Luna Park, Cairo

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Luna Park, Cairo, 1915.

The Cairo Luna Park was a trolley park[1] in Heliopolis, Egypt. Open from 1911 to the beginning of 1915, the Cairo Luna Park was the first Western-style amusement park in Africa and the first in the Middle East.[2] On 19 January 1915, buildings and grounds were converted into an auxiliary hospital at Luna Park for World War I;[3] the hospital was closed on 10 July 1916.[4]

The amusement park[edit]

Heliopolis, designed to be an "oasis" of Cairo,[5] was built in the first decade of the 20th century. After a 1907 stock market crash, the city's developers contracted with the Egyptian government to build housing for government workers; in addition, entertainment venues for the new arrivals were also planned, turning Heliopolis into Egypt's first entertainment zone. In addition to a hippodrome, polo field, cricket field, aerodrome, golf course, restaurants, and a new tram from Cairo,[6] a new amusement park - Luna Park, the first amusement park in Africa and the first in the Middle East - was built around 1910.[2] Opened to the public for the first time on 16 June 1911, Luna Park offered mechanical rides (including a switchback roller coaster), a midway, a skating rink, and restaurants.[7][8][9]

The auxiliary hospital for convalescent patients[edit]

The onset of World War I in late 1914 led to the formation of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACS) under General William Birdwood in Egypt. One of its first acts is the establishment of No. 1 Australian General Hospital in the Heliopolis Palace Hotel just outside Luna Park by 19 January 1915. Demand for bedspace increased to the point that the ANZACS expanded the medical facilities, first to Luna Park's ice skating rink by establishing an auxiliary branch of No. 1 AGH;[8][9][10][11] by 28 April 1915, over 500 beds filled the rink, and further accommodations were provided in makeshift-fashion in the haunted house, the round about, the scenic railroad, and the pavilion; the ticket office was modified to contain an operating theatre. By middle of May 1915, the hospital was treating casualties from Gallipoli; at this point, Luna Park contained over 1200 beds, many constructed of bamboo and palm wood, each bed with its own "customer". No. 1 AGH created additional auxiliary branches of its hospital nearby. By August 1915, the number of wounded at Luna Park reached 1400.[12] Ultimately, this auxiliary branch of 1AGH closed on 10 July 1916, when the main hospital moved to France. This auxiliary should not be confused with the real No. 1 Australian Auxiliary Hospital which opened at Harefield, England in March 1915.[13]

After World War I[edit]

Roxy Square now occupies the former site of Luna Park. While many of the buildings that rimmed the park remain, no traces of the once-popular tourist attraction exist.[14]


  1. ^ Mona L. Russell, Creating the New Egyptian Woman: Consumerism, Education, and National Identity, 1863-1922 (Macmillan 2004) ISBN 1-4039-6262-6
  2. ^ a b Yasser Elsheshtawy, Planning Middle Eastern Cities: An Urban Kaleidoscope in an Urbanizing World (Routledge 2004) ISBN 0-415-30400-8
  3. ^ Peter Rees, Other Anzacs: Nurses at War 1914-1918 (Allen & Unwin 2009) ISBN 1-74175-549-2
  4. ^ Casualty Clearance (2) - ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee (Queensland) Incorporated, 2005
  5. ^ In fact, the original name of the development translated to "Oasis of Helipolis" - Agnieszka Dobrowolska, Heliopolis: Rebirth of the City of the Sun (American University in Cairo Press 2006) ISBN 977-416-008-8
  6. ^ Report from Cairo Electric Railways and Heliopolis Oases Company, as cited in Daily Consular and Trade Reports, 1 April 1912 (United State Department of Commerce and Labor 1912)
  7. ^ Magda Baraka, The Egyptian Upper Class Between Revolutions, 1919-1952 (Garnet & Ithaca Press 1998) ISBN 0-86372-230-X
  8. ^ a b "Serjeant-Major, R.A.M.C.", With the R.A.M.C. in Egypt (Cassell 1918)
  9. ^ a b Martin Shaw Briggs, Through Egypt in War-Time (T.F. Unwin 1918)
  10. ^ Casualty Clearance (2) - ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee
  11. ^ Jan Bassett, 'Guns and Brooches'(Cambridge 1989)
  12. ^ Peter Stanley, Quinn's Post: Anzac, Gallipoli (Allen & Unwin 2005) ISBN 1-74114-332-2
  13. ^ Theodora Roscoe, 'The history of Harefield: compiled for wounded Australians at Harefield Park Hospital' (Harefield Park Boomerang Committee 1918)
  14. ^ Agnieszka Dobrowolska, Heliopolis: Rebirth of the City of the Sun (American University in Cairo Press 2006) ISBN 977-416-008-8