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Ramzy Omar

Finally, at last, after an epic search, of no less than thirty years, the first pictures, and life story, of the designer of the Cairo tiling, Ramzy Omar! The tile was introduced, by the Nile Tile company, in 1957. Provenance is given by an advert, as well as a first-hand account by his grandson, Tarek Fikry (and who has provided biographical details, below). However, as yet, there are no pictures of Ramzy with the tiling.


In short, Ramzy (1916-2014) was a notable architect of the day, and a confidant of President Nasser and President Sadat, all which only adds to the story, with the great man pictured here with President Sadat. Indeed, in the greater scheme of things, probably the Cairo tiling was one of his lesser accomplishments, with 22 major architectural projects in Cairo and elsewhere to his name, such as the Sheraton Hotel, and he was also the designer of the Egyptian flag! Sadly, Ramzy passed away before I could make contact with him. What a missed opportunity. It could so easily have happened, with the investigation being in depth from 2010, but I only found details of him in 2017, unfortunately a few years too late.


Ramzy Omar with President Sadat

   
Ramzy Omar     
Tarek Fikry with Ramzy Omar

All photos © Tarek Fikry

Biography


Ramzy Omar was born in El Mansoura on September 8th, 1916. He received his primary education in several different cities depending on his father’s work and continued his secondary education at the Saidiya School in Giza.

 

His relationship with Architecture began with a sentence his Art teacher said when he was 11 years old. He said more than once, “My son, you have to be an Architect.” His teacher was Mr. Youssef Afifi and he had just returned from an educational journey in England. Mr. Afifi had a talent for Art that encouraged Ramzy Omar to become an Architect.

 

He continued to nurture his hopes of becoming an Architect throughout his secondary education and helped guide the way in order for him to realize the right career path in order to pursue his future.

 

Ramzy Omar started seeing himself attending the College of Engineering and studying Architecture and excelling at it. He also dreamed that he would travel abroad to study and return to teach Architecture. These dreams filled him with thoughts of happiness and encouraged him to outdo himself during his studies.


EARLY LIFE

 

Ramzy Omar started at the College of Engineering in 1934 and entered the field of Architecture where his graduating class at the time had only consisted of 14 students. He wasn’t a top student during the first years until Arts and Architectural design classes started, which is when he began to really enjoy what he was doing.

 

During his second year, they used coal to draw Roman Architectural details and were asked to present a weekly sketch of an original piece of work. Ramzy Omar would sketch various weekly drawings and present only one of these drawings as his own and the rest, his fellow students would take, whose conditions at the time would not allow them to draw. Each of them would take one of his sketches and modify it how they chose in order not to get caught.

 

He was very careful in taking advantage of every occasion where he could draw something he liked. One day, from his class window, he saw a carriage that was being dragged by a donkey in the street, so he specifically left class and ran to catch the carriage and drew it along with the donkey, then went back to class. He also traveled to Upper Egypt where he drew a number of pictures that grasped the Professor’s attention. The Professor, Ali Labib Gabr, told him, “You have to go to America.” Later on, the Architectural magazine that was started by his Professor, Dr. Sayed Karim, printed some of the pictures he had drawn.

 

In his Detailed Drawings class, taught by an English Professor by the name of Wackendon, students were asked to sketch a detailed picture of a large dining room with steel windows that stretched to the height of the entire room. It was normal for him to draw the details of the ceilings as well as the steel edges of the windows, however he left all that and drew these decorative, colorful paintings that covered the length of the walls. What helped him do this is the large collection of sketches he had drawn before. He expected to receive a zero on the assignment, but on the contrary, his work drew the attention of his professors and was published in the magazine of Architecture.

 

Ramzy Omar referred to these memories not to brag, but to admit that drawing was one of the only things that helped him excel through expressing his ideas on paper in a fast and meaningful manner.

 

His best Engineering sketches were those done freely by hand while minimizing the use of rulers as much as possible, which he felt would limit his thought and execution process. He didn’t like drawing interfaces because they required rules and he also hated using black ink which was necessary at the time, and preferred using colors instead.

 

In his third year, Ramzy Omar bought some colored ink and decided to give himself the freedom of putting ideas on paper the way he felt without any restraints placed on him if he were to use the conventional way of drawing.

 

Eventually came elevations, facades, and perspectives to be introduced in one unit in his drawings. He used brown and purple and yellow and when the drawing was finished in this unconventional way, he was afraid to present it to his professor, Aly Labib Gabr, in fear that he would be angry and punish him. Consequentially, he placed his drawing at the front of the class while he sat at the back, awaiting his fate. In walked the professor who was instantly drawn to a red painting amidst the rest of the black paintings. Ramzy Omar couldn’t breathe while he watched him stand and walk towards his painting and start studying it. Finally he said, “This is something original, whose is this?” He could finally breathe and got up from his hiding spot at the end of the classroom, happy and proud. From that day forward, he had his own way of drawing that could not be copied, to the extent that he did not need to sign any of his drawings.

