Our visit to Talaat Harb square on Saturday was our second visit during this stay. We had been pleasantly surprised with a major renovation effort taking place and wanted to return and check on progress.
Talaat Harb is probably Cairo's second most famous public space after Tahrir Square. Tahrir has undergone a remarkable facelift over the past year. I will return to that subject in a later post. But Talaat Harb is being restored to something approaching the grandeur of its "heyday" in the middle of the past century. The restoration is all but complete on a few corners, still in progress on others.
Work on the interior of Groppi's famous pastry and chocolate shop is underway, and the famous nearby Cafe Riche appears to be getting a facelift as well. Cafe Riche opened in the early 1900's and became an intellectual hub where writers like Naguib Mahfouz could be found.
Wouldn't it be nice to see some pictures from "back in the day" and compare one to the present? Fortunately, Cafe Riche has some old, faded black and white pictures posted in a window. A couple are looking at them at the right edge of the picture above.
With just a bit of Photoshop magic, and some editing, I think we can pull out a decent image for comparison with the present:
A look at this picture from several years ago will show the need for a good cleaning and restoration.
If you have a very sharp eye, you will notice that something looks different about that statue in the center in comparison to the old snapshot shown above. You are correct. This was once Soliman Pasha's spot. Talaat Harb was an Egyptian economist whose fame was available at a convenient time landing him a spot in the center of this street of banks and other modernizations from the World War II era. More on that story can be found here. The statue, of course, has considerable symbolism and was cast by our favorite coffee mug-maker, Fathi Mahmoud.