great progress has been made in the investigation, there still remain many unanswered
aspects. Below I pose a series of requests and questions that I would very much
like to know the answer to, of which the reader may possibly be able to assist,
or draw the attention of other people. Admittedly, many of these hugely
hopeful, with little chance of success, and are the equivalent of ‘throwing a message
in a bottle in the ocean’ and hoping for the best. However, it paid of once before
with Helen Donnelly answering my request for an in situ picture, so who knows?
1. Has anyone seen an in situ picture (i.e.
photograph) of the tiling in Cairo in any publication?
Amazingly, despite many references to the tiling in
the mathematical literature, it has apparently never been shown purposefully in a book, article, or newspaper in
its most obvious incarnation, as an in situ picture i.e. as a photograph!
Instead, invariably, author after author will give a line drawing. Does anyone know
of an in situ picture, purposeful or not, in any publication aside from those
2. Does anyone know of any recorded
first-hand sightings in print?
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, there are the very
few recorded first-hand sightings in print; indeed, there are apparently just two.
The apparent first sighting is by James Dunn , although his article is not
explicit in stating that this was a first-hand sighting. However, following
personal correspondence, Dunn confirmed that it was indeed a first-hand sighting
(at Cairo airport). The apparent second sighting was by Robert Macmillan , who
in his article stated explicitly that he visited Cairo and saw numerous
instances (and incidentally he gives a more extensive account than Dunn). However
aside for these two instances, there are no more. Are there any other recorded
3. Can anyone antedate the apparent first
recorded reference of the Cairo attribute given to the tiling in 1971, namely
that by James Dunn?
The apparent first instance is by James Dunn, in
1971 , where he stated the tiling '...is a favourite street-tiling in
Cairo'. This attribution is perhaps somewhat surprisingly late, given the
obvious old age of some of the tilings. The tilings could possibly predate
Dunn's attribute by many years, if not many decades. I would be very interested
in hearing of any antedating of the 1971 reference, or any other references
from the 1970s (references from the 1980s onwards abound; a full list is given
on the references page).
4. How old are the tilings?
The pictures clearly show that the tilings are from
different periods, as some are obviously relatively new, with the tiles in more
or less new condition, whilst others are noticeably old, being well worn, and
indeed, in places the tiling pattern is obliterated from constant usage. An
open question is to how old these are. Obviously, from Dunn's 1971 report (he
saw these in 1969), the tilings he saw are at least now (or would be, they are
apparently no longer there) 44 years old, which gives at least an guide. The
AUC sightings give strong anecdotal evidence of at least 1966, and so this
gives at least 47 years. However, the obviously worn tiles would appear (but
not necessarily) to be much, much older. Can anyone put an age on these?
5. Who or what body was responsible for the
installation of the tiling?*
Nothing is known as to the background to the
installation. Was it from just one person, perhaps at the behest of a municipal
contract, who suddenly introduced this more or less at whim? Was it perhaps
from an institution, rather than individual person. Was it from a paving
company? Can anyone furnish further details?
* I now have a named designer, a Ramzi Omar. More detail to follow
6. It is said to appear as a mosaic on
Moorish buildings; but where?
Aside from being seen as a tiling, Gardner ,
states that it is seen '…in the mosaics of Moorish buildings', but he is not
specific as to the type of building. As such, there is no documentary evidence
for this in the form of a picture. Has anyone seen this tiling on any ‘Moorish
7. Foreign instances outside of Egypt sought
Has anyone seen the tiling outside of Cairo? It is
also to be found in Japan,
where it is said to be ‘quite frequent’ (Tokyo), and Germany (Hamburg Music Hall).
Does anyone know of instances elsewhere?
8. Is the tiling found in the wider Islamic
No instances are known, despite being described as a ‘traditional Islamic
pattern’. Is it known in the wider Islamic world?
9. Sightings outside of Egypt,
but still in Cairo sought
Given the now obvious popularity of the tiling,
one would think it would also be found elsewhere outside Cairo in Egypt, as it
indeed is, at Alexandria (outside a Roman amphitheatre), El Alamein (War
museum), Aswan (Old Cataract hotel), and St Paul’s monastery. Are there any
10. Where is it being manufactured?
tiling still being manufactured, and if so where? Judging by the appearance of
the paving in some of the pictures, these would appear to be new, and so likely
it is still being made, but where remains elusive. I have tentative reports of
it being made in Basateen, and anecdotal reports at Aswan, and possibly Heliopolis, but without any detail
whatsoever. If the manufacturer can be found, likely more historical detail
will emerge. Detail is sought.
