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Pictures of Sightings 1

The ‘Pictures of Sightings 1 and 2’ show a variety of the sightings as according to location. ‘Pictures of sighting 1’ shows instances solely in Cairo and surrounding districts, whilst ‘Pictures of Sightings 2’ are outside of Cairo, but still in Egypt. A variety of pictures are shown, of the overall view, rather than a detailed pictures of the paving units. Various types of sighting are shown, of ad hoc appearances, where these appear to have simply been used to fill in a missing arbitrary paving and notable landmarks, such as at the Cairo tower (and everything in-between), and both extant and no longer in existence. These are shown in alphabetical order for the sake of general ordering, although category is at whim in places. Where a sighting is prominent, such as the Cairo tower, this is placed there, rather than its district (Zamalek). Although broadly the pictures essentially do not need comment, on occasions this is added to clarify certain aspects, or to discuss aspects of interest.

The sightings vary in their extent. Some are of just a few of the tiles (Giza zoo), whilst others are as far as the eye can see (Gezira sporting club), and everything in between. The sightings are widespread in Cairo, and include: Al-Galaa club, El-Azhar University grounds, Cairo airport, City of the Dead, Dokki, Gezira Sporting Club, Giza zoo, Heliopolis, Indian Embassy, Maadi, Manial Palace on Roda Island, The American University in Cairo, and Zamalek. Occasionally, pictures are not available for copyright reasons, although I still discuss these (Other reported sightings, such as Cairo airport (no pictures available), of the City of the Dead (for copyright reasons) are not pictured.)

Unfortunately, with the ravages of time, with some sightings in books and articles of twenty, thirty years or more ago, it is unclear if these are still extant. Where I am certain on this or otherwise, I state accordingly, with extant in brackets.

The pictures are derived from a variety of sources: the Bibliotheca Alexandrina website (specifically of the President Gamal Abdel Nasser and President Sadat collection and film footage). and books, articles. Other contributions were obtained from some of my investigators in the field, significantly Helen Donnelly, Gregg De Young, Pam Garnett and Yasmine Dorghamy, and the Rare Books and Special Collections library at the American University in Cairo. A drawback of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina sightings is that the pictures are not in the public domain. Instead, of necessity, I provide links to the pictures.

Quite what all this means in the context of the investigation is unclear! Some areas have significant instances, such as Maadi and Heliopolis, whilst others have none (or at least appear so). Further complications are that Cairo is seemingly in a constant state of building/renovation/development. Being obviously utilitarian, the pavings are obviously deemed expendable, and can disappear in a moment (as has been witnessed). And furthermore, with the passage of time, with the date of instigation beyond all reasonable doubt at least of the 1940s, change is inevitable. All these aspects hinder research. Was there a central contract, which would explain such a preponderance of sighting in one place?

Many aspects below are left open-ended. I would be most pleased to receive details arising from the following.

Al-Galaa club, in Heliopolis, of 1957

A sighting of the utmost significance is at the Al-Galaa club, in Heliopolis, as this is the earliest documented date, of 1957 (from photographic evidence). The occasion was the opening of the club by President Nasser. Therefore, it would seem unlikely to have been in place previously here. Whether this is still extant is uncertain.

Caption: National events and celebrations: Opening the Galaa Club in Heliopolis during the July 23rd Revolution celebrations

Note that the paving is widely seen in Heliopolis, as discussed below.

Cairo Airport, 1969?

Details here are sketchy. This sighting was reported to me by James Dunn, upon my asking for clarifications as to his account of the tiling in the Mathematical Gazette of 1971, upon a 1969 visit. However, there is no documentary evidence of this. Indeed this is now almost certainly no longer extant; the airport has been considerably remodelled since then, with more terminals. Does anyone know of this?

Cairo Tower, Gezira Island, of 1961 (Not Extant)

A sighting at the Cairo tower on Gezira island, in 1961 was a spectacular sight, but is unfortunately no longer extant, it having been replaced by plain paving at an unknown date. Possibly this lasted until 2004-2009 when the Cairo tower was restored. Dating this, being a prominent landmark, can be done with a degree of certainty. The pictures show various dignitaries at the opening, with President Nasser and President Tito at the official opening. The Cairo tower was built between 1954 and 1961 (the latter its opening date), and so obviously it was installed sometime of these dates.


City of the Dead, outside a mosque, of 2002
A sighting in a book, Insight Guides Egypt, 2002, page 171, by APA Publishing, in the City of Dead, featuring a mosque. Details here are sketchy. Does anyone know of this? Whether this is still extant is not known.


