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Banque Misr building in Downtown Cairo to be restored

Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities to start the restoration of Banque Misr's historic building on Mohamed Farid Street, Downtown Cairo

Nevine El-Aref , Saturday 24 May 2014
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After the completion of archaeological and architectural studies, the Ministry of Antiquities is to start the restoration of the Banque Misr building on Mohamed Farid Street in Downtown Cairo.

The building is on Egypt’s antiquities list for Islamic and Coptic heritage, according to Law 1776 of the year 1992.

The building has important historic value with Banque Misr considered a milestone in Egypt’s economic development.

Ahmed El-Sheikha, head of the Projects Section at the Ministry of Antiquities told Ahram Online that the studies include full detailed documentation of the architectural condition of the building and its four facades. Decorative elements were also documented by photograph.

As for the restoration work, it will include a cleaning schedule covering the whole building.

“Its location in a heavily crowded area had a negative impact on the building and its decorative elements,” El-Sheikha told Ahram Online, adding that most of the original polishing of the windows, for example, is gone and its copper decorative elements were subject to erosion.

Restoration work is to start early June and will last for six months.

Banque Misr was established in May 1920 by the prominent Egyptian enterpreneur Mohamed Talaat Pasha Harb in order to investing national savings and direct them towards economic and social development.

Harb published books in 1907 and 1911 calling for the foundation of a national bank with Egyptian financers. At that time all banks in Egypt were owned by foreigners.

Harb modeled Banque Misr’s operations on those of Deutsche Orientbank with which he was familiar due to his friendship with the owner of a Sephardi Jewish bank, Banque Suarès. Harb established Banque Misr and its companies on the basis of certain concepts: all its dealings were in Arabic, Egyptians operated the bank, and the bank restricted share ownership to Egyptian citizens.

Banque Misr’s board of directors included a number of Sephardic Jews and a Coptic Christian.

During the period from 1920 to 1960, Banque Misr established 26 companies in various economic fields, including spinning and weaving, insurance, transport, aviation and cinema. It has continued to support all its activities at a steady level.

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