was in 1928, a year before the Wall Street crash, that the Cairo
Bourse moved into its present premises on Cherifein Street. The
art nouveau building with its multiple neo-Doric colonnades was
designed by French architect George Parcq who was responsible for
much of Cairo's elegant interwar buildings including Sednaoui's
department store on Midan Khazindar.
Serendipity or not, the site on which Sednaoui was built had once
been the first meeting place for Cairo's speculative traders prior
to the formation of Cairo's first bourse.
Since he had already died in 1924 Monsieur Moise Cattaui, the original
promoter of the Cairo Bourse, had no way of knowing that four years
after his departure the bourse would relocate on part of what had
once been his Cairo palace. In its heyday, Palais Cattaui extended
from the National Bank of Egypt all the way to Midan Soliman Pasha
(now Talaat Harb). As though a reminder for his capital efforts,
the Cairo Bourse is to this day flanked by two side streets, one
of them named after Moussa Cattaui Pasha.
Before it folded up in July 1961 following the state-sanctioned
demise of Egypt's private sector, the Cairo & Alexandria Bourses
(they had already merged) was listed fourth in the world. Almost
thirty-six years later, in a new era of economic re-structuring,
it is now up to the Tigers on the Nile to restore the Cairo Bourse
to its former ranking.
The Bourse founding members in 1903 were Maurice Cattaui Bey president,
Arbib, Cookson, Gennaropoulo, Oziol, McGillivray,Adolphe Cattaui
(rep. Courtier en Marchandises) and A.K. Reid (rep Courtier en Valeurs)
plus representative each from Credit Lyonnais, Bank of Egypt, Imperial
Ottoman Bank, Anglo-Egyptian Bank and the National Bank of Egypt.
Alexandria's Futures Market is one of the oldest in the world. The
first local recorded cotton transaction took place in 1865 in Alexandria's
Café de l'Europe on Place des Consuls which was later renamed
Mohammed Ali Square. It was there that cotton merchants met and
cut deals based on supply and demand for the long staple Karnak
and Menouf or the short to medium staple Ashmouni, Giza and Zagora.
Over the years, deals extended to cotton seed varieties such as
Hull, Afifi and Sakellaridis.
The first cotton dealmakers eagerly awaited the weekly arrival of
the news-sheets from Europe to guide future operations. Reputation
counted for everything. Cotton growers who delivered on time were
courted by exporters and received large orders the following season.
Timing and reliability was of the essence if profits were to be
From Café de l'Europe cotton dealmakers moved to a nearby
building and as business grew, the Association Cottoniere d'Alexandrie
(later the Alexandria General Produce Association or AGPA) was created
for the purpose of trading in cotton, cotton seeds and cereals,
in the spot and future markets.
In 1899, during the reign of Khedive Abbas Hilmi II, AGPA moved
to an imposing new building henceforth called The Bourse, on Mohammed
Ali Square. The Alexandria Bourse became a city landmark featuring
in postcards, books and city guides. In more ways than one, the
bourse became the focal point of the city's financial community.
The Association's old premises meanwhile, was transformed into a
bank, and later on into the Top Hat night club.
Cotton forward contracts were legalized in 1909 to coincide with
Egypt's recovery from a massive economic slump brought on by the
financial crash of 1907 when banking and real estate institutions
collapsed due to excessive speculation. So far, government intervention
had been practically absent. On the other hand, the spot market
of Minet al-Bassal was left alone until 1931.
the 35 registered cotton brokers in 1950, only two were Egyptians.
Likewise, the directors of the Alexandria bourse were an uneven
mixture of Egyptians, Levantine and Jews. It's veteran president
was a Syrian, Jules Klat Bey. Despite its ethnic mixture AGPA had
come a long way from when Britons controlled it through two of Alexandria's
largest cotton exporters, the Carver and the Moss families. And
when a Carver scion married the Moss heiress, they held an even
stronger grip on this lucrative export market.
cotton ginning mills were controlled in great part by foreigners.
Foremost among them last century were Selig Kusel from Manchester,
the Plantas from Liverpool, the Lindemann's from Prague and Dresden,
and the Choremi-Benachi-Savagos representing the Greek Connection.