museum
The Wax museum

 

Compiled by Amira El-Noshokaty
Data sources: Courtesy of Al-Ahram Organisation and Information Technology Centre (Microfilm)
Egypt Online Information Center,
Masr Al-Mahrousa magazine 12th issue, 2001 ,

Twentirth century impressions of Egypt by Arnold wright, HAcartwright (1909)


All Photos courtesy of Al-Ahram digital archive

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