Dokki (Extant)
Many instances are to be found in Dokki, of which these feature prominently near the Shooting Club and at El Behoos. Likely, these sightings are fairly modern, Dokki being a relatively recent built-up area.

© Helen Donnelly 

El-Azhar University, 1993

A single sighting, at El-Azhar University, at least of 1993, from a photo in a book. This is just a small patch, and so it is not possible to judge the extent. Is it still there?

Garden City, Aisha el Taymouriyya Street

 A most interesting, and indeed unique sighting, is at the home of Michel Hébert, on his driveway on Aisha el Taymouriyya Street, Garden City. Here, what Frank Morgan calls the ’soap froth pattern’, can be seen to be notably different from the other single pentagons. By its very nature, this would suggest an ‘early’ instance (how early remains speculation), as it hardly seems likely that it would be introduced after, or amid of the main production of the prevailing type (which is itself largely unclear). Speculating, could it have been a prototype of sorts, predating the other pattern? However, it can hardly have been a one-off. Likely, it must have been commercially produced, and so exists elsewhere, but if so I had simply not noticed it in my other sightings, being convinced (reasonably) that there was only one of the soap froth pattern. Upon investigation with Michel, he told me he moved into this building around 2000, and the paving was already in situ. From the condition of the paving, with some of the tiles having the pattern almost obliterated due to use, as well as general wear and tear, it is obviously ‘old’, but beyond a 2000 date, it remains speculation. Upon mentioning this to Gregg De Young, my collaborator in Cairo, he told me that a recent visitor of his, a historian of modern architecture, told him the building is from the 1950s or 1960s (which tallies with the 1957 introduction), and so plausibly the paving is too. Therefore, the exciting possibility arises that this is possibly the earliest extant sighting! However, this would appear unlikely, but who knows? Investigations are ongoing.

© Michel Herbert. Detail, left; General view, right

Giza (Extant), 2011

A single sighting, at the entrance to Giza zoo. This is just a small patch, and appears to have been to replace existing tiles of a different type, although possibly this is the other way round; both types of tile are shown in equal measures. Likely, ‘modern’.

© Helen Donnelly 


For the mathematical tourist, Maadi, an affluent, leafy suburban district south of Cairo, is arguably the best location in terms of sheer frequency of sightings. Seemingly everywhere you turn, it is there! Gregg De Young, my Cairo tiling collaborator, counted no less than 50 instances (including both types) in 2011 of an initial survey, and likely more. However, quite when it first appeared here is unclear. Unlike other (largely chance) infrequent sightings in books, which at least gives a recorded date, there are no known photos! Therefore, it could be any date; 1950s, 60s, 70s etc. would be pure speculation. Undoubtedly, the reason here is that it lacks the grander attractions of Cairo, and so not unexpectedly was not pictured. However, it has indeed acquired a degree of fame (grandiosely stated) in recent times, 2014, as it was featured in The Maadi Messenger, a free newspaper, ‘The Famous Cairo Tiling as Seen in Maadi’. This arose from my drawing the tiling to the attention of Kees Hulsman, the editor, who took an interest.

Further, Maadi is home to two unique instances, of a plain, single concrete pentagon, at Port Said Street near Victory Square and an oversized square format type, at Mostafa Kamal Street, of which both of these I discuss separately below. Admittedly though, such instances barely call for a ‘must-see’ visit, although of course if in the vicinity would obviously be of interest, having a certain novelty value.

Open questions abound here, such as the date of instigation. In this regard, I consulted the Maadi historian, Samir Raafat, but he could shed no light on this. As ever, can anyone add to this? Are there historic photos of Maadi showing this? None show up on Raafat’s collection. No detail is too small to mention.

© Gregg De Young. Typical driveway sighting in Maadi

Special interest sighting in Maadi:

Maadi, Port Said Street near Victory Square (Extant)

A most interesting and likely unique sighting is at Port Said Street near Victory Square, in Maadi. Here, the paving consists of a single pentagon and uniquely appears to be of plain concrete without any interior decorations (grooves), unlike the other two types of single pentagons. The pentagons appear to be of the same geometry, with collinear properties and the same size as the others, of a 27cm base. Gregg De Young, my collaborator in Cairo who drew this to my attention in 2011, told me in a 2020 email that in about 2018 some repair work caused most of it to be removed. Apparently, the workmen then had difficulty in replacing the tiles in the original configuration, and so resorted to breaking up and replacing the paving in a haphazard, crazy paving type arrangement! However, parts near the small grass plots have survived intact.

