Independent Design Magazine

The Artist Behind Cairo Metro Murals

Attaba Station mural by Sami Rafee

If you regularly commute by Cairo Metro, you’ll probably wonder about the story behind the metro murals. These expressive shapes have taken the underground experience to a whole new level ever since its execution back in 2003.

Unfortunately, not all of us know the man behind these murals. It’s Sami Rafee, the late Egyptian artist and professor of décor and Interior Design, Faculty of Fine Arts. He sadly passed away few weeks ago.

Let us know more about this significant art pillar and the story behind the metro murals.

Egyptian artist Sami Rafee

Rafee is a contemporary artist who was born in Cairo on April 8th in 1931. After getting BA of Faculty of Fine Arts, department of décor in 1948, Rafee perused a diploma of the Higher Institute of Art Education in Cairo in 1957. He then got diploma of the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, department of theatrical decoration, in 1966.

Between 1996 to 2003, Rafee worked on the murals of 19 metro stations of the second line. Murals occupy total area of 3250 meter squared and were executed using ceramic tiles.  Rafee was particularly keen that each station has its own unique design, based on its location and identity.

Some of his mural work in Cairo Metro stations:

Opera station

Working on the Opera station design, Rafee chose to express the authentic Egyptian history. The design pictures two pharaonic women playing the music. Figures notably remind us of those on the walls of the Valley of the Kings.

Opera-Station-Hatem-El-Sheemy

Masara station

The station was named after a famous doctor called Masara. He was a well-known nose and throat doctor. Rafee tried to preserve the historic name of the area. Therefore, he designed a wall painting with an ear, eye and lip.

Masarra-Station

St. Treasa station

The station carries the name of the church in that region. It has the design of two hearts expressing the strong bond between Muslims and Christians.

St-Tereasa-station

Road el Farag station

Since the region of Road el Farag is popular with boat trips inside river Nile, the main design of Road El Farag station featured boats in the river.

Road-El-Farag-Station

Here are some of Sami Rafee other mural work in the metro:

Definitely Cairo metro murals were not Sami Rafee’s only creation. He was significantly a pioneer in the Egyptian art scene throughout the years. Important to mention that one of Rafee’s greatest creations was the Unknown Soldier Memorial located in Nasr City in Cairo. The building is in memorial of Egyptian martyrs of 1973.

Rafee wanted to design a building that makes all Egyptians relate to. He designed it in a pyramid shape expressing the Egyptian identity. Another impressive detail is that the pyramid carries 72 different names of the most common ones in Egypt carved on its walls. Accordingly, every Egyptian will feel that the building is representing their lost ones.

The Unknown Soldier Memorial in Nasr City, Cairo
The Unknown Soldier Memorial in Nasr City, Cairo

Needless to say that Sami Rafee was one of the most significant artists in Egyptian recent history. His work was clearly an inspiration for the many. May his soul rest in peace.


An architect who’s passionate about movies, design, and advertising. Living for the art of storytelling in different ways, and always seeking to write inspiring stories about good things in the world.

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  1. Salwa Hassan

    12 June

    Thank you for this quick trip in Cairo metro stations .. it is very informative. Very pleasant to know that art is present in the daily life of Egyptians. Best wishes

    • LinesMag Staff

      2 September

      You are most welcome! We are glad you like the article!

  2. It is too bad that they asked only one artist , why ?
    There are so many great artist in Egypt.
    I am an artist and specialised in art in subways, In 1997, made a proposal to the Metro to create a project in all their airshafts but never heard anymore from them. It was about the Nile and history, in ceramics which I always work with.
    Feel free to enter in contact with me and see the proposal on my web site. http://www.francoiseschein.com
    Françoise Schein

    • LinesMag Staff

      2 September

      Hello Françoise,

      Thanks for your comment! We would really love to see this project proposal. Can you send us the project details to this email address: info@linesmag.com.

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