Taking a left turn from Cairo's Al-Kasr Al-Aini Street and walking down Gamal Al-Din Abu Al-Mahasen Street is like crossing the border of chaos into a haven of quiet and serenity. Almost immediately, the noises of the city disappear and are replaced with humming birds and the soft sound of the wind in the trees.
The sense of calm that washes over the visitor when entering the leafy suburb, situated right in the heart of Cairo, is unlike any other in the busy capital. With its calm atmosphere, one might think the area is abandoned, free of residents and visitors.
One is also momentarily struck by the beauty of their surroundings. Tall handsome villas, almost outdone by greenery, appear as if out of nowhere. It's as if the visitor has just left present day Cairo for a 20th century European suburb.
The suburb in question is Cairo's Garden City. A wealthy and chic residential district that lies by the Nile, just south of Downtown Cairo, it houses an abundance of embassies and some of Cairo's elite, or at least that's how most people identify it.
However, there's a lot more to Garden City than that; the suburb is also a historical and architectural treasure. It is home to some of Cairo's most beautiful European-style buildings that were built over the course of a century.
The suburb's story began in 1905 when the owners of the Nile Land & Agricultural Company chose visionary architect Jose Lamba to design a small district that would look like a European suburb and be the home of Cairo's prominent upper class.
Influenced by Art-nouveau architecture, he created a beautiful maze, drawn by a compass and not a ruler. The perfect hexagon that is Lamba's design has no straight roads. Its streets instead take the form of triangles and curved rectangles, entangling the walker in endless spirals, leading them right back to where they started without them even noticing.
And so it began, as the crafted villas and elegant gardens sprang up in the new city, Cairo's wealthiest hurried to buy the available properties.
The list of residents included royals such as Princess Fatma Fazil, prominent prime ministers like Adly Yegen Pasha and Mustafa El-Nahhas Pasha, and famous screen stars such as Fouad el-Mohandes and Shwekar. While these residents no longer live in Garden City, the houses and stories they've left behind remain.
Possibly the most historical building in the suburb is located at 10 Tolombat Street, which is now Itihad El-Mohamyeen El-Arab Street. In 1941, it became the headquarters of Britain's first-ever overseas ministry, where former British Secretary of State Oliver Lyttleton resided and worked during World War II.
The British residence, that transferred Garden City into a high security area filled with British military vehicles, was referred to by British officials as "Grey Pillars" or "Number 10", referencing London's Number 10 Downing Street. According to local legend, when officials asked to be taken there, the locals would identify it as the "Secret Building.”
"Number 10" hosted a variety of world leaders and international public figures during the war, ranging from European royals to heads of state and war generals.
It is within the walls of this beautiful belle-epoque villa that Lyttleton and General Charles De Gaulle of France negotiated and signed the documents that recognized the independence of both Syria and Lebanon from French and British protectorates.
The British Embassy that sits within a beautiful palace on Ahmed Ragab Street, which was built in 1894 making it one of the suburb's oldest buildings, was the center of multiple historical meetings.
It was in the palace's gardens that Lord Mountbatten, viceroy of India and uncle to Prince Philip of Greece, who later become the Duke of Edinburgh and husband of Queen Elizabeth, first talked about the marriage with the princess.
It was also from the British Embassy that in 1942 the British envoy Sir Miles Lampson drove in a military cortege to the Palace of Abdeen to give King Farouk the historic choice of appointing a pro-British cabinet or renouncing his throne.
The British royal family remains the owner of the second largest number of properties in Garden City, the first being the Vatican.
At number 10 El-Pasha Street also lies one of Garden City's most beautiful properties. A palace so bedazzling that art and architecture students jump over its fence to photograph its garden's statues, a palace where prominent politician Fouad Serageldin Pasha once lived.
It was built in 1902 by famous Italian architect Berlei and was originally intended to serve as a residence for Kaiser Wilhelm II, German emperor and cousin of the king of England. After the Kaiser's visit was postponed due to the start of World War I, the palace later became the Serageldin family residence.
It is engraved with the intertwined initials of Serageddin Chahin. The gorgeous palace became the subject of Fouad's sister Samia Serageldin’s semi-autobiographical novel "The Cairo House."
In every corner of every street in the quiet leafy suburb, there's an untold story, a breathtaking architectural design and most of all, a legacy. Yet despite the rich history, most Cairenes go about their everyday lives, completely unaware.