Quite when and why this was instigated is not known. Like much of the investigation, much here remains unclear in many ways, with at times speculation being necessary. An open question is to the circumstance of the forming. Speculating, someone has simply poured concrete into the ‘standard pentagon mould’ but did not apply the surface decoration. But why? Perhaps a smooth surface was favoured over the grooved instances? Who knows.

Interestingly, there is another picture of such a plain concrete instance, also in Maadi, by Richard Henry:

However, details are sketchy, with just the year (2020) and location provided, but not the street name. This would appear to be the same as the Port Said Street sighting. I emailed Henry on this but he did not reply. 

Previously, I consulted the Maadi historian, Samir Raafat, but he could shed no light on this. As ever, can anyone add to this?


© Gregg De Young. Port Said Street, Maadi
Many instances are to be found in Maadi, and indeed is arguably the best place for sightings. Indeed, seemingly every way you turn and it’s there! I have no less than 50 distinct sightings. The dates are again unclear, there is no photos in books. In this regard I consulted the Maadi historian, Samir Raafat, but he could shed little light on this.

Maadi, Mostafa Kamal Street and Road 83

Another curious and rare sighting, with just two instances, is of an ‘oversize’ square format in Maadi at Mostafa Kamal Street just outside Mostafa Kamal Square, of red and greyish-black and Road 83, near Road 12 of a muted red and yellow. Here, the pavers measure 27-28cm against the more usual 21-22cm. 

Quite when and why this was instigated is not known. Gregg De Young, my collaborator in Cairo, drew this to my attention in 2011, and so this at least puts an upper bound to the date. Both sightings display damage, with cracked tiles, but not so much wear and tear, as they seem relatively new, without obliteration of the grooves as seen elsewhere. As informed speculation, they are thus ‘recent’ rather than ‘old’, in simple terms.

It would appear to be highly unlikely that these are in effect one-offs, as the start-up costs would be disproportionate, and so likely they would appear elsewhere, but have simply not been noticed from pictures, one picture in effect being like another, especially so without any context to judge the scale. 

An open question: has anyone seen other instances of this type? Or indeed, can add to the story in any way. No detail is too small to mention.

© Gregg De Young. Left, Mostafa Kamal Street; Right, Road 83

Manial Palace, Rhoda Island, of 1973

This sighting, surrounding the swimming pool, is interesting in that it is of the first recorded picture in print, ‘Aramco World’ (and in colour), of 1973. An initial web search has found a further photo, of 1983. Is this still sighting extant?

This is interesting as it is the first finding of a type as mooted by a previous correspondent, Nabil Shawkat, who told us of such supposed swimming pool sightings (albeit much earlier than this):

It was used extensively in sports club grounds designed with English or western inspiration. I saw it around the swimming pool in Ahli sporting club in the fifties …

Are there are other such ‘swimming pool’ sightings?

Heliopolis (Extant)

Heliopolis is another common place for sightings, and indeed, is the earliest confirmed date of 1957, at the opening of Al-Galaa club by President Nasser, as detailed above.

A curious feature of one sighting in particular is as regards its colouration, consisting of a five colours, a feature not seen elsewhere. However, whether this is a regular colouring or a random assortment arranged ‘any which way’ is uncertain due to the ‘few in number’ of tiles of this patch. Upon preliminary investigation, it would appear as if the assembler began with an ordered colouring scheme in mind, but then lost his way, resulting in a ‘part ordered’ paving.

© Craig Scott

Gezira Sporting Club, Gezira Island, of 1960s? (Extant)

The famed and exclusive Gezira Sporting Club on Zamalek Island, the largest multi-sport facility in Egypt, is a spectacular sight for the paving, stretching as far as the eye can see, and is likely the largest in extent. However, much of the background as to its instigation remains unknown. In short, its age remains speculation; there are, perhaps surprisingly, no dated photographs. One possible means of dating this is when the Sporting Club was founded. However, in this instance, this is no clue, as it is a long-standing body, founded in about 1883 (the exact date is a little hazy), way before the known introduction of the paving by the Nile Company of 1957. Since the beginning, there have been many changes, with land acquisitions and general expansion. Given that the introduction of the paving in 1957, the paving possibly dates from then, although it seems highly unlikely, given the passage of time, and reinforced to some extent by a lack of appearance on historical photos. The club also has a website, much improved in recent times, with historical and modern-day pictures but no Cairo tiling sightings. Further, the pavings are in a generally good condition, with no obvious signs of wear and tear, as frequently seen elsewhere, and so the paving would appear to be relatively modern, loosely stated. But how modern? I first found a picture in, I think, 2011 or 2012 and so it is at least of that date, but of course likely much earlier, say decades. A correspondent, Doris Shoukri of the AUC, upon a general Cairo paving query, told me that the pavings may have appeared possibly of the early 1960s. However, details are decidedly sketchy here.

