The Italian Consulate in Cairo: The building that no one noticed

People pass by the building without giving it much attention. It looks closed most of the time, which makes it difficult for residents and passersby in Galaa and 26 July streets to find out more about the European-style building. Only a few people actually know that it’s the Italian Consulate in Cairo.

Nabil Morkos, the head of the Italian International School, explains that the building houses the Italian Consulate, the Italian Club, the military attaché and the school he runs.

He says that the consulate sustained the most damage during the bombing, and its services have been temporarily suspended until it can be relocated. The school sustained minor damage to its glass exterior. Morkos hopes that the renovations will be over in time for the start of the academic year next September.

The school enrols Egyptian students as well as members of the Italian community in Cairo. The building, which looks like it belongs to another era, also houses a center that teaches Italian.

Near one of the gates is a sign that says “Dante Alighieri,” the Italian poet born in 1265 in Florence, and author of Divine Comedy. An institute carrying his name was established in Rome in 1889, before expanding with branches in several countries to teach Italian.

The institute was introduced in Egypt in 1896 in Cairo and Alexandria. Following World War I, the institute’s headquarters in Cairo actively taught Italian arts and literature. Later, the institute became popular among Egyptians and received hundreds of citizens in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez. In the 1930s, another branch opened with the name “Leonardo Da Vinci,” offering drawing and sculpting classes in the evening. During the 1950s, the institute was famous for diverse cultural activities, including Italian film screenings, concerts, lectures and archeological visits. In 1965, the institute published an Arabic translation for the complete works of Dante, commemorating the passing of seven centuries since his birth.

Despite the historical value of the institute, it’s not listed as a national antiquity. Mostafa Amin, the secretary general of the Supreme Board of Antiquities told privately owned Youm7 newspaper that “the Italian Consulate in not an antiquity and is not affiliated to the ministry. It doesn’t have any significant historical or architectural value.”

The St. Andrews Refugee Services, which is across the street from the consulate, has also been damaged by the blast, resulting in a two-day closure. The organization, which has been operating in Egypt since 1979, offers educational services and legal aid to refugees.

Amany Ali Shawky 
Mostafa Mohie 

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