one of their informal turn of the century meetings at the Café
New Bar, Cairo's merchants and brokers were reminded once more by
their leader, Monsieur Moise Cattaui, that the time had come for
Cairo to follow Alexandria's example and have its own Bourse. With
the number of limited liability companies reaching 79 at an aggregate
capital of 29 million pounds, the city's taipans could no longer
conduct pork barrel politics on Cairo's sidewalks or inside coffee
shops and hotels.
And so it was when on Thursday, 21 May 1903, an ad hoc site committee
presided by Maurice Cattaui Bey, chose the old premises of the Ottoman
Bank (today Groppi-Adly Branch) on Maghraby Street as the elected
but temporary official headquarters of the newly incorporated Bourse
and Banking Company of Egypt Limited . a.k.a. Bourse Khediviale
With ambitious plans in mind, the new company leased the premises
for a non-renewable period of six years at an annual rent of 400
pounds. In the meantime, an international competition was initiated
for the design of a dedicated bourse to be situated at the centre
of Cairo's European district of Ismailia, not far from the National
Bank of Egypt (today Central Bank).
In April 1907, the prize for best design went to the French award-winning
architect Raoul Brandon (designer of the Cairo Orosdi-Back department
store). The timing couldn't have been better, or so everyone thought.
Emboldened by success and drunk on growth, the promoters of the
Cairo bourse were in an excessive mood. It was public knowledge
that when lumped together, the Cairo and bourse were in an excessive
mood. It was public knowledge that when lumped together, the Cairo
and Alexandria Bourses rated among the world's top five Stock Exchanges.
Egypt's economy was at an all-time high and the number of companies
traded in the Cairo Bourse alone had reached 228 with a combined
capital of 91 million pounds.
Seventy-three brokers and intermediaries were on hand to take care
of the spiralling share trading. The modest premises on Maghraby
Street had most certainly outlived its usefulness.
But like the swing of a pendulum, the high state of euphoria disappeared
overnight. Prudence having given way to high-risk speculation, what
had started out with a real estate boom in Egypt, ended in what
became known in the annals of speculative history as the Crash of
Some historians concede that the money panic of 1907 started in
Alexandria, Egypt, with the failure in July of a large bank - Cassa
di Sconto. Japan was hit next, then Germany, then Chile. By October,
the fallout reached Europe and the United States. In Egypt, the
overextended banks folded up one after the other. As share prices
plummeted, soon enough, a by now jobless broker, Mr. Alfred Nahman,
was appointed chief liquidator of the Bourse and Banking Company
of Egypt Limited.
Eighteen months after Brandon's publicized award to build the Bourse
that never was, the Corporation of Agents de Change commissioned
the Cairo firm of Edward Matasek and Maurice J. Cattaui with the
participation of Ernest Jaspar, to design and erect an Exchange
Adorned with Matasek's trademark accoutrements of Hermes masonic
busts and ornate stucco, the resultant edifice was the most handsome
building on the block. At long last Cairo had a real trading floor,
surrounded by a high gallery from where share trading could be observed
by the concerned public. The building, which stands opposite the
French consulate, was occupied in turn by Lloyds Bank, the British
Chamber of Commerce, the National Bank of Egypt and now by the Watany
Trading had hardly started on April 30th, 1909 at Sharia al-Borsa
al-Gedida or New Bourse Street when it was announced that Egypt's
leading laissez-faire banker-industrialist, Raphael Suares, had
died. The bourse closed for the rest of the day. It was largely
thanks to his efforts that Cairo had had a bourse in the first place.
In view of his untimely death, Suares missed the imposition of the
first ever bourse regulations by a few months.