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Creative Cities: Re-framing Downtown Cairo

Edited by: Beth Stryker Omar Nagati

Creative Cities: Re-framing Downtown Cairo International Symposium October 31-November 1, 2015 AUC Tahrir Campus

The Creative Cities: Re-framing Downtown Cairo conference invited international examples of successful models of creative cities of relevance to the future development of downtown Cairo, and in dialogue with local stakeholders considered the role culture can play as a catalyst for development. Looking critically at the changes that have taken place in Cairo over the past few years, and building on the wealth of studies of both urban history and contemporary conditions that Cairo enjoys, the conference was organized to emphasize comparative and interdisciplinary approaches to issues related to public space, heritage and urban culture, the revitalization of Downtown in the context of gentrification and securitization, and urban governance. The conference brought scholars, professionals and experts together with local cultural actors, community leaders and stakeholders. The conference consisted of public plenary sessions as well as critical urban walking tours that aimed towards alternative visions for Cairo’s downtown, informed by local practices, in addition to best practices from international contexts. Conference organized by:

Mona Abaza Nancy Naser Al Deen Khaled Abdelhalim Ahmed Ragheb Amr Abdelrahman Heba Raouf Ezzat Dina Abou El Soud Lucie Ryzova Emad Abou Ghazi Karim Shafei Lisa Anderson Youssef Shazli George Arbid Beth Stryker Riham Arram Dirk Wanrooij Choucri Asmar William Wells Tarek Atia Tariq Zulficar Lina Attalah Sahar Attia Alia Ayman Nathaniel Bowditch Nadia Dropkin Aida El-Kashef Mohamed Elshahed Emad Farid Mohamed Gawad Paul Geday Jane Hall Soheir Hawas Kareem Ibrahim May Al-Ibrashy Akram Ismail Galila El Kadi Jerold S. Kayden Ernesto LĂłpez-Morales Ahmed Mansour Samia Mehrez Omar Nagati

Creative Cities: Re-framing Downtown Cairo Edited by: Beth Stryker Omar Nagati

Conference organized by:

Š 2016 CLUSTER, the American University in Cairo, and the Research Foundation for the State University of New York This publication and accompanying website: are based on a two-day international conference held at AUC Tahrir Square October 31-November 1, 2015. All rights reserved ISBN: 978-0-9980983-0-2 Edited by Beth Stryker and Omar Nagati Publication coordination by Noha Darwish Copyedited by Mia Jankowicz Designed by Ahmad Hammoud Cover images courtesy of Nancy Naser Al Deen Printed in Cairo

Editors’ Note Some of the transcribed conference dialogues excerpted in this publication have been translated from Arabic, edited, or condensed. Transliteration of Arabic words and names in the text are based on a simplified version of the system of International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies. This is with the exception of specific names of companies, initiatives, or individuals, whose transliterated spellings may be broadly established. Diacritical marks are limited to the letters ‘ayn [‘] and hamza [’].

Table of Contents

1. Introduction................................................................................................................................................................8 2. Proceedings..............................................................................................................................................................16 A- Plenary Sessions 1. Downtown in Context: Is Gentrification Inevitable?...........................................................................................................................18 2. Artists as Urban Catalysts....................................................................................................................................................................44 3. Cultural Policies and Urban Governance...........................................................................................................................................76 4. Whose Public Space? Security and Access....................................................................................................................................114 5. Heritage and Urban Culture...............................................................................................................................................................146 6. Re-framing Downtown: Alternative Approaches...........................................................................................................................170 B- Downtown Walking Tours 1. Literary Tour: Led by Samia Mehrez..................................................................................................................................................216 2. Biking Tour: Led by Dirk Wanrooij and Nancy Naser Al Deen........................................................................................................222 3. Cinematic City Tour: Led by Aida El-Kashef and Mohamed Gawad............................................................................................226 4. Lost and Last Photography Tour: Led by Paul Geday...................................................................................................................230 5. Modernist Architecture Tour: Led by Mohamed Elshahed...........................................................................................................234 6. Cairo Downtown Passageways Tour: Led by Omar Nagati..........................................................................................................240