 

In his last year (the fifth year) of college, he had to work on his graduation project, which was to design a college town. He injured his right foot while trying to get on the bus while it was moving in Giza. He missed a step and fell on the floor, and the wheel of the bus ran over his foot. This accident came at a sensitive time since Ramzy Omar needed to be as healthy as can be so he can stand for long hours while he drew in order to finish the graduation project and hand it in on time. Every time he stood in front of his painting, he felt an excruciating pain in his foot as if his veins were about to explode. He would have to lay down on his back until the pain went away, then return to drawing. This kept happening repeatedly while he tried to work on his project until the deadline was close and he had only finished a small portion of the required work.

 

Following up on his work was his older brother, Al-Faateh Omar, a Civil Engineer who graduated in 1937. He went to the army and worked as an officer. His brother didn’t have an Architectural background, however, he could tell that Ramzy Omar could not finish his project and if he failed, that he would have to repeat the year. His brother explained the situation to their mother who tried to comfort Ramzy Omar and tell him “My son, you have done all that you can do,” and left him to rest, never waking him up when he asked her to do so.

 

The day of the deadline came and he presented 3 drawings that were incomplete while all of his colleagues presented no less than 10 drawings each. On the day of the discussion of each of the projects, he went and stood in front of his project and in came the external examiner; Mostafa Fahmy Basha accompanying the professor, Aly Labib Gabr. The discussion was not comforting. Mostafa Basha sternly asked Ramzy Omar, “Why is your project revolving?” He had designed a main dormitory building for students in the shape of a revolving arc, so he answered saying that the shape of the current building did not allow in sunlight and that the revolving arc shape he had created allows in sunlight in the morning for the East side of the building and in the afternoon for the West side.

 

Mostafa Basha was not convinced and it was clear that Ramzy Omar’s project did not impress him, especially due to the fact that it was based on a modern style of design and he only liked classic work. Eventually, Professor Ali Labib Gabr said, “Khalas ya Ramzy,” and he left assured that he had failed.

 

The results of the project came out and Ramzy Omar’s project had received first place over all his colleagues which came as a surprise to him, his brother and his mother, who told him, “Tell me my son, isn’t your brother an Engineer? He told me that you failed the project. I can understand if you pass, but for you to get first place is impossible.” He couldn’t answer his mother, and the secret to how he got first place for his graduation project would not be revealed except after 22 years.

 

In the year 1961, he met with his professor, Ali Labib Gabr, in the Cataract Hotel in Aswan, who at the time was working on the New Cataract Hotel project. He reminded Ramzy Omar of his Bachelor’s project and how it was incomplete and that Mostafa Basha Fahmy was not impressed. He told him that he had insisted at the time that his project take first place and that he personally told Mostafa Basha Fahmy, “Either this project take first place, or it fails, nothing in between.”

 

In the year 1939, Ramzy Omar got his Bachelor’s degree in Architecture. Meanwhile, World War II was just around the corner. The Egyptian Military needed a second batch of Military Engineers and it was decided that their needs were to be met through the graduates of the College of Engineering from the year 1939 after they passed their medical examinations.

 

He was one of the graduates who passed their medical examinations and it was decided that he was to attend the Military School of Engineering the following Saturday; September 2nd, 1939.

 

On the way to school that day he heard all the newspaper vendors running in the street and screaming, “Announcement of World War II,” and he felt as if he was saying goodbye to a life of peace to start a life of war. It felt as if he was throwing away a page of his life that was full of dreams to start a life full of sabotage and destruction.

 

Ramzy Omar entered the Military School of Engineering comprised of approximately 25 students. 3 were architects and the rest were from different branches of Engineering (civil, mechanical or electrical).

 

Their first order was to go to the barbers room to shave their heads. Soon after, they put on their Military uniforms and started their Military training phase; learning to carry weapons and shoot. The physical part of the training was difficult, but the mental part wasn’t as hard.

 

The days passed and every day that passed took him farther away from the career that he loved and lived for.

 

After they finished the Military training phase, they moved to the next phase which was learning Military Engineering. They started to assess the temporary bridges on the Ismailia Canal that was near the school, but after the first week it was decided that they were to stop and that Architectural Officers be assigned to the Military Works Department instead. He was happy with this assignment because this department in the Military was responsible for the establishment and maintenance of their camps.

 

He went and introduced himself the next day to Mohamed Riyad; Manager of all Military works. He ordered him to travel to the Western Desert to build a hospital, evacuate casualties and therefore build a dashm for anti-aircraft guns.

 

The hospital had a wooden base and ceilings armed with gravel. He prepared an indexation of the necessary materials and the confidentiality of the Corps of Engineers was placed under his leadership. He fulfilled his errands and gathered the necessary building materials and traveled to the Western Desert, where the soldiers camped in a site close to Al Dabgha.