11. American University in Cairo contacts sought
Of some importance is that of establishing the earliest
installation of the tiling. The earliest confirmed instance so far is at the American University in
Cairo (AUC), with the pavings dated loosely 1960s-1970s, and strong anecdotal
evidence of at least 1966. An obvious line of enquiry is to ask people who
attended the university in the 1960s and before if they can recall seeing the
paving. Does anyone know of people who attended the AUC at and before this
12. Paving expert to determine age
Another means of establishing the age is by visual inspection of the more ‘well
worn’ pavings, and putting on them an upper and lower bound. Although I have
indeed made contact with a paving expert, John Knapman, who provided much
information, I would like a second opinion. Does anyone know of a ‘paving
expert’ who could speculate on the age of the pavings, or indeed have any
thoughts; needless to say, I’m a layman in paving per se.
13. Old pictures of significant
As such, the pavings are installed in a wide
variety of places in Cairo, and indeed in other towns as well. However, not all of these offer the
same opportunity for research. For instance, where they are installed on a
street of no particular importance, background details as to instigation are
most unlikely to emerge. However, when they are indeed attached to a place of
note, this offers more opportunity of researching. As such, I have what I
consider four sightings of significance in this regard, at the AUC, Gezira Sporting
Club, and outside of Cairo, with the Old Cataract hotel (one of the grandest
hotels in all of Egypt), and the El Alamein War museum. Does anyone have ‘old
pictures’ of these either with or without the paving; even a ‘negative’ picture
is of use; it giving an upper bound.
14. Books and articles sought
Would any reader of this web page know of any additional references to
the Cairo tiling in books and articles other than those here (as given on the
references page)? I would indeed like to see additional references.
15. Cairo airport pictures c. 1969 sought
Would anyone have pictures of Cairo
airport, at Heliopolis,
of c. 1969 showing the paving? Or indeed, before or afterwards that date? The
first report (by James Dunn) I have is at Cairo
airport, and so is historically significant, but pictures have remained (not
surprisingly) elusive. Likely, this sighting is no longer extant, due to new
termini being built at the airport. Or indeed, does anyone know of anything of
16. Gezira sporting club contacts sought.
Could anyone help me a sighting at the Gezira Sporting Club? A noticeable feature of the pergola
there is that of the paving:
I note that the Sporting Club was founded way back,
in 1892, and so the possibility is that of the paving being relatively old.
The picture here is modern, of 2010. The sporting club does not appear to have email details, and so my enquireis are hindered.
16. Visitors to Cairo sought
Would any reader of this web page be visiting Cairo,
or know of someone who is intending to do so? I have some sightings that I
would like checking out, specifically at Heliopolis
and the Gezira Sporting Club. Also, any new sightings in other locations would
be warmly welcomed.
17. Identifying video location
identify this location in Cairo (below), from a BBC
interview by Jeremy Bowen of the BBC with
Hassam Badwari of the National Democratic Party (NDP), conducted during the January
2011 unrest? The
interview was undertaken amidst a veritable sea of the paving. N.B. forward the
video two minutes to get to the relevant tiling part:
Jeremy Bowen interview with Hassan Badwari
obvious (although not necessary) location is the NDP headquarters, does anyone
know of this?
18. Identifying a sighting outside a Mosque
The tiling appears (incidentally) in a photograph in a 1987 book by Insight
Guides, Egypt, apparently of a mosque
at the the City of the Dead, but without further detail. However clues are
given in the Arabic script signage at the mosque, which reads ‘Masjid and Maqam
of Muhamed abu al-Sa`ud al-Jarahi (or al-Jirahi)’ and ‘Midan Abu al-Sa`ud’
despite such exact detail (for once!) I have not been able to locate this on
any map. Does anyone know of this? I’ll email the copyrighted picture upon
Stanford University archive access
Of interest would be to
papers for his 1975 article . One possible investigation would be to have a
look in the Stanford archive (where his papers are stored) for the background
to the article. Would any keen reader have, or know of someone with access to
the archives there that could have a look?
matter how small or insignificant you think your detail could be, even if of a
negative nature, I want to hear of it! Please email me with any further
 Dunn, James A. 'Tessellations with Pentagons'. The Mathematical
Gazette, December 1971, 366-369.
 Gardner, Martin. 'On tessellating the plane with convex polygon tiles'. Scientific
American, July 1975, 112-118.
 Macmillan, Robert H. 'Pyramids and pavements: some thoughts from Cairo'. The
Mathematical Gazette, December 1979, 251-255.
Created: 15 March 2011. Revised 15 July, 4 August 2011. Revised and expanded 28