3. Mada Masr on Creative Cities: Re-framing Downtown Cairo • Downtown as Laboratory: Q&A on Cairo’s Creative Cities Conference...........................................................................................246 • Downtown Lost or Reclaimed?.............................................................................................................................................................252 • The Changing Face of Downtown.......................................................................................................................................................258


4. Participants and Contributors......................................................................................................................................................266 5. Suggested Readings......................................................................................................................................................................278 6. Acknowledgments..........................................................................................................................................................................284 • Editors’ Acknowledgements................................................................................................................................................................285 • Image credits..........................................................................................................................................................................................286 • Supporters...............................................................................................................................................................................................287

7. Appendix............................................................................................................................................................Accompanying volume

1. Introduction


Creative Cities:

Re-framing Downtown Cairo Conference

This conference sought to examine and challenge issues relating to “Creative Cities,” and the role that art, culture and creative initiatives may play in urban revitalization and regeneration. It squared attention on Cairo, and Downtown in particular, which has been undergoing rapid political and urban transformations over the past five years, resulting in changes to its social and cultural fabric, as well as its public spaces. The conference sought further to offer a public forum in a city where there are few if any opportunities for citizens to learn about and have a say in changes to their neighborhoods. It gathered stakeholders from local government, human rights organizations, private real estate companies and the independent cultural sector, as well as architects and urbanists, both local and international, to consider questions such as: what role artists may play as urban catalysts; the impact of cultural policies and urban governance on Downtown’s development; and whether gentrification in downtown Cairo is inevitable. The conference sought to ask how Cairo is different to other cities, such as New York and London, with respect to issues of ownership and accessibility of public space. The past two years have witnessed a number of projects aimed at restoring order within a broader scheme for the revitalization and development of downtown Cairo, whereby official policies and the interests of real estate developers often overlap. While Downtown

Beth Stryker Omar Nagati

has always been a hub for artists, writers and intellectuals, who fill its galleries and frequent its cafés, since 2000 it has experienced the rise of a contemporary art scene that has contributed to Downtown’s

“rediscovery.” Its heritage buildings, vintage bars and cafés, and retro

By engaging and learning from international and regional examples

hotels have been reinvigorated by a younger generation of students,

the conference aimed to contribute to enriching current and future

artists, journalists and activists, in addition to foreign residents, all

plans for downtown Cairo, critically comparing other cities, while

contributing to a process of reawakening after three decades of urban

acknowledging downtown Cairo’s local and institutional specificity.

deterioration and decay. As such, Cairo’s downtown art and cultural

Through these intersecting themes—art, cultural and creative

scene can be seen to play a role in enriching the city center’s diversity,

economies, and urban regeneration—the conference sought to

while also at times resisting instrumentalization as a “strategic cultural

develop a platform to exchange and debate ideas and address the

asset” in Downtown’s development.1

priorities of stakeholders: including governmental organizations; decision makers; experts and consultants; real-estate developers

The title of the conference, Creative Cities: Re-framing Downtown

and small businesses; art and cultural actors and initiatives; as

Cairo, invoked major global economic and urban transformations as

well as engaged citizens, residents and users of Downtown.

well as a critical discourse that has developed since the 1980s and 1990s, during which time many cities in Europe and North America

