Passage du Caire – Sentier district

The Passage du Caire is located in Le Sentier, Paris’ textile industry district, where you’ll find wholesalers, distributors, tailors, subcontractors and retail shops.

Passage du Caire - Renovated shops
Renovated shops

It’s Paris’ second oldest covered gallery and one of the few remaining covered passages of Paris.

It was built in 1799 in the gardens of a 13th century convent demolished during the French Revolution.

It’s a bit macabre, but the passage’s floor was originally paved with the nuns’ tombstones!

The Passage du Caire is also Paris’ longest covered passage, as it’s not linear.

It’s a set of three connected galleries, Galerie du Caire, Galerie Saint-Denis and Galerie Sainte-Foy with four entrances, 33 Rue d’Alexandrie, 239 Rue Saint-Denis, 16-34-44 Rue du Caire and 2 Place du Caire.

This industrious beehive, which also attracted lithography and straw hats workshops, was never trendy.

It never had the charm and refinement of the other Parisian covered galleries; however, it escaped demolition during the 20th century, as the redevelopment project proved far too expensive.

The Passage du Caire is open to the public and gives a different perspective of Paris!

Its architecture certainly doesn’t take your breath away; the small houses that border it all have a cellar; shops are on the ground floor, dwellings on the upper-floor and the attic lofts above the glass roof.

Oriental-inspired decoration

Its unusual and eclectic decoration, on the other hand, reflects the public craze for Orientalism triggered by Napoleon’s military expeditions to Egypt; hence the Doric and Egypt-inspired patterns on the columns that support the glass roof.

Passage du Caire - Egyptian goddess Hathor's head
Egyptian goddess Hathor’s head

However, the facade of the building where the passage exits at no2 Place du Caire, is a perfect illustration of this Egyptian-inspired architectural style!

Indeed, it is adorned with three effigies of Hathor the Egyptian goddess of Love and Motherhood, who is traditionally represented as a cow goddess holding the sun disk between her horns.

However, the sculptor Joseph Garraud seems to have given free rein to his imagination in 1828, when he represented Hathor with cow’s ears!

He also produced a frieze of whimsical hieroglyphics above the heads and the lotus-shaped windows.

Le Champollion, the bistro that occupies the building’s ground floor is more recent, but didn’t escape the ‘oriental trend’!

It was named after Jean-François Champollion who accompanied Napoleon to Egypt and deciphered the Rosetta Stone.

So yes, the Passage du Caire is quite unusual, but it’s definitely worth the visit, as you might also get a good deal with some wholesalers!

Opening Hours: Mon-Fri – 7am-6.30pm – Free access

Directions: 2nd district
Metro: Sentier on Line 3
2 Place du Caire: Lat 48.868099 – Long 2.348745
33 Rue d’Alexandrie: Lat 48.868386 – Long 2.349820
239 Rue St-Denis: Lat 48.867596 – Long 2.351554
16 Rue du Caire: Lat 48.867486 – Long 2.351210

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