As I started to take snapshots of Alexandria's Rialto Cinema, which has now been demolished, I was stopped by a harsh voice, "No, no photos are taken here."
Indeed, "No photo" expresses how Egyptian heritage is being deleted from the urban landscape.
This is just an example of what Alexandria, Egypt's old cosmopolitan city and culture hub is going through these days. In a blink of an eye, one of the oldest cinemas, not only in Egypt but in the whole world, with its 1,205 seats vanished.
Rialto Cinema, located in 36 Safya Zaghloul Street, an area full of historical buildings and restaurants, was completely demolished last month by a new company, which bought the building.
The movie theatre enchanted the audience with films of the golden cinema era during a time when people dressed up in their evening gowns and enjoyed the glamour and magic of cinema.
The cinema was owned by a Greek resident of Alexandria who recently sold it to a real estate developer. The agreement was to renovate the cinema, as was done to Amir and Rio theatres. However, the Greek community was shocked to find the cinema demolished in order to build a 'Rialto' mall that will include a cinema.
Rialto Cinema was built in the late 19th century with distinguished art deco. Though there is no clear evidence on when exactly it was built, an old map of Alexandria posted on the Save Alexandria website, one of the largest initiatives that works to save the old city's inheritance and artistic legacy, marks Rialto's presence in the late 1930s.
"I grew up when the cinema was in its prime during the 1940s and 50s. I remember seeing renowned singers Abdel-Halim Hafez and Shadya, actors Kamal El-Shenawy and Faten Hamama as well as musical composer Farid El-Atrash attend the premiers of their films in this cinema," said Mohamed Abdel Baset, a seventy-year-old doorman in El-Raml neighbourhood.
The art of cinema is deeply rooted in the heart of the Mediterranean city that witnessed the first cinema screening in 1897, built the first cinema studio in 1907, and published the first cinema magazine in 1919.