 

Ramzy Omar had no previous experience in administrative affairs, which led to him making a lot of mistakes that were against the rules, which he had to fix over a long period of time.

 

Ramzy Omar and his team were living in the camps and working under extremely difficult conditions where there were constant bomb raids, making sleep uneasy. They would see the light resulting from these bombs light up the camp at night, so they would have to leave and sleep in the trenches they had built close by.

 

One night he went down to the trenches they had built and suddenly an animal followed him that was scared off by the bombs and wanted to share the trench with him. It was frightened and moving around frantically and kept hitting him with its tail. Ramzy Omar couldn’t tell what kind of animal this was until the next morning when he realized it was a huge bear.

 

In spite of these conditions they all made a huge effort in building the hospital. When the work on the hospital was almost finished, 3 doctors came to make sure the hospital was ready with all the necessary machinery and appliances. They were Dr. Mohammed Nassar, Dr. Abd el Wahab Shokry (both who became Ministers of Health in the future) and Dr. Mostafa Anwar.

 

General Fattouh Basha also came in to inspect the area accompanied with many Military leaders, among them was the manager of Military Acts.

 

They moved to the hospital site which was in its final phase and took less than 4 months to build. Fattouh Basha met with the doctors and inspected the hospital while Ramzy Omar explained their building process to him. He made sure to explain that the ceilings and the walls could be removed and transferred from one place to another and the walls were made of armed gravel.

 

The manager of Military Acts noticed the huge difference between Ramzy Omar’s health the day he was appointed to the administration and the day of the final inspection of the hospital. He asked him the reason, to which Dr. Mohamed Nassar replied, “This officer works himself more than he should and doesn’t care about eating and if he continues like this, his condition will only get worse.”

 

This is when Fattouh Basha replied, “Prepare yourself, you are coming with us tomorrow.” The next morning, a large car carrying the General and driven by Fattouh Basha himself passed by the camp, and Fattouh Basha told Ramzy Omar to get in. He got in and instantly felt a fatherly warmth to his presence that left him emotional.

 

They were on their way to Alexandria followed by a swarm of cars, which included his commander Riyad Bey. Fattouh Basha took out a pack of cigarettes from his pocket and asked Ramzy Omar to light him a cigarette, so he did and he gave it back to him. On the way, he stopped the car in front of a Fig farm. They entered the farm and ate Figs straight from the tree until they were full. They then left after Fattouh Basha gave the farm’s owner 10 piasters. The road to Alexandria was crowded with cars carrying English Soldiers that were headed West. They got to Sidi Gaber rest stop and Fattouh Basha stopped the car and told Ramzy Omar, “You’re travelling to Egypt, you have been transferred to the administration,” to which he thanked him and left the car.

 

He was extremely touched by his fatherly manner towards him and told his colleagues what had happened. They then explained to him that he recently lost a son to Leukemia.

 

Not many days had passed since Ramzy Omar got back to Cairo before the Italian troops began their march under the leadership of Marshall Graziani on Egyptian soil towards the Western Desert. They occupied Al Salloum, then conquered Sidi Brani on September 16th, 1940.

 

The quick escalation of events was enough of an explanation for Fattouh Basha’s actions and Ramzy Omar’s sudden transfer from an area that was fated to be a scene for war battles between two foreign forces whose win or loss was not of anyone’s interest.

 

After a short vacation in Cairo, Ramzy Omar was appointed Structural Officer of Manchiet El Bakry and became responsible for all the military buildings in the area, which included the military hospital on Al Kobba Bridge. He then started a new wing at the hospital and from his office, which was located next to this wing, he could see some of the most prominent military officials, some who would come to the hospital for treatment and to exchange medicine.

 

Among those officials was Commander of the Corps of Engineers, General Abd Al Razzak Basha Barakaat, who was following up on the execution of the wing. In the beginning of 1942, Ramzy Omar was surprised that he had chosen him to execute a secret operation (Dakhlia Governorate), which was described as top secret and extremely important. He traveled there and met with Abd el Razzak Basha Barakat at Ruy Rest Stop and from there, he took Ramzy Omar with him to one of the old palaces which they assessed from the inside and the outside. It consisted of two floors, which were connected by a single staircase.

 

Abd el Razzak Basha told him that he wanted to make both floors into one unit and that they would have to remove the concrete ceiling that separated the first floor’s hall and the second. In doing so, they would have one hall that was two floors high instead and they would place a staircase in the middle to connect the two floors. He also wanted to renew the bathrooms, make sure that each bedroom had its own private bathroom, fix and renew the wooden and ceramic floors and fix all the doors and windows.

 

He then asked Ramzy Omar how much time he would need to finish the project to which he replied, “If we are in a rush then I can finish it in three months.” Abd El Razzak Basha then explained, “I want to finish it in three weeks not three months.” Ramzy Omar clarified that for this kind of project they would have to break the concrete ceiling and bring in new concrete for the stairs and tear down and rebuild all the walls. They also needed to consider the time needed for all the work to dry before they could paint and it was impossible to do so in three weeks. At this point in time, Abd el Razzak Basha sat down on the staircase and told Ramzy Omar to sit down next to him, so he did.

