CAIRO – 26 January 2021: Today marks the 69th anniversary of the Cairo fire, a great fire that broke out on January 26, 1952 in several facilities in Cairo. In just a few hours, the fire destroyed about 700 shops, including cinemas, casinos, hotels, offices and clubs in the streets and squares of downtown Cairo.
In January 1952, guerrilla operations against British forces increased. British forces surrounded the police station in Ismailia. The British forces asked the police forces to hand over their weapons and withdraw from the area to Cairo, but Egyptian Minister of Interior at the time Fouad Serag el-Din issued orders not to accept the warning and to resist until the last bullet.
The policemen resisted the attacks of the British army, and 50 of them were killed and more than seventy wounded.
When news of this battle spread in Cairo, a wave of anger swept the entire Egyptian nation. At 6 a.m. of January 26, the soldiers of the blocks of the provincial system rebelled in their barracks in the Abbasiya area. They abstained from their tasks of maintaining order. At noon, demonstrations of high school students gathered in the Opera Square in central Cairo.
According to the King Farouk website, the tragedy began at 2 a.m. with the rebellion of the aviation workers at Almaza Airport, Cairo, as they refused to provide services to four aircrafts belonging to the English Airlines. This was followed by the rebellion of the regime (police) blocs in the Abbasid barracks in solidarity with their colleagues who were killed and captured in Ismailia.
The demonstrators crawled towards the university and the students drifted with them. They went to the Prime Minister’s building, demanding to cut diplomatic ties with Britain and declare war on them.
Minister of Social Affairs at the time Abdel Fattah Hassan answered them that Al-Wafd political party wanted that, but the king refused. As a result, the demonstrators went to Abdeen Palace, and Al-Azhar students joined them. Crowds of disaffected protesters gathered against the king, his aides, and the British.
Fouad Saleh Al-Sayed's book "The Greatest Contemporary Events" says: “The monarchy, as well as the political and security system in Egypt, was eroding before the outbreak of the terrible Cairo Fire on January 26, 1952. This came amid an intense atmosphere of cruelty taken by the British against civilians in the canal cities and the determination of the British government to continue the occupation and suffering.
When the Egyptian police forces were in a state similar to a strike, in solidarity with the police martyrs in Ismailia, the angry masses fell by the thousands, denouncing the king. They wanted to occupy his palace, but the bullets prevented them, so they marched to the cabinet building and occupied it.”
Another group went to occupy the British and American embassies, but the security forces at the two embassies prevented them.
During that popular upheaval against the occupation, fires began to appear and spread in many areas in central Cairo, and before nightfall clouded over the city. Smoke filled its airspace and this continued until the army entered the city and dispersed the demonstrators.
There is no doubt that Britain had a hand in orchestrating that fire. Employees of British companies and banks, along with important documents, were evacuated from the buildings they used to occupy before the fire broke out.
The streets of the capital were empty of Brits, who used to wander in it all the time. Britain also took advantage of the Cairo fire to keep the guerrillas away for some time from attacking its forces near the canal.