Conference organizing partner, the American University in Cairo

underwent a painful shift to a post-industrial economy. The rise of

(AUC), strategically hosted the forum at its Tahrir Campus, and

information technologies enabled the restructuring of many of these

maintains a particular interest in this Downtown campus and

urban centers into hubs for art and culture and financial industries,

surrounding context. Shortly after the Creative Cities conference,

as well as the transformation of former industrial zones and

the AUC launched its Neighborhood Initiative in partnership with the

deteriorated city centers into sanitized sites for museums, galleries

American University in Beirut to address the priorities and concerns

and public plazas.2 These urban transformations were paralleled by

of the local community and municipal authorities with regard to the

the development of a critical discourse addressing the “rise of the

future redevelopment of this part of Downtown. This public discussion

network society” and the emergence of a “creative economy,” raising

on Downtown’s urban regeneration and development therefore

critical questions about the role of art and culture in post-industrial

sought to be inclusive of AUC academic programs, conference

cities. This discourse raised concerns about the role the creative class

sponsor the GrEEK Campus, with its recently established hub of

may play in the process of gentrification, as city centers increasingly

creative initiatives on a site previously part of AUC’s Downtown

became open museums lacking socioeconomic diversity.

campus, as well as surrounding art and cultural venues.


Introduction 13

The conference was organized with the Research Foundation of

engage the interests, priorities and concerns of a wide spectrum of

the State University of New York in partnership with CLUSTER, as

constituencies and stakeholders in Downtown. They ranged from

part of an effort to explore approaches to documentation, network

a real-estate holding company that owns hundreds of buildings, to

building and urban design that improve public space governance.

owners of a start-up restaurant and an alternative screening initiative;

The conference thus also sought to bring the experience of New

from academic experts and government advisors, to artists and

York and North American cities to contribute to the debate on

urban activists. It sought to create an open and public forum for

creative placemaking. A follow-up symposium in October 2016:

discussion and debate on the future development of downtown Cairo.

Art, Politics and Cities in Transition, organized by Purchase College, State University of New York and CLUSTER at the AIANY/Center for

Lastly, the conference can be viewed as a culmination of a theme that

Architecture extended the discussion to the North American context,

CLUSTER has engaged with over the past three years, namely that of

examining the politics of urban revitalization and its relationship to

artists as urban catalysts and their contribution to local economies

gentrification, securitization, and real estate development; as well as

and urban regeneration.5 CLUSTER has organized a number of

the roles of cultural actors, the state and the private sector in urban

conferences and symposia that have sought to bring together multiple

politics across different cities and their economic contexts.4

stakeholders and through critical conversation explore potential local strategies for sustaining artists’ access to the generative

In order to reach out to a broader range of stakeholders, the Creative

contributions they make to urban development. In addition, CLUSTER

Cities: Re-framing Downtown Cairo conference sought input from

has conducted research and mapping projects for art, cultural and

an Advisory Committee consisting of Lina Attalah (Mada Masr),

urban initiatives in post-revolution Cairo, and has developed pilot

Nathaniel Bowditch (AUC), Heba Farid (CIC), Maria Golia, May Al-

urban interventions in Downtown to test the hypothesis of the role

Ibrashy (Megawra), Mohamed Elshahed (Cairobserver), and Khaled

of art in urban regeneration, in the pursuit of a more diverse and

Al Khamissi (Doum Cultural Foundation). By inviting representatives

inclusive public space.6, 7 Over the past few years Downtown has

from the Cairo Governorate and other state-run institutions, real-

witnessed increased attention as can be seen from a proliferation

estate corporations and the private sector in the city center, as well

of literature and events.8 CLUSTER has compiled a bibliography

as representatives from the civil society sector, including art and

of relevant articles and publications, included as an appendix to

cultural initiatives, the conference aimed at providing a platform to

this volume.

