Egypt’s Hollywood on the Nile film studio razed to ground in mystery fire

Remains of the  Al-Ahram Studio
Remains of the Al-Ahram Studio in Giza, Cairo - Shokry Hussien/Reuters

An iconic Egyptian film studio known as Hollywood on the Nile was destroyed in a fire over the weekend.

The Al-Ahram Studio in Giza, Cairo was a major force in Arab cinema and at the centre of its golden age in the mid-20th century.

On Saturday the 80-year-old facility was razed in a blaze that broke out hours after filming concluded for a Ramadan television series, Al-Moalem, local media reported.

It took firefighters six hours to bring the fire under control while several buildings had to be evacuated and people treated for smoke inhalation.

There were no reported fatalities and the cause of the fire is not yet known.

Founded in 1944, the huge 290,000sq ft studio contained three production stages, a screening room and editing suite.

Al-Ahram Studio fire in Cairo
It took firefighters six hours to bring the blaze under control - Momen Samir/AFP via Getty Images
Al-Ahram Studio in Cairo
Firefighters cool the area still smouldering - Momen Samir/AFP via Getty Images

Al Ahram media reported that the studio was destroyed including decorations, areas designated for photography and corridors.

Photos show a great fire roaring out of the complex and a block of buildings blackened in the aftermath.

In one image, firefighters surround a large black patch of scorched earth with palm trees stand among them like symbols of its glamorous past.

Neighbour Yusif Mohammed told AFP that flames “reached the surrounding buildings before fire trucks arrived”.

He said: “No one knows what really happened.”

Third-biggest film producer in world

The New Arab website reported on Sunday that Mostafa Madbouly, the  prime minister, had announced compensation of 15,000 Egyptian pounds (£246) for the affected families. He visited the area with officials. The Egyptian prosecutor general’s office has also opened an investigation into the incident.

In the 1950s Egypt was the third-biggest film producer in the world, with countless Egyptian films and television series produced at Al-Ahram.

Today, mired in the worst economic crisis of its history, Egypt accounts for three quarters of the Arab world’s cinematic production.

The fire at Al-Ahram is expected to hit TV audiences hard over Ramadan when viewing figures peak in Egypt and the rest of the Arab world.

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