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Photo of Shira

 

 

PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Casino El-Bosphore: The Search for a Murder Scene

 

By Priscilla Adum

 

 

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About the Crime

On May 22, 1936, a dancer named Imtithal Fawzy was murdered at the rooftop nightclub she co-owned with her business partner Mary Mansour. Their business resided on the roof of the Bosphore Casino.

The motive for the murder was that Imtithal had not paid protection money to the local mobsters who preyed on the nightclubs in the entertainment district of Cairo.

For more information about this tragic crime, see "Imtithal Fawzy: The Murder of a Beautiful Dancer" and "Imtithal Fawzy: Extortion During the Golden Era", both elsewhere on this web site.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: This photo shows Imtithal Fawzy.

Imtithal Fawzy

 

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Where Was Casino el-Bosphore?

Imtithal and Mary's club was located on the roof of Casino el-Bosphore, which was one of the most popular nightclubs in Cairo during the heyday of the Salas. If el-Bosphore's location can be found, then by extension the location for Imtithal and Mary's rooftop club will be the same.

As far back as 1920, ads for El Bosphore have identified its location as being at Midan El Mahata (Station Square), in reference to Cairo's main train station which faces the square even to this day. Later ads have referred to the same square by other names.

For example, this ad, from May, 1920 promotes a show by Na3ma El Masreya at El Bosphore Casino, at Station Square. Click here for a translation of this ad.

El Bosphore Ad

In this 1924 advertisement from Al Ahram newspaper, Bosphore Casino was identified as being in Midan Bab al-Hadid in Cairo which means "Iron Door Square". This name refers to an iron door that once lay on the path from the square to the train station.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: The entertainers pictured on this advertisement for El-Bosphore include Fawzia Ahmed, Samira Abdo, Zeinab Abdo, Mimi Angelo, and Fathya Ahmed. Fathya Ahmed, affectionately known as Toha, was a highly successful singer in the early 20th century, and she was the niece of Bamba Kashar. None of the people pictured on this ad is a dancer.

Casino el-Bosphore

 

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Where Was Midan Bab al-Hadid?

Interestingly, the place that used to be known as Bab al-Hadid Square has changed names several times over the years.

Midan Nahdet

In 1928, Egypt unveiled a statue of a woman with her hand resting on the head of a sphinx in the square. The statue was called "Nahdet Masr" ("Awakening of Egypt"), causing the area to became known as Midan Nahdet (Nahdet Square) in reference to the statue. Casino El Bosphore club was located in front of this statue, facing toward it.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: The Nahdet Masr statue stands in its current location as of 2018, near Cairo University and the Giza Zoo. Click here to see an entry in my travel blog that provides more information about the statue.

Nahdet Misr

Although the statue was unveiled in 1928, it became a landmark associated with Station Square before that, because constructed occurred right at its future site at Midan el-Mahata and neared completion in 1926.

This 1926 advertisement promotes a show at El Bosphore's rooftop club, and describes its location as being "In Midan El Mahata in Front of The Nahdet Masr Statue". Click here for a full translation of this advertisement.

Victoria Mousa Ad

A 1930 advertisement says that the Casino el-Bosphore was "under the management of the Qudsi brothers and Miss Mary Mansour."

The Qudsi brothers comissioned a new building, which was designed in 1932 by Architect Hassan Fathy, who is considered the greatest Egyptian architect since Imhotep. It is unclear whether the new building was actually constructed.

According to the book An Architecture for People: The Complete Works of Hassan Fathy by James Steele:

"Intended to be located on the corner of the old Queen Nazli Boulevard at Bab al-Hadid, in Cairo, the Bosphore Casino is another of the architect's incongruously Modernist early works. Designed for the Qudsi brothers, the art deco-style structure, however, shows confident handling of a difficult curved corner site, and authoritative use of massing."

Bosphore Plans

This offers another clue. It shows that the new building was planned for a corner lot, and may help pinpoint which part of Midan el-Mahata the club was located on at the time Imtithal was murdered.

Mary Mansour was the co-owner (with Imtithal) of the rooftop club. All of this indicates that the club in 1924 was the same club as the one in 1932, under the same ownership, in the same location in front of the statue in Midan el Mahata. If a new building was actually constructed, it would have been located either on the same lot or very near to it. 

This map shows modern-day Midan el Mahata, which today is known as Ramses Square. The red map pin shows the location of the site for which Hassan Fathy developed his design for the Qudsi Brothers.

The ArchNet web site contains more information about Hassan Fathy's designs for this building.

Map of Midan el Mahata Vicinity

Midan Ramses

In 1955 the Nahdet Masr statue was removed and a different statue was erected in the same spot. This "new" statue wasn't really new, it was in fact an ancient statue of the Pharaoh Ramses II. Thus, the area became known as Midan Ramses, or Ramses Square. In 2006 the statue of Ramses II was removed because smog and pollution were causing it to deteriorate. However, the area is still called Ramses Square today.

The image to the right shows a satellite view of Ramses Square, with a red map pin indicating the site Hassan Fathy intended for the new Casino el-Bosphore.

Satellite View of Ramses Square

Summarized Timetable

This timetable summarizes milestones in El-Bosphore's neighborhood over the years:

  • May 1920: an advertisement for a concert by Na3ma El Masreya said El Bosphore Casino was located at Station Square.
  • March 1924: an advertisement for an Um Kulthoum concert said Casino el Bosphore was located in Midan el Mahata (Station Square).
  • October 31, 1926: an advertisement for Victoria Mousa's show on the rooftop club of El Bosphore mentions the location as Midan el Mahata (Station Square), in front of the Nahdet Masr statue.
  • May 20, 1928: Nahdet Masr statue unveiled, and people begin referring to the square as Midan Nahdet (Nahdet Square).
  • 1930: an advertisement says Casino El Bosphore was located in Midan El Mahata in front of the Nahdet Masr statue.
  • 1932: architectural plans were drawn for a possible new building for el-Bosphore, but it is unclear whether construction proceeded.
  • 1936: Imtithal was murdered on the roof of El Bosphore.
  • 1955: The Nahdet Masr statue was moved to a different location, one in Giza near Cairo University. In the site where it once stood in Midan el Mahata, an ancient statue of Ramses II was erected to take its place. The square became known as Midan Ramses (Ramses Square).
  • 2006: The statue of Ramses II was removed. However, the square retained the name Midan Ramses, and continues to be called that today.
Ramses Square

 

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Related Articles

 

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About the Translator

Priscilla is a dancer of Lebanese heritage who enjoys researching the Golden Era of Egyptian dance. She owns a collection of more than one hundred classic black and white Egyptian films which is continually expanding.

Priscilla has also gathered a large library of dance related articles and clippings from Middle Eastern magazines and newspapers, many of which she has translated from the original Arabic to both English and Spanish.

Priscilla currently resides in Central America where she is a dance instructor. 

Priscilla

 

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