 

He told him something he would never forget. “Listen, you are an officer and you have to listen to your orders, and you are also an engineer who is responsible for any engineering work you are asked to do.” Ramzy Omar was shocked and didn’t answer. He continued to say, “This palace has to be ready in three weeks from now in order to host some very important people.” He then left him and walked away after asking him to make sure what tools he needed to complete the project. He spent many hours in the palace trying to finish the work he was asked to do and assessing everything that had to be done and returned to Cairo at a very late hour.

 

On the way back to Cairo, Ramzy Omar wondered who these important people could be. He thought to himself, “They must be three guests since the palace has three bedrooms only. Also, why did he choose this palace specifically? Why the rush?”

 

Finally, he realized he had to focus his thoughts on how he was going to finish this job in such a short amount of time. He remembered an old saying that stated, “News that is worth money today, will be available for free tomorrow.”

 

In the morning, he met with the Commander of the Corps of Engineers and gave him a list of what he needed to get the job done. He told Ramzy Omar, “You will get the materials you need right away, but the workers you need, I will pick out personally myself.”

 

Ramzy Omar returned the next morning to start working on the project and had received the necessary materials and workers who were lead by an old man named Al Saadani. He was wearing a robe and kaftan and was always energetic despite his age.

 

He started working by rotating three shifts everyday, through which they broke the ceiling, poured the concrete for the staircase and tore down and rebuilt the walls.

 

During all this, there was a team assigned to remove the doors and windows, fix them and put up a mosquito net since the area was filled with them, and there were also those who were assigned to repainting as well. The site became like a bee’s nest; they were working inside and outside, including the garden.

 

Suddenly, Ramzy Omar and his team got a visit from General Barakat Basha at the end of the second week and by that time, Ramzy Omar had let himself go. His beard was grown and you could tell he was sick. This affected Barakat Basha and he told him, “My son, work is important to me but your health is more important.” He was impressed with the work they had done and the progress of the job and awarded them a bonus equal to 15 days of work.

 

Before the end of the third week, Barakat Basha visited once again and with him Othman Basha Moharam; Military Acts Manager. Othman Basha was taken back simply upon entering the garden of the palace and seeing it furnished with sand and flowers. He entered the palace and saw the ballroom that was two floors high along with the finished staircase. He also checked the ground floor and saw that most of the rooms had been painted.

 

He then continued to the top floor and saw the rooms and the bathrooms after the floors had been changed and the walls had been broken down. He told Abd El Razak Basha, “This is the work of the devil, not engineers.”

 

Ramzy Omar later found out that Othman Basha Moharam was the one in charge of choosing the palace for this particular purpose and that he had visited the palace before with several different engineers who refused to take responsibility for the amount of work that was asked of them in such a short time. He said that he had to come and see for himself that they were able to finish the job that his own ministry’s engineers couldn’t.

 

Othman Basha Moharram made sure that the job was going to be finished on time and said that he would relay the news to Al Nahhas Basha. Ramzy Omar was honest with him and told Abd Al Razzak Basha that due to the rush on the project that a lot of work that they had done would be damaged, to which he replied, “Don’t worry about it.”

 

It wasn’t long before it was discovered who the important people that would be coming to the palace were. Prince Abbas Al Halim, Prince Omar Farouk, and Mohammed Taher were arrested under martial law and placed in the Palace of Sirw.

 

Ramzy Omar had just finished his work on the Palace of Sirw when the head of Weaponry of Engineers asked him to start another job of the same nature, except this time it would be in Ayaat in Giza. He told him that the Palace of Kowaat al Keloob Al Demerdashiya was selected to be ready in three weeks to receive an important guest. The guest was described as stubborn and it was said to Ramzy Omar that he would not get out of his car if he was not satisfied with the job.

 

Ramzy Omar went to assess the palace and found that it was very old and surrounded by a withering garden full of old dried out trees that hadn’t been attended to in years. He decided to remove these trees and re-do the garden completely.

 

On the inside of the palace, Ramzy Omar decided to start on the usual fixes such as the painting on the walls, fixing the floor, taking care of the entrance of the palace and fixing the main bedroom and bathroom.

 

He decided to use the same team he had used on the Palace of Sirw and things went smoothly except for one small detail, which had a big effect on the project. The trees he had planted in the garden had not grown and there was only 48 hours left until the guest arrived. This is when he remembered what Barakat Basha had said about the stubbornness of the expected guest.

 

He had no other option but to use fake décor like they used in the movies, so he sent for a bulk order to be placed in the garden, and it ended up looking as green and natural as he could have hoped.

 

He waited excitedly to find out who the mystery guest was that was described as stubborn; it was Ali Maher Basha. He got out of the car and entered the palace while passing through the garden and didn’t notice that it was fake. In came Ali Maher Basha from the senate, where he was arrested on the campus of the Council under martial law.