The Creative Cities: Re-framing Downtown Cairo conference was

This publication offers a summary of the conference panels, including

organized around six sessions, each addressing a theme or topic

presentations and ensuing discussions. It also includes a section

that engaged urban, economic and cultural dimensions, as well as

summarizing the themes, itineraries and maps of the Downtown tours.

those related to policies and governance. These included topics

The conference’s media partners Mada Masr and Mantiqti Wasat al-Balad

such as: artists as urban catalysts; gentrification; accessibility and

newspaper produced a number of pieces—in text and video respectively—

security; urban heritage; cultural policy; urban governance; as well

on current issues of Downtown. The texts of Mada Masr’s articles are

as alternative and parallel urban visions for Downtown. The sessions

reproduced in Section 3 of this volume. The commissioned journalistic

were structured to represent multiple positions of policymakers,

videos produced by Mantiqti Wasat al-Balad preceded the conference

experts and academics, real estate developers, artists and cultural

sessions, engaging issues related to everyday experience Downtown

actors, in addition to international and regional examples.

such as traffic and pedestrian mobility; urban deterioration and the resident experience; art and cultural spaces and events; and women-led

In conjunction with these discursive sessions, the afternoon of the

businesses. These videos are included in the accompanying website

first day was organized into six tours, designed with local experts to

(, which incorporates documentation of all

highlight alternative narratives of Downtown. The Cinematic City Tour

conference panels. In addition to conference proceedings and programs,

explored sites featured in Egyptian cinema and literature over decades;

this volume includes an appendix mapping the creative industries in

the Modernist Architecture Tour visited Modernist icons designed by

downtown Cairo compiled by CLUSTER, including a guide to Downtown’s

pioneering Egyptian architects; the Downtown Literary Tour explored

heritage buildings based on the registry produced by the National

the cultural and literary life of downtown Cairo; the Last and Lost

Organization of Urban Harmony (NOUH) in 2009.10

Photography Tour sought out closed or surviving photography studios; the Cairo Downtown Passages Tour offered the experience of Downtown

The Creative Cities: Re-framing Downtown Cairo publication and website were

through its passageways and back alleys; while the Downtown Biking

conceived to provide a platform for exchange and debate on future visions

Tour braved Cairo by bicycle. The tours both complemented and

for downtown Cairo. Ultimately we hope this platform may contribute to the

grounded the discussions in everyday experience, while offering

establishment of an institutional mechanism to broaden the constituency

new ways to re-imagine Downtown.

engaged in planning Downtown, and allow for a more participatory process


towards a diverse, inclusive and sustainable Downtown.

Introduction 15

1 Colin Mercer, “Cultural Planning for Urban Development and Creative Cities” (2006 http://,): 2–3. See also Martha Rosler, “Culture Class: Art, Creativity, Urbanism, Part III,” e-flux vol. 25 no. 5 (2011):, last accessed 04/09/2016. 2 Sharon Zukin, The Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010). 3 On the rise of discourse on the creative city, see for example Charles Landry and Franco Bianchini, The Creative City (London: Demos, 1995); Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community, and Everyday Life (New York: Basic Books, 2002); and Manuel Castells, The Rise of the Network Society, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture Vol. I (Malden, MA and Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1996). On the role of art in urban gentrification, see Loretta Lees, Tom Slater and Elvin Wyley, Gentrification (London and New York: Routledge 2008); and Neil Smith, The New Urban Frontier Gentrification and the revanchist city (London and New York: Routledge, 1996). 4 See 5 CLUSTER has organized events such as the panel discussion Artists as Urban Catalysts, at the Goethe Institut in Cairo, November 2012. See artists-as-urban-catalysts 6 Cairo Urban Initiatives Platform, CUIP. 7 See Omar Nagati and Beth Stryker, Cairo Downtown Passageways: Walking Tour (Cairo: CLUSTER, 2015) and See also CLUSTER’s design interventions in the Kodak and Philips Passageways in Downtown Cairo in 2015. 8 See bibliography list on Downtown at the end of this publication. The list can be found on Cairo Urban Resource Library, CURL (, currently in the process of migration to Private InterLibrary Online Technology, PILOT, to be launched in the Fall of 2016. 9 For the themes, itineraries and maps of these tours, see part 2-B of this publication. 10 Issued in the Prime Ministerial Decree No. 2964 in 2009.

