Photograph by Donald McLeish

Read Caption

The Arab Quarter of Port Said, a bustling international city in the 1920s.

Photograph by Donald McLeish

From Our Vault: Port Said, Egypt, Circa 1920

Now under a state of emergency, the port city flourished in the '20s.

Egyptian President Mohmed Morsi imposed a curfew and a state of emergency in Port Said, and two other cities, at the end of January. Residents of the northern gateway city to the Suez Canal defied Morsi's order with riots that left an estimated 40-plus locals dead.

The riots were set off by the announcement of death sentences for 21 fans of the Al Masry soccer club for their role in stadium violence last February that resulted in 74 deaths.

Al Masry—which means "The Egyptian"—was founded in 1920 to be the first team to represent the native Arabs of Port Said, then occupied by the British.

This shot of the then bustling port city's Arab quarter was purchased by National Geographic illustrations chief Franklin L. Fisher in Egypt and brought back to headquarters in Washington, D.C., that same year.

Those were prosperous days for Port Said, which sits on the Mediterranean, not far from Europe. Traffic on the Suez Canal was brisk and the international community was growing ever larger. The city's population verged on nearly 100,000 residents. It's still one of Egypt's largest cities, with about 600,000 people today.

Until Al Masry was formed, Port Said's football clubs were made up mostly of European expats who were part of the city's boom: Scottish canal engineers, French bankers, and Greek tobacconists.

Editor's note: This is the second in a series of pieces that looks at the news through the lens of the National Geographic photo archives.