 

This meant that Al Nahhas Basha, being the head of ministers and the Ministry of Interior in 1942 would not arrest prominent figures right away when he decided to take action, but he would leave them free for a few weeks until he was able to prepare an appropriate place for them. This explained the pressure that was put on Ramzy Omar to finish these projects in three weeks and no less.

 

A few days after Ali Maher Basha was arrested, Prince Abbas Halim, Prince Omar Al Farouk and Mohamed Taher Basha left the Palace of Sirw and went to another palace near that of Kowaat Al Keloob Al Demerdashiya.

 

The Corps of Engineers started a camp for security near the Palace of Kowaat Al Keloob Al Demerdashiya. In charge of this camp was Hussein Beik Farid who later became head of the Body of Army Staff even throughout the revolution of 1952.

 

After this camp was finished, Barakat Basha asked Ramzy Omar to meet Aly Maher Basha to find out what his complaints were. In the morning, he went to Al Ayaat and met with the camp’s leader Hussein Beik Farid, but he was not aware of the details of the complaint. Later on, when he got to meet with with Aly Maher Basha, he told Ramzy Omar his complaints were not about the inside of the palace, but the outside. He took him to the first floor and they went outside to the terrace that overlooks the garden. He pointed at a building close to the palace where the ceiling was made of a corrugated sheet-shaped truss and was used as a public restroom for the camp. The door was directly opposite the palace in a way that anyone sitting in the terrace could see those entering and exiting the building.

 

Aly Maher Basha told Ramzy Omar that in the early morning it becomes extremely crowded, and as a result, he gets awoken by the screaming of the soldiers while they fight to use the bathroom. He even complained that sometimes he can see them rushing out of the building to finish getting dressed outside. His main request was if they could have the door for the building on the other side and not facing the palace.

 

Ramzy Omar left and went to meet Abd el Razzak Basha Barakat and told him that Aly Maher Basha told him to send his regards and that he wanted to move the camp’s bathrooms to a location where he couldn’t see or hear the soldier’s screams. Barakaat Basha’s immediate response was for the transfer of the restroom far from the palace, and he made sure to ask Ramzy Omar that he visit the palace on a weekly basis to ensure the Basha’s comfort.

 

The following week, Ramzy Omar went to El Ayaat and met with Maher Basha, who invited him to lunch. After lunch, they had coffee in the terrace. He continued visiting every Thursday while being the point of contact between Maher Basha and Hussein Beik Farid.

 

One day, Ramzy Omar visited Aly Basha Maher who was sick and had stopped eating. He asked him if he could call a doctor but he explained that he didn’t like doctors and that if he got sick he would fast until he got better. He explained that the human body manages to beat 80% of diseases and the remaining 20% doctors usually misdiagnose. Therefore, he would rather stop eating and give his body the chance to heal.

 

When Hussein Beik Farid heard the news of Aly Maher Basha’s refusal to eat, he reported it to the Minister of Defense; Mohammed Hamdy Seif El Nasr Basha and everyone was extremely upset. Ramzy Omar was called in to see Hamdy Basha Seif El Nasr to clear up the matter.

 

Aly Maher Basha remained under arrest until he was released by Ahmed Basha Maher along with the others arrested in October 1944, after the dismissal of Al Nahaas Basha’s ministry.

 

Ramzy Omar remained as the officer in charge of Manchiet Bakry works until the English decided to hand Cairo Citadel to the Egyptian Army.

 

The Military Works started a new division by the name of ‘Citadel Works,” whose main priority was to receive the handovers of the Citadel buildings from the English Army.

 

On July 4th, 1946, the British flag was placed on the Citadel and remained there for 64 years. Ramzy Omar immediately started working on a new flag, which King Farouk placed on top of the British flag in a big celebration on Friday, August 9th, 1946.

 

The English had left the Citadel buildings in bad shape because of how they mistreated it with no regard to its historical value. One of the main halls of the Haram Palace was turned into a kitchen and another into a church. It was obvious that the English did not care about the maintenance of these buildings. Some of them were destroyed and others barely held together. They needed a lot of effort and a lot of time to restore back to how they once were. Ramzy Omar started the process of fixing and restoring through the Citadel Works Division and with every day that passed, Ramzy Omar gained more knowledge in this field than he thought he would.

 

It was time to harvest the skills he had learned and work on an architectural project that people would see. Therefore, in 1947, he fixed the Army Club’s building in Zamalek along with his work on the Citadel. The building could have been fixed with minor touches but he made sure to exaggerate these fixes in order for the building to come out as good as new. He prepared the architectural designs and sent them to the Army’s project management administration who were in charge of designing the Army’s buildings.

 

The Army’s project administration considered his work an invasion of their area of expertise and refused to amend the changes he had recommended.  They claimed that the recommendations he made were too complicated. Ramzy Omar thanked the administration for their advice and announced that he would work on the construction designs himself as complicated as they were. He started working within the allowed scope of his position as Citadel Works Officer using the materials and workers he had working by his side.

