Located in the Nile River Valley and Delta in Northeast Africa, the country of Egypt has a long history. It is also possible to follow this historical process from its architecture in the region, which was also home to the Mesopotamian states. From Ancient Egypt (3200-323 BCE) they had a major influence on modern architecture development. Wide range of mixing used materials and solid structures, the scales of the produced structures, and construction techniques created inspirational points for developing architecture. It is possible to see the design approaches and the decisions brought by the cultural background in the use of the local and location-specific in modern Egyptian architecture. This article aims to review Egypt’s long historical background through architectural productions and to think about its changing and developing approaches through examples.

Ancient Egypt

Much of the world knows Egyptian architecture from ancient productions. The temples and tombs, the Great Sphinx, and the iconic Giza pyramid complex are the most notable examples which also give clues about that time’s production and design culture. The two main materials used in ancient times were unbaked mud-brick and stone. The use of these solid materials and the creation of strong structures with them have enabled old productions to reach the present day. 

Tombs, palaces, pyramids, and temples are made from stone, the most durable material; they have lasted more than de housings. Ancient Egypt housings also had a detailed architectural approach in that their bottoms were mostly thicker than the upper to make them more robust in case of a flood or earthquake. 

While focusing on issues such as the equal distribution of weight for their monumental productions, structures consisting of posts and lintels that do not seem too complex are formed, and ornamentations and sculptures also occupy a very large place in ancient Egypt.  

Massive walls of monumental structures were covered with paintings, hieroglyphics, and sculptures. The main inspiration for this ornamentation and paintings on tombs, mastabas, obelisks, and temples was religious beliefs.

An architectural review of a location: Egypt - Sheet1
The Great Sphinx and pyramids_©pius99
An architectural review of a location: Egypt - Sheet
Agriculture scenes wall art from the tomb of Nakht_©Metropolitan Museum of Art
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Statues on Karnak temple_©bearfotos
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Temple of Horus_©wallpaperflare.com


In the year 332 BCE, Alexander the Great, the ruler of the Ancient Greek Kingdom of Macedon, conquered Egypt. After founding a new capital city, Alexandria became the most important port and trade centre between the Aegean and Mediterranean regions. The city also became a centre for Greek culture. These historic changes created an intercultural environment where influences happened on different topics such as traditions, religious, and architectural points. 

In the year 30 BCE, the civil war and the death of Ptolemaic Egypt’s last ruler led to the annexation of Egypt by the Roman Empire. During the period, Aegyptus became one of the wealthiest cities of the Roman Empire. Through the following period, several religious-based wars occurred. By the year 200, Alexandria became an important city for Christianity, and the Ancient Egyptian religion had been lost. In the year 380 CE Christianity was the state religion. Architectural production under the influences of religion continued during this period too. 

An architectural review of a location: Egypt - Sheet5
St. Mark Cathedral Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, Cairo_©Roland Unger
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The Hanging Church, Cairo_©Berthold Werner
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Saint George Greek Orthodox Church, Cairo_©Ahmed Younis Sif Saad
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Saint Anthony Coptic Orthodox Monastery, Red Sea Mountains_©LorisRomito

Islamic Influences

Egypt became part of the Byzantine Empire after the fall of the Roman Empire. Until the conquest by the Muslim Arabs in 641 CE. Between 641 CE and 1517, Cairo was built and became the capital city under the governance of Arab Caliphates. In 1517 the Mamluk Caliphate of Egypt was conquered by the Ottoman Turks. This long period with the intersection of Muslims affected the spread of Islam throughout Egypt. Egypt became an intercultural state, and architectural productions changed accordingly. Mosques, shrines, mausoleums, and such places started to build up during this period. 

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Amr ibn al-As Mosque_©Buyoof
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Amr ibn al-As Mosque_©Mohammed Moussa
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Al Azhar Mosque_©R Prazeres
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Al-Hakim Mosque_©Wael Mostafa

The technical similarities of architectural productions of Egyptian culture can be seen through the mentioned historical process and given examples. During these periods and after the materials used, cultural effects and characteristics of the structures have an influence on both other cultures’ architectural productions and themselves to develop. It is possible to see this influence under the modern architecture title all around the world too. Being site-specific and conscious about using local materials with local methods can be counted as one of the key points of Egyptian architecture. This approach continued during modernisation time in their history. Besides these religious examples given, which are thought to be able to show the importance of beliefs in Egyptian culture, in modern Egypt, many productions have been made while continuing these cultural production techniques.

Modern Egypt

In 1805 Egypt started to pave the way for becoming independent. However, during World War II Egypt was occupied by the British and became a base for the war. But the war and continuous wars affected the fire of independence for the Egyptians. In 1952 revolution started, and the Republic of Egypt was established. Since then Egypt has been an independent country with a rich cultural background. 

The transcontinental country has influenced and got influenced by this diverse background. Today the modern architecture of Egypt contains this multicultural background. The reinterpretation of Egypt’s history and traditions in line with architecture can be seen through contemporary productions.

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Basuna Mosque by Dar Arafa Architecture_©Essam Arafa
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Basuna Mosque by Dar Arafa Architecture_©Essam Arafa
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Bibliotheca Alexandrina by Snøhetta_©Gerald Zugmann
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Cheops Observatory Residence by Studio Malka Architecture_©Rayem
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Sheraton Miramar Hotel & Resort by Michael Graves_©Winfried Scheuer
An architectural review of a location: Egypt - Sheet18
Sheraton Miramar Hotel & Resort by Michael Graves_©Winfried Scheuer


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A graduate student who sees architecture as a way to think critically. Using her architectural background, she aims to draw attention to the ways of existing with the earth, not against earth with her writings. She believes that critical thinking will open different doors to both people and the world.