Alexandria's Villa Cicurel, threatened again, and again

Ameera Fouad, Tuesday 3 Nov 2015

The historic landmark continues to face threats of demolition

Cicurel Villa
View of Cicurel Villa in Alexandria (Photo: Mohamed Adel Dessouky)

“At seven o’clock in the morning, I was suddenly awakened by vociferous crashing sounds echoing through our building. The sounds became louder and louder until a bulldozer came into sight and the villa began being smashed.”

“From my balcony, I saw the bulldozer and they kept knocking the villa for around five hours,” explained Amal El Attar, one of Cicurel Villa’s neighbours. “Yes, these ‘villa destroyers’ always target their victims, which happen to be old historic villas, during any holiday where they are pretty sure that officials and the authorities are not strongly present. That’s exactly how the destruction started last Friday,” she added.

In reaction to the destruction, many fellow Alexandrians collaborated together to document the crime, in an attempt to preserve the villa from such remorseless tearing down. They had no license and there were no officials on the scene. Some neighbours started capturing photos, others recorded live video of the haphazard illegal destruction of one of the city’s most remarkable villas. Many others decided to stand against these gangs by calling any kind of city municipals, the police or even the city’s emergency, trying to get any help from anyone.

On Saturday, in response to the Alexandrians’ subsequent cries to save the villa, the police were interrogating the contractor that destroyed the pillars of the villa. This step comes after Gen. Saeed Fawal, Head of Sharq District, said in a press statement that the accused person violated the rules and that there was no demolishing decree issued.

It is quite necessary to note here that in 2012 there were several other attempts made by illegal contractors to demolish the villa. However, each attempt was doomed to failure as a result of people’s support for keeping the villa standing.

Nevertheless, Alexandria remains threatened by immoral contractors trying to disfigure all the city’s heritage and identity.

To many Alexandrians, the scenario of historical villas being destroyed in all quarters has been repeated several times. Though the same scenario continues, and on each occasion a villa gets destroyed, the officials seem to be paying no heed.

However, the damage done was reprehensible and very severe.

Though Villa Cicurel is not the first to be demolished by the city’s demolition contractors, its effect upon Alexandrians is quite shocking. The historical background of the villa and the  name Cicurel itself, reminds all Egyptians of a beautiful era of a cosmopolitan city where Turks, Armenians, Greeks, Jews and Italians shaped the character of Alexandria creating a multiethnic city. A lost Villa Cicurel means another major loss for Alexandria.

Villa Cicurel belongs to David Cicurel, one of the three sons of the famous Moreno Cicurel who immigrated from Symrna (Izmir, Turkey) in 1870. Moreno Cicurel, along with his three sons, created an empire with a number of grand stores of textiles.

They built their first textile store in Cairo’s El Mousky district. Later on, they opened a department store Au Petit Bazaar, which eventually became Les Grand Magasins Cicurel.

Les Grand Magasins was Egypt’s grandest emporium, the local equivalent to Galeries Lafayette in Paris.

The villa dates back to 1930 and was built within the era of art deco artistic style and has been a pillar of a spectacular architecture to all of the city’s residents.

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