 

Ramzy Omar also worked as a contractor in addition to being the architect and the structural engineer on the project, therefore leaving him as the sole person in charge of delivering the building from a construction aspect. The administration in charge of Army projects appointed civil engineers to overlook his work in order to catch any mistakes he might commit.

 

During the implementation phase of the foundations of the project, a hole caved in on workers that were over two meters deep into the ground. Thankfully, they were saved and Ramzy Omar was relieved until an hour later when the head of his workers went to his office screaming that one of the workers was missing.

 

They rushed back to the site of the accident and the workers started digging. The first thing that appeared was the tool the worker had used to dig through the concrete, then they started seeing his hair. They continued digging until someone screamed, “He’s breathing sir.”

 

The worker appeared from under the rubble and Ramzy Omar immediately took him in his car to Al Malek Hospital (which is now Al Moneera) where he was treated. It was a miracle that he had survived; he was able to breathe under the rubble only through the air pockets that had formed around the handle of his tool.

 

At that same time, he started designing and overlooking work on a few villas for his family and friends. He felt joy simply in seeing his work come to life, and as a result, a lot of the time he didn’t even take money for what he did.

 

He started using new materials that the army did not know about. He used the whiteness that came from artificial stone for the face of the club and Travertino ceramics for the cladding of the walls. Ramzy Omar had some trouble integrating fine arts into the building of the club. Al Amirlay Al Miseery Beik, head of Army Works, opposed this stating that it went against the protocol of Army buildings. He wasn’t convinced until Ramzy Omar made it clear that this sculpting would include Army related topics and battles that confirm the story of the foundation of the building.

 

Mansour Farag and Ahmed Othman were hired to work on three sculptures; two on each side of the entrance and one facing the road. The club started catching people’s attention and became the first of his work to light the path of his career. Due to this project, Ramzy Omar earned the trust of the manager of Army Works just as he had earned the trust of the leader of the Weaponry of Architects due to the work he had done for Al Sirw and Al Ayaat.

 

In 1950, it was decided that Ramzy Omar would be in charge of Army projects and that the mandate for civil engineers to run these projects beforehand would be cancelled and they would be replaced with engineering officers. This is how Ramzy Omar became in charge of designing army buildings, which lasted almost 10 years.

 

He started taking on new responsibilities and was designing primary projects by himself. However, he was finding it difficult to focus properly in his office within the Army Works amidst the busy crowds, which is why he worked from home. As a result, Ramzy Omar used to go to work late in the morning, which caused problems with the manager of Army Works.

 

It became clear that the work he got done at home was far more than what he got done at the office, which made the manager of Army Works more lenient and forgiving with him regarding coming and going from the job. Helping him in preparing the detailed drawings, descriptions, contracts and much more, were the architectural and engineering officers working with him. He distinctly remembered Mohamed Al Masry, Abdallah Eissa, Hassan Anwar, Galal Fahmy, Anwar Khalaf and Mohsen Ameen among many others.

 

They designed a number of projects such as the Naval Academy in Alexandria and the expansion of the Military College in Masr Gedida and Selah Al Mohemat in Maadi. These projects were all army projects. As for his personal work, Ramzy Omar started building a number of buildings in Abbasiya, Al Fagaala, Dokki, and Maadi. He put his name on all these projects considering he was the architect behind them.

 

The revolution then took place on July 23rd, 1925 and the veteran officers under the Kaimkam rank were arrested. Ramzy Omar’s rank at the time was Bekbashy and Al Bekbashy Hussein Al Halawany took control in leading the Weaponry of Architects and Al Bekbashy Zaki Hanafy controlled Army Works.

 

At the time, the army was being cleansed of corrupt officers or those who had integrity related issues to their name. Many of these officers went into retirement, while others worked in different companies and ministries.

 

Ramzy Omar was called in by the commander of the Weaponry of Architects, who told him that his name was written on many buildings under construction all over the streets of Cairo and asked him to stop working outside the Army so that no action is taken against him. Ramzy Omar replied and said that it was impossible for him to do so because he was committed to finishing these projects according to contracts between their owners and him. He made it clear that in accordance to these contracts,  he was indeed going to finish his personal projects. He was not nervous at all as the rest of his peers were, he was satisfied with his decision because it was his own personal choice. Ramzy Omar started clearing his desk at the Army works from all the papers and personal work he had stored.

 

It was a complete surprise when he found out that no action had been taken against him and that he was allowed to continue his work outside official working hours.

 

Al Bikbashy Hussein Al Halawany congratulated him and told him that when he presented his case to the Revolutionary Command Council, he expected that he be dismissed. However, Abd El Hakim Amer said, “How is Ramzy Omar upsetting all of you? We can all see his work within the Army.” Gamal Abd El Naser then replied, “Let him work, isn’t it better than those who sit at cafés and conspire against us?”