As to the paving itself, this can be seen to be ordered, of four colours, in a ‘ribbon’ arrangement.

Further, the sighting has recently, 2019, acquired a degree of mathematical fame, appearing on the front cover in The Mathematical Intelligencer, in an article on the Cairo tiling by Frank Morgan, ‘My Undercover Mission to Find Cairo Tilings’.

© Michel Hébert. Gezira Sporting Club

Indian Embassy, Zamalek, of 1967

A sighting outside the steps of the Indian Embassy, in 1967. Is this still extant?

Caption: A luncheon party held for Indira Gandhi the Indian Prime Minister at the residence of the Indian Ambassador in Cairo
Caption:The Indian Embassy in Cairo welcomes Abdel Nasser and his wife and the Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi

The American University in Cairo (AUC) Downtown Campus (Extant), of 1960s

The American University in Cairo (AUC) Downtown Campus, near Tahrir square sightings are some most extensive, and can be seen over most of the campus (of five city blocks) and noticeably so of the Greek campus. (The AUC has recently (2008) moved to New Cairo, although retaining a link to the downtown campus.) These are of a black and white colouring, arranged in a butterfly configuration. An open question is to the date of instigation. Quite when these were installed is uncertain. Certainly, they are ‘old’, as the first photograph (from the archives) of the AUC we have, of a date of a degree of certainty, is of ‘late 1960s’. We also have anecdotal detail of earlier, from past students, with Margaret Shubka (1966) and Yerzan Terzan (1956), although with the passage of time one should be wary of such anecdotal reports. That said, the pattern is indeed striking, and not easily forgotten, and so possibly these recollections are indeed true. The university itself was founded in 1919 by Americans devoted to education and service in the Middle East, and so there is a remote possibility that the paving is extremely old, although likely not of the date of foundation. The university was extensively re-modelled in 1963, and so possibly the pavings date from then. Investigations with the university authorities and ex alumni to determine an earlier date are on-going.

An advantage with the sighting here is that the notable nature of the AUC, with photographic archives, and many past students, and so this thus offers a possibility of dating the pavings than an sighting on a arbitrary pavement of no particular significance.


Zamalek, outside a Butcher’s Shop, of 1980

A sighting in a book: Cairo The Great Cities. Of 1980. Cairo tile page 27, outside a butcher’s shop in Zamalek, of the square format. For various reasons not discussed here, a date of 1980 is accurate here.

Unidentified Locations:

Some of the sighting locations are unidentified and dates uncertain at best. Does anyone know of the following instances:

President Sadat in grounds with his portrait.

Caption (23 June 1963): Social events: The marriage ceremony of the former Iraqi minister Fouad Al Dakabi:

Caption (29 September 1970): The Funeral: The effect of the death of Abdel Nasser etched on the faces of the Egyptian people:

Videos, featuring President Sadat:

1981? The paving is seen with President Sadat, immediately for the first sixteen seconds.
1981? The paving is seen throughout video, indistinctly at first, but is first clear at 3 minutes 35 seconds.

Created 18 December 2015. ‘Pictures of Sighting 1’ was originally titled ‘Pictures of Sightings’ (without the number 1), created 25 October 2011. Revised subsequently, too many times worth mentioning, and wholly rewritten 18 December 2015, with new sightings, and omission of superfluous material.

10 March 2020. Added Michel Hébert's Garden City driveway sighting, with text.
11 March 2020. Gezira Sporting Club entry effectively wholly rewritten, with a new picture by 
Michel Hébert and removal of two others that had served, but no more. 12 March 2020. Maadi, Port Said Street entry effectively wholly rewritten, replacing just two lines.
13 March 2020. Maadi. Introduction to the Maadi instance and sightings. New, perhaps surprisingly.
16 March 2020. Maadi. Mostafa Kamal Street and Road 82 text and pictures added.