Benzion بنزايون

And the Department Stores in Egypt

Before the notion of shopping malls and megastores, “Department Stores” were first introduced to Egypt by Ali Pasha Mubarak the Egyptian reformist and public works and education minister. In his writings, probably Alam al-din book, he spoke about the Parisian department stores. Au Bon Marché is the most famous example that was  founded in 1838 in Paris. The idea of department stores were exported to the Ottoman Empire, including Egypt in the second half of the 19th century. This business was manly dominated by jewish immigrant capitalists. Orosdi-Back (now Omar Effendi) was the first department store to open in Cairo, Egypt in the 1860s, by the Austrian Sigmund Mayer. The Jewish-owned department stores included names such as Cicurel, Gattegno, Hannaux and Bezion.

Benzion grands magasins was established in Cairo and Alexandria by Levi de Benzion, Moise. It is said that he was born in Alexandria to a French business man and art collector. And also said that he was arrested and executed by the Nazi during the second world war.

In 1948 the Benzion stores in Cairo were attacked probably by supporters of Muslim Brotherhood, and later after the revolution of 1952 most of those foreign-owned stares were nationalized. 

Below are photos of the side entrance to Benzion store In Mancheya, Alexandria.

Photo taken by the author in early 2019, shows the name Benzion written in Arabic calligraphy
Photo taken by the author in August 2020, shows the same entrance but the Arabic calligraphy is already covered by metal work

References:

Marika Dalley Snider, December 2012, ENTROPY AND EXCLUSIVITY: GENDER AND CHANGE IN THE RETAIL ENVIRONMENT, ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT (1970-2011), A dissertation submitted to the faculty of The University of Utah in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Middle East Studies / History Department of Languages and Literature The University of Utah December 2012

Cealex, La Presse Francophone d’Égypte numérisée – PFEnum, Le Mondain Egyptian. Retrieved in 20 August 2020 from http://www.cealex.org/pfe/index.php

URI M. KUPFERSCHMIDT, March 2007, Who Needed Department Stores in Egypt? From Orosdi-Back to Omar Effendi, Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 43, No. 2, 175 – 192, March 2007

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