 

He officially became the only architectural officer that was allowed to work outside official working hours. However, as a result, nine Egyptian pounds were deducted from his salary due to switching his specialization.

 

Ramzy Omar rented an office on Sherif Basha St. in Wust Al Balad where he started his private work, but many times he would also work on his army projects there as well. During the revolution, the office received a lot of architectural work related to the revolution’s achievements. Due to the load of work, the office expanded from being one apartment to four apartments in the same building. The fourth apartment was occupied by the office of Anwar Al Sadaat, when he was the head of the Board of Directors of the Republican newspaper.

 

Ramzy Omar then rented a fifth apartment in the same building specifically to prepare for one of the projects related to the revolution and no one entered the apartment except for a limited number of engineers. He left the apartment right after the completion of the project.

 

His office was responsible for most of the revolution’s projects. In the field of Agrarian Reform, the office was assigned the complex body of the Agrarian Reform building, the Institutional building for Agrarian Reform and the Cooperative Association building for Agrarian Reform.

 

After the nationalization of the Suez Canal, his office was assigned the Guidance building in Al Ismailiya, which became the main quarters for the Egyptian Governing Body for the canal as well as the associated Hydraulics building.

 

When the High Dam started being built, Ramzy Omar’s office was also in charge of the High Dam Hospital in Aswan.

 

In the field of petroleum, the Revolution paid great attention to the Petroleum Cooperative Society and Ramzy Omar worked as its engineering consultant. His office was assigned with the construction of an office building for the society in Qasr al-Aini Street and the rebuilding of filling stations in Cairo, Alexandria and localities according to a unique architectural style he developed for them. He was also assigned with the construction of the LPG cylinder warehouses all over Egypt.

 

For the development of post offices, he was assigned with the design and supervision of the building of the Post Press, the building of the Post Office Authority, buildings of automatic sorting of letters and parcels in Alexandria, Tanta and Cairo, as well as post office buildings all over Egypt according to a unique architectural style.

 

In tourism, the construction of many hotels such as Sheraton Cairo Hotel, Sidi Abdel Rahman Hotel, Al Alamein, Ain Sukhna Hotel, Hurghada Hotel, Port Said Hotel, Edfu Hotel, and Al Minya Hotel, were also assigned to his office.

In cooperative housing, Ramzy Omar’s office designed a number of residential villas and apartments for the cooperative societies of army officers and engineers’ houses.

 

Moreover, his office was assigned with the establishment and renewal of the Egyptian embassies’ premises abroad, such as the Egyptian embassy in Ankara, Turkey which he designed in the Islamic architectural style. As well, he examined many of their embassies in London, Prague, Belgrade and Athens and reported the required reforms.

 

As the Revolution interested in enhancing the relationships with African countries, Ramzy Omar was assigned with the building of a 5-star hotel in Bamako, the Malian capital, funded by a loan from the Egyptian government to El Nasr for Import and Export to which the Revolution paid a great attention and which had many branches in many African countries. Expanding its activity, he was also assigned with an office building for the company in Talaat Harb Street, Cairo.

 

Beside the above, he was assigned, in the beginning of the Revolution, with artworks mostly related to fine arts than architecture. He designed the Liberation Medal with red, white and black stripes, where these colors symbolized the white revolution against corruption.

 

These colors became the Revolution logo that were used in flags hung by people in ceremonies, and used as badges worn by officers. The white, red and black became the colors of Egypt’s flag, and used later in the flags of other Arab countries such as Iraq, Syria and Yemen.


AFTER 1956

 

After Abdel Nasser’s success in the presidential referendum in June 23, 1956, Ali Sabry phoned Ramzy Omar in his office and told him that Abdel Nasser needs an emblem for the country before his travel to Yugoslavia by July 18, 1956 to attend the Brioni Conference. Ramzy then replied to Ali Sabry, “But I will travel abroad tomorrow morning.” He replied: “Your travel shall be postponed until you design the emblem.”

 

He devoted himself to complete the task, drawing many sketches of the Eagle in various positions and shapes. He finally selected two sketches; one of them was inspired by the Eagle of Saladin. The two sketches were reviewed by Abdel Nasser and he chose the one inspired by the Eagle of Saladin.

 

The huge engineering projects Ramzy Omar had implemented for the benefit of the Revolution did not affect his work in the army. He used to give the army projects top priority, being the main reason behind his success. He always thanked the army for giving him the  opportunity and early chances that enabled him to gain experience and be recognized by the Revolution’s leaders who assigned him many projects apart from those tackled during his working hours.

 

Furthermore, the army sent him on scholarships to some developed countries whenever he needed to earn more knowledge in different branches of engineering. He traveled to England, France, Germany, and the Netherlands to visit hospitals and know the latest innovations in this field. He was also sent to USA to visit the Pentagon in Washington and see the most important and renowned military building in the world.

