This paper examines the discursivity of nationalism in Egypt during the late nineteenth century; a period of vibrant political and architectural transformation that manifests the ragged edge of British empire. To explore this discursive terrain, this paper examines the transnationalism of multiethnic intellectuals and architectural themes. Progressive intellectuals, including the Armenian and Jewish Italian Adib Ishaq, and Yaqub Sanu—all disciples of the originally Persian scholar Jamal al-Din al-Afghani—coincided with the design of ambivalent architectural themes. The architecture and urban context of this period, whether patronized by the colonized or the colonizer, reflected the notion of transculturation through mutual fluctuation and ambivalence between traditional and imperial expressions. Projects such as the Egyptian Museum, Muntazah Palace, Awqaf building, the Lord residency, and the New Hotel, coincided with a context that interprets the ‘contact zone’—a concept posited by the theorist Mary Louise Pratt in Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (2007). For Pratt, the contact zone is a site of creative possibility, where innovative exemplars of transculturation, resulting in the mutual transformation of subjects and histories after their trajectories intersect in a space of copresence. The aim is to fray polarized representations of nationalism and to better appreciate the progressive creative and intellectual transformation that shaped Egypt ahead of the militaristic or religious expressions of nationalism that dominated the twentieth century.