Stunning color photos of Egypt from the 1920s

egypt color photos 1920s

Boy reels silk in a desert near Cairo.

This collection of autochromes taken in the 1920s by Gervais Courtellemont and W. Robert Moore for National Geographic reveals the everyday life of Egyptian women, men, merchants, and children. They show familiar Cairo city locations and famous sites such as the pyramids.

In the 19th century, there was the rapid growth of communities of unassimilated foreigners, mainly European, living in Egypt; these acquired a dominating influence over finance, industry, and government.

In the 1920s, which was a peak period, the number of foreigners in Egypt exceeded 200,000, the largest community being the Greeks, followed by the Italians, British, and French.

The arrival of the Europeans in Egypt remade Cairo. The modern quarters of the city were taken over by European arrivals who built European shops and built exclusive clubs.

The new quarters of the city grew into vast blocks of apartment buildings. Two new sections were added to Cairo: Maadi, to the south, was built as an exclusive European enclave shortly after the turn of the century, and Heliopolis, to the northeast, was built in the 1910s.

These areas were built with the latest in modern conveniences: running water, electricity, and a tramway that connected Heliopolis to central Cairo. By contrast, the older sections of the city were not modernized.

egypt color photos 1920s

Man and two women stand at his homegrown fruit booth in Cairo.

According to most scholars the history of modern Egypt dates from the start of Muhammad Ali’s rule in 1805 and his launching of Egypt’s modernization project that involved building a new army and suggesting a new map for the country, though the definition of Egypt’s modern history has varied in accordance with different definitions of modernity.

Muhammad Ali’s dynasty became practically independent from Ottoman rule, following his military campaigns against the Empire and his ability to enlist large-scale armies, allowing him to control both Egypt and parts of North Africa and the Middle East.

In 1882, the Khedivate of Egypt became part of the British sphere of influence in the region, a situation that conflicted with its position as an autonomous vassal state of the Ottoman Empire.

The country became a British protectorate in 1915 and achieved full independence in 1922, becoming a kingdom under the rule of Muhammad Ali’s dynasty, which lasted until 1952.

egypt color photos 1920s

Man peers out from a latticework covered balcony.

egypt color photos 1920s

Beautiful building sits untouched in the streets of old Cairo.

egypt color photos 1920s

Boat sitting still in the water at sunrise.

egypt color photos 1920s

Man sitting next to his store for the Egyptian version of a washtub.

egypt color photos 1920s

Man standing outside of his quilt and cushion shop in old Cairo.

egypt color photos 1920s

Painter standing in the doorway of his shop.

egypt color photos 1920s

Peasant singer poses in a seated position.

egypt color photos 1920s

Person leans against a Ficus tree in the garden of Esbekieh.

egypt color photos 1920s

Portrait of a young Nubian girl.

egypt color photos 1920s

Shoe vendor sits next to his store.

egypt color photos 1920s

Souvenir merchant walks carrying beads and necklaces.

egypt color photos 1920s

Street view of a mosque with a wall covered in blue tiles.

egypt color photos 1920s

View of a tower in Cairo.

egypt color photos 1920s

View of fishermen docking on Philae Island.

egypt color photos 1920s

View of the Great Sphinx at sunset.

egypt color photos 1920s

View of the Monastery of Saint Catherine amid granite peaks.

egypt color photos 1920s

View of the Pyramids of Giza.

egypt color photos 1920s

View of the Temple of Edfu at sunset.

egypt color photos 1920s

View of the first Nile cataract at Aswan.

egypt color photos 1920s

View of the pyramids at sunset.

egypt color photos 1920s

View of the ruins of the Hall of the Temple of Ammon.

egypt color photos 1920s

Woman in black attire posing.

egypt color photos 1920s

Woman wearing a Muslim headdress.

egypt color photos 1920s

Woman posing with a basket of mandarins or tangerines.

egypt color photos 1920s

Woman sitting on a rock with jewelry beside her.

egypt color photos 1920s

View of the pyramids with buildings in between.

egypt color photos 1920s

Woman sitting with her fruits for sale.

egypt color photos 1920s

Young boy who journeys on donkeys leans against a stone wall.

egypt color photos 1920s

Young cabaret dancer posing for a photograph in traditional clothing.

egypt color photos 1920s

Egyptian street merchant sells fruits.

egypt color photos 1920s

Egyptian street merchant sells hats.

egypt color photos 1920s

Orange merchant awaits customers.

egypt color photos 1920s

Colossi of Memnon once guarded entrance to Temple of Amenophis.

egypt color photos 1920s

Men sitting at a shop at a bazaar.

egypt color photos 1920s

People standing outside the Temple of Horus.

egypt color photos 1920s

Students sitting in the courtyard of the Mosque of el Azhar.

egypt color photos 1920s

Sugarcane vendors waiting for customers.

egypt color photos 1920s

The image of Rameses II carved into the rock at Abu Simbel.

egypt color photos 1920s

The mosque-like Tomb of Caliphs near Cairo holds Luxor and Arab heroes.

egypt color photos 1920s

Two boys cooking meat at a meat shop in Egypt.

egypt color photos 1920s

Two men making glass.

egypt color photos 1920s

Two men making tents.

egypt color photos 1920s

Two men on camel-back ride past the Sphinx and Great Pyramid.

egypt color photos 1920s

Two men stand in front of souvenir booths in the street of Cairo.

egypt color photos 1920s

Two men work at a tarboosh booth in Cairo.

egypt color photos 1920s

Two sais stand in front of the entrance to the French Legation.

egypt color photos 1920s

Two students of Mecca stand at the Mosque of el Azhar.

egypt color photos 1920s

Winders of silk at the Tombs of the Caliphs.

(Photo credit: Gervais Courtellemont and W. Robert Moore for National Geographic / Wikimedia Commons).