Wagh El-Birket

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The Wag.h el-Birket ("The Berka" or "The Birka", Arabic: وجه البركة, "the face of the lake" or "fronting the lake") was, through the first half of the 20th century, the entertainment district (or red-light district) of Cairo, Egypt. (The lake was where Azbakeya is now.)


In the 19th century as Cairo expanded, Wagh El-Birket developed as a contact zone between the wealthy area round the Azbakeya lake and expanding central Cairo.

WWI and fire[edit]

As 2 April 1915 was Good Friday, many ANZAC troops waiting to go to the Gallipoli Campaign were on leave, and many of them went to the Birka. They had an accumulation of grievances against the entertainments in the Birka: high prices; much venereal disease among the area's prostitutes; theft and general dishonesty; an incident when an English soldier from Manchester found his sister serving as a nude dancer and prostitute there (she had accepted an offer for a job in domestic service, but her purported employer took her to Cairo and left her there: see white slave trade), and when he tried to take her away, the brothel's staff threw him out of an upstairs window. [1][2] About 4000 troops rioted and wrecked and burnt many buildings, and threw prostitutes and pimps out onto the streets and their possessions after them; furniture including a piano was thrown out of upstairs windows; and they rescued the English soldier's sister. The riot started about 4 pm or 5 pm. and ended by 8 pm.

Links to photographs:

There were other incidents later.


During the Second World War, the British military set up brothels here, run by the Royal Army Medical Corps.

The authorities closed the Birka down in May 1942.[3]


The Wagh el-Birket features prominently in several novels by Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz, particularly the Cairo Trilogy.


  1. ^ http://mideasti.blogspot.com/2011/03/historical-note-for-april-2-first.html
  2. ^ http://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Napoleon_to_Nasser.html?id=u9DW1UpGW5gC page 112
  3. ^ Stone, Andrew (4 April 2009). "NZ's lost city in Egypt". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 30 November 2011. 
  • The Battle of Alamein: Turning Point, World War II by John Bierman and Colin Smith (2002)