Zamalek (Arabic: الزمالك pronounced , al zamalek) is a qism (ward) within the West District (hayy gharb) in the Western Area of Cairo,Egypt. It is an affluent man-made island which geologically is part of the west bank of the Nile River. With the bahr al-a’ma (Blind Canal) cut during the second half of the 19th Century to separate it from the west bank proper. The northern third became a residential area, which was home to 14,946 people during the 2017 census. The sourthen two thirds are mostly sports grounds and public gardens, a stark green reserve in the middle of Cairo.
The island is connected with the river banks by four bridges. The Qasr El Nile Bridge, Galaa Bridge, 15 May Bridge and 6th October Bridge.
The island is divided into a northern third that is fully urbanised, and generally referred to as Zamalek, same as the official qism name covering the entire island from 1983. And the southern, green two thirds that have sports grounds, parks and a cultural district, and is still colloquially referred to as Gezira (lit. island in Arabic), the original name of the island as is reflected in the names of many institutions there, for example the Gezira Sporting Club, Sofitel Cairo Nile El-Gezira Hotel, and the Gezira Police Station.
Zamalek (Northern part)
The Zamalek portion of the island is a mixed residential and administrative neighbourhood. That is almost a diplomatic quarter with at least 52 embassies and consulates. In addition to a number of ambassadors’ residences taking up what is left of its early 20th Century villas and mansions, many of them of the Art Deco style. Along with Maadi, Mohandessin, Heliopolis, and Garden City, it is one of the more affluent residential districts in Greater Cairo, a fact reflected by clocking the highest average real estate prices in the city.
Paradoxically, many apartment buildings suffer sporadic maintenance because the landlords rarely make improvements. The rent Control law (Old Rent) that allows several Zamalek complexes to house low income. And middle income Egyptians despite the expensive real estate.
The northern third of the island is also culturally active: with art galleries, book stores and museums. Including the Museum of Islamic Ceramics, the Aisha Fahmy Palace/ Zamalek Arts Center, and El Sawy Culture Wheel. Cairo’s main Fine Arts faculty is in Zamalek, as well as the Conervatoire music college. Zamalek’s first major building, the 1869 Gezira palace, still survives though as part of a hotel. And its former grotto is now the fish-free Aquarium Grotto Garden.