2. Proceedings A- Plenary Sessions

2. Proceedings

A- Plenary Sessions 1- Downtown in Context: Is Gentrification Inevitable? 2- Artists as Urban Catalysts 3- Cultural Policies and Urban Governance 4- Whose Public Space? Security and Access 5- Heritage and Urban Culture 6- Re-framing Downtown: Alternative Approaches


Panel #1

The first panel was moderated by Mona Abaza from the Department of

Downtown in Context:

Is Gentrification Inevitable?

Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology, and Egyptology, School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the American University in Cairo (AUC), who introduced questions regarding the gentrification of downtown Cairo. She noted that it is important to include a discussion of the state’s growing attempts to gain control over the public sphere. These attempts have involved “cleaning up” Downtown, by means such as superficially beautifying select buildings and evicting the street vendors. This “beautification” has been undertaken by the state alongside an increased militarization of the area through the erection of walls and checkpoints. Referencing Galila El Kadi’s book on Downtown Le Caire: Centre en mouvement, Abaza questioned the links between the possible current


gentrification of Downtown and the phenomenon of the nomadism of the

Mona Abaza

rich, in particular toward Dubai-style gated communities and compounds

Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology, and Egyptology, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, American University in Cairo

in the desert satellite cities inspired by military models of urban planning. Citing El Kadi’s description of the old bourgeoisie’s prior departure from decaying Belle Époque residences like ‘Abdin, Qasr al-Nil, ’Imad al-Din, and Hilmiya to move on toward new areas such as Zamalek, Muhandisin,


Heliopolis and Duqqi, Abaza noted: “if we are speaking of Downtown we

Ernesto López-Morales

have to keep in mind that the dream of the new rich is not Downtown.”

Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism, Universidad de Chile

Lucie Ryzova Department of History, University of Birmingham

Raising the question of whether the gentrification of Downtown is inevitable, Abaza interrogated whether investing in public spaces for the arts could

Akram Ismail Board Vice Chair for Technical Affairs, Misr Real Estate Assets

be a way of mitigating further urban violence, at the risk of erasing political memory, asking: “Has culture or rather revolutionary culture become the means per se to pacify the city and erase the memory of urban wars?”

Panel #1

The panel’s first speaker, historian Lucie Ryzova of Birmingham

government agencies’ cultural habilitation of core parts of Downtown

University, addressed downtown Cairo as a site of multiple claims: social,

and “gentrification plans” by private companies such as Al Ismaelia

cultural, political, and economic. She explained the long-standing socially

for Real Estate Investment, whose model of urban regeneration she

porous space of Downtown, with its flexible boundaries of class and

argued aims to encourage and exploit Downtown’s creative and artistic

gender, and celebratory or carnivalesque qualities in relation to Michel


Foucault’s concept of heterotopia. Ryzova characterized Downtown’s diverse publics; includingintellectuals and artists, expats and activists,

Ryzova postulated that the non-hegemonic quality of Downtown is

old-timers, young men, and people from the lower middle class as

not only a product of the 2011 revolution, but that its “heterotopic

enjoying “radical autonomy” and “relative freedom” in the area. She

infrastructure” is a result of a culture that has persisted over more than

claimed these figures pass each other “like ships in the night,” presenting

a century and that she foresees being “more resilient than any of its

Downtown as “a space belonging to no one, but available to everyone.”

enemies are able to imagine.”

Describing Downtown as an upscale neighborhood of shopping and

Ryzova was followed by Akram Ismail who represented Misr Real

leisure in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Ryzova

Estate Assets, an insurance sector company responsible for many of

charted its eclipse as a hub of power and influence, and the rise of its

the renovation projects taking place in Downtown. Ismail presented

bohemian, liminal character. She located this decline less in the years of

examples of the firm’s past and future renovation plans. He explained

President Gamal Abdel Nasser , and more in the “open door policy” years

that the company owns 192 buildings in Egypt, of which 108 are located

of President Anwar al-Sadat’s administration “which started a process of

in Cairo alone, with 18-20 of these buildings to date refurbished to their

urban segregation that continues to this day.”

original state.

