Project to restore Egypt’s Groppi cafes to their former glory

The famous Groppi cafe is located in downtown Cairo. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 29 May 2019

Project to restore Egypt’s Groppi cafes to their former glory

  • King Farouk, the former king of Egypt, was very impressed with the chocolate made at the cafe

CAIRO: In 1884, Giacomo Groppi (1863-1947) came from Switzerland to Egypt where he would establish a celebrated food business bearing the family name.

In 1890, Groppi arrived in Alexandria, where he built a large number of shops. And at the beginning of the 20th century (1909-1925) he established three cafes in Cairo, which still carry his name.

The most famous cafe is located in Talaat Harb Square, in downtown Cairo. This place was the favorite of the upper class in Egypt, and some considered it the most luxurious cafe in the world.

The legendary “Groppi Talaat Harb” is situated at the heart of the Egyptian capital and was until recently a destination for many visitors before it was closed for maintenance and restoration. 

“We used to come in the 1950s to the Groppi Garden every morning to eat fresh croissants. I still remember the taste today,” Shafiq Nakhla, an architect, said. “Groppi’s products were better than they were in Paris at the time.”

“No one could compete with Groppi. We could see the aristocratic class who seemed to be going to a party descending from a Rolls-Royce or Cadillac wearing the best hats and neckties, and entering Groppi. “The women wore outstanding dresses,” Shafiq said.

“I learned from my father that many of the characters had their own seats, including the journalist and poet Kamel Al-Shennawi, as well as the writer Tawfiq Al-Hakim and the Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz, who read the newspapers there,” said Mustafa, one of the senior waiters.

“I also heard that during World War II the men of the British Eighth Army frequently visited Groppi in Adly Pasha Street, including General Montgomery, who was visiting to enjoy the evenings of jazz in the garden,” Mustafa said. 

FASTFACT

Groppi is famous for introducing a number of desserts, along with natural juices and chocolate varieties. It received fame worldwide as it held concerts and hosted musical groups.

“King Farouk, the former king of Egypt, was very impressed with the chocolate made at Groppi and in World War II he sent 100 kilograms of chocolates to King George and his two daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret,” the waiter said.

Groppi is famous for introducing a number of desserts, along with natural juices and chocolate varieties. It received fame worldwide as it held concerts and hosted musical groups.

In 1981, Chizar and Bianchi, the last of Groppi’s heirs, sold the business to the Arab food company Lokma, which tried to preserve the traditional character of the shops in form and style.

To this day Groppi retains its charm, although its condition has somewhat diminished.

Alchemy Design Studio announced in November 2017 that it was reviving the place. The company added through its official account on Facebook that it sought to add modernity to this icon and stressed that it had a sense of pride and responsibility to implement the project.

The National Committee for the Development and Protection of Cairo’s Heritage also issued its recommendations to accelerate the development of the Cafe Groppi.

It previously announced that the project would take six months to a year and was likely to be available again to the public in the second half of 2018, but so far no official statement has been issued for the opening of the Groppi in Talaat Harb.

The other branch, on Adly Street, is also undergoing development work, especially in the garden, while the cafe is half completed. The third branch, located in Cairo’s Heliopolis area, is the only one that is operating at full capacity.


Trump: Mideast peace plan likely rolled out in days

Updated 3 min ago

Trump: Mideast peace plan likely rolled out in days

JERUSALEM: President Donald Trump said Thursday that he’ll likely release the long-awaited White House Mideast peace plan before his meeting early next week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main political rival Benny Gantz.
“It’s a great plan. It’s a plan that really would work,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One en route to a Republican Party meeting in Florida.
He said he was surprised that both Netanyahu and Gantz were willing to take a break from campaigning for the March 2 elections to join him Tuesday in Washington.
“They both would like to do the deal. They want to see peace,” Trump said. “Look, Israel wants peace, Palestinians want peace. They all want peace. Not everyone wants to say it.”
He said his administration has talked briefly to the Palestinians, who have rejected the administration’s peace plan before it even comes out.
“We’ve spoken to them briefly. But we will speak to them in a period of time,” Trump said. “And they have a lot of incentive to do it. I’m sure they maybe will react negatively at first, but it’s actually very positive to them.”
Vice President Mike Pence announced the invitation for Netanyahu and Gantz to visit during at a meeting with the prime minister in Jerusalem after addressing an international forum Thursday on the Holocaust. He said that at Netanyahu’s request, the invitation was also issued to Gantz, a former army chief.
The plan is expected to strongly favor Israel, and is unlikely to garner any international support if it is seen as undermining the prospect of a two-state solution.
“We have had no better friend than President Trump,” Netanyahu said. “With this invitation, I think that the president is seeking to give Israel the peace and security that it deserves.”
The Palestinians rejected Trump’s peace efforts after he recognized disputed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved the US Embassy there in May 2018. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in the 1967 war and annexed, to be their capital.
“If this deal is announced with these rejected formulas, the leadership will announce a series of measures in which we safeguard our legitimate rights, and we will demand Israel assume its full responsibilities as an occupying power,” said Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
He appeared to be referring to oft-repeated threats to dissolve the Palestinian Authority, which has limited autonomy in parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. That would force Israel to resume responsibility for providing basic services to millions of Palestinians.
“We warn Israel and the US administration from crossing the red lines,” Abu Rdeneh said.
Israel’s Channel 12 TV, citing Israeli officials, said the plan is expected to be extremely favorable toward Israel and offer it control over large parts of the occupied West Bank. The Palestinians seek the entire territory, which was also captured by Israel in 1967, as the heartland of a future independent state. Most of the international community supports the Palestinian position.
Netanyahu has said he plans to annex the Jordan Valley as well as Jewish settlements across the West Bank, which would all but extinguish any possibility of creating a viable Palestinian state.
Netanyahu has tried to make that the cornerstone of his campaign for reelection following unprecedented back-to-back elections last year that left him in a virtual tie with Gantz, with neither able to cobble together a ruling coalition.
The deadlock was deepened by Netanyahu’s indictment last year on serious charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust stemming from three long-running corruption investigations. Netanyahu has asked Israel’s parliament to grant him immunity.
Next week’s meeting could produce an awkward scene. Gantz has made Netanyahu’s indictment the focus of his campaign to oust the prime minister. And his Blue and White party is leading an effort in parliament to block Netanyahu’s immunity request before the election. At the same time, they will be joined by an impeached president who is being tried in the Senate.
The US was believed to be holding back on releasing the peace plan until Israel had a permanent government. Those calculations may have changed as the deadlock in Israeli politics looks to be further prolonged.
Trump may also be looking for a boost from evangelical and pro-Israel supporters as the Senate weighs whether to remove him from office after he was impeached last month, and as he gears up for a reelection battle this year.
Pence was among dozens of world leaders in Jerusalem on Thursday for the World Holocaust Forum. Many of the participants, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron, also paid visits to the Palestinians in the West Bank.
A Palestinian official said Abbas asked the visiting French and Russian presidents to support the Palestinian position when the plan is published.
“He asked them to refuse and act against any Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing closed meetings.
While the plan is expected to be friendly to Israel, it could still face opposition from Netanyahu’s hard-line partners.
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the ultranationalist Yamina party, called Trump a “true friend” of Israel and said the country likely stands before a “historic opportunity.” But he said his party would not allow the transfer of any land to Palestinian control or for a Palestinian state to be established.