 

To express his gratitude for all these, he designed and supervised the establishment of the most important two architectural projects in the history of the army, namely; the Military Hospital and its annexes in Maadi and the building of the General Command of the Armed Forces in Nasr City. In addition, he designed and constructed Al Galaa Club of the Armed Forces in Heliopolis, the Military Survey building in El Khalifa El Maamoun Street, and many other projects.

 

He used to make the architectural designs for these projects by himself in his office and his colleagues in the projects management department completed them under his supervision.

 

Above all, he brought up a generation of engineering officers in the field of projects management and engaged them in military projects and many other projects he implemented outside the army. They acquired the experience needed for qualifying them to bare the responsibility in the future. Many of them paved their way into civil engineering after the end of their military services.

 

Ramzy Omar ended his military service as a major-general in January 1960. During the same month, he was recalled to complete the project of the Military Hospital in Maadi and the building of the General Command for the Armed Forces. He continued his work in the army until January 1967. During these seven years, he was paid about thirty two Egyptian Pounds over his pension pay.


AFTER 1961

 

After the end of his military service, Ramzy Omar worked as an engineering consultant for the Syrian Ministry of Tourism to build five hotels; Sheraton Damascus Hotel and Méridien Hotels in Damascus, Latakia, Palmyra and Aleppo.

 

In Cairo, he designed and supervised the implementation of Safir El Zamalek Suites Hotel owned by the Kuwaiti Real Estate Investment Consortium. In addition, he designed and supervised the implementation of Sheraton Cairo Hotel extension to double its capacity and the extension and expansion of Sidi Abdel Rahman Hotel, North Coast. He also renewed and developed Sheraton Hurghada Hotel, Red Sea.

 

For office buildings, Ramzy Omar designed and supervised the implementation of the residential building of Cairo Center, owned by the United Real Estate Company in Kuwait, in Qasr Al-Aini Street, Cairo. He also designed and supervised the implementation of the new building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Maspero, Cornish El Nile.

 

The Czechoslovakian government assigned him with the building of its embassy in El Dokki, including the residence of the ambassador, the residential building of the embassy staff and a school for their children.

Concerning education, the Ministry of Maritime Transport assigned Ramzy Omar with the design and supervision of the Arab Academy for Maritime Transport, which became the Air Defenses Academy after that.

 

Ramzy Omar expressed his sincere gratitude to the army for all these huge projects. The army assigned him early responsibilities and provided him with opportunities to acquire experience in Egypt and abroad. The Revolution is also accredited for many projects he implemented inside and outside the army.

 

That his story in architecture, reflecting what Allah says: “But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you.” {2:216} He always dreamed of civil work; however, Allah willed otherwise. He joined the army and started his military life on the day of the Declaration of World War II. On his way to be recruited to the School of Military Engineering, he imagined that he would leave the architecture field forever and work in a new field full of war and destruction. After a couple of years of joining the army, the architecture field became wide open and many military and civil projects were assigned to him. That is the great achievement he never dreamed to achieve.

 

The following are the most important projects he implemented during the last fifty years (1944-1994).


JUBILEE PROJECTS

 

ALEXANDRIA POST SORTING CENTER

ARAB MARITIME TRANSPORT ACADEMY

ASWAN HOSPITAL

CAIRO CENTER OFFICE BUILDING

CAIRO POST SORTING CENTER

CAIRO SHERATON HOTEL

EDFU & MENIA HOTELS

EL-EIN EL-SOKHNA HOTEL

EL-NASR EXPORT AND IMPORT CO.

HOTEL DE L’AMITIÉ BAMAKO

HURGHADA SHERATON HOTEL

MAADI MILITARY HOSPITAL

PETROLEUM COOPERATIVE SOCIETY

RAMZY OMAR REST HOUSE

SAFIR FURNISHED FLATS HOTEL

SIDI ABDEL-RAHMAN HOTEL

TANTA POST SORTING CENTER

THE AGRARIAN REFORM OFFICE BUILDING

THE EGYPTIANS EMBASSY IN ANKARA

THE ISMAILIA GUIDANCE BUILDING

THE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

ZAMALEK OFFICERS CLUB


TIME LINE

 

1916 Ramzy Omar was born

1934 Started the College of Engineering

1939 Bachelors Degree in Architecture

1939 Attended the Military School of Engineering

1942 Ramzy Omar was assigned a secret project in Dakahlia Governorate

1946 King Farouk placed the flag designed by Ramzy Omar on top of the citadel

1947 Ramzy Omar fixed the Army Clubs building in Zamalek

1950 Ramzy Omar was put in charge of all Army projects

1956 Ramzy Omar designed Egyptian Flag for Abdel Nasser

1960 Ramzy Omar ended his military service as a major-general

1960 Ramzy Omar was recalled to finish the Military Hospital in Maadi

1967 Ramzy Omar officially ended his work in the army


Acknowledgements

With many thanks to Tarek Fikry for biographical details.


Created 2 July 2019


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