Ryzova claimed the growing interest in downtown Cairo on the part

Misr Real Estate Assets cooperates with the Cairo governorate and

of government, capital, and sections of the educated Egyptian public

the National Organization for Urban Harmony (NOUH) and as such, the

should be understood within the broader context of neoliberalism and in

company prioritizes buildings that are of first interest to the governorate.

relation to the urban flight by Egypt’s middle and upper middle class to

They have developed plans to renovate the outer appearance of the

newly built desert cities and gated communities. She pointed to Egyptian

buildings as well as the interiors, including plumbing and carpeting.

Downtown in Context


The final speaker was Ernesto López-Morales of the University of Chile’s

López-Morales gave numerous examples of policies that attempted,

Architecture and Urbanism Faculty. He gave a presentation on case

but failed to protect local residents. In Quito, Ecuador for example,

studies of creative redevelopment in Latin American cities, addressing

government policies of de-gentrification sought to keep housing

the shortcomings of state-led gentrification in Latin America as part of

affordable for the public, but still regulated public spaces, relocating

the post-industrial economic boom. López-Morales argued that neoliberal

street vendors and sex workers. Another alternative he discussed, the

approaches to gentrification, involving the stigmatization of poverty

Uruguayan Federation of Housing for Mutual-Support Cooperatives

in Latin America, the eviction of residents from “heritage protection

(FUCVAM), Uruguay’s oldest social movement, is a collective following

zones,” and militarized police control over public space, have led to the

principles of self-management and collective ownership. López-Morales

creation of “spaces of exclusion” across the Latin American continent.

argued their work on housing and development provides an example of responsible, non-gentrifying, non-oppressive urban development.

López-Morales referred to Richard Florida’s concept of the creative class,

The ensuing discussion and interventions by the audience not only

which posits that the movement of creative professionals to city centers

highlighted the complexity of the gentrification process, its multiple

fuels regeneration. He discussed its influence on development in Latin

actors and their competing interests, but also revealed the nuances

America, pointing to its impact on policies including the rescue program

within the definition of the term itself. The discussion pointed to

in Mexico City’s historical center, which marginalized “undesirable” social

the gap between state-led policies and tools for urban renewal,

elements, resulting in the total displacement of street vendors in the area.

addressing their critiques by scholars and activists as well as

López-Morales further presented the transformation of the district of

alternative approaches undertaken by civil society organizations.

Puerto Madero in Buenos Aires. As a result of state-promoted local and foreign investment, the district was developed into one of the most sought-after residential districts for young creative professionals in the 1990s, the profits of which accrued to private forces. Likewise, he gave examples of neoliberal approaches that disempower local residents including the accelerated tourist-led gentrification of Panama City.

Renovated warehouse into a luxury restaurant in gentrifying Juรกrez Colonia, City of Mexico.


Redevelopment in Latin American Cities: A Critical Overview

Redevelopment and Gentrification in Latin America Latin America is the most urbanized region in the world. About 80 percent of its population lives in cities. As a growing volume of research shows, in this region sophisticated neoliberal urban redevelopment policies are at odds with class-related conflicts for the use of land in the city center, as whole metropolitan areas become gentrified, while the average rate of income inequality is the highest in the globe.1 In the Latin American region, redevelopment-led gentrification is currently a major focus of several (inter)disciplinary literatures, and its current theoretical framing is no longer constrained by an Anglo-American view as it had been until the early 2000s. It now includes the varying local and national political and socioeconomic conditions under which states and investors redevelop (together or not) certain portions of urban land or entire areas of cities.2 However, the simple definition of gentrification offered by Eric Clark still seems quite useful to understand what it means in Latin America.3 Clark defines gentrification as a process involving a change in the population of landusers such that the new users are of a higher socioeconomic status than the previous users, together with an associated change in the built environment through a reinvestment in fixed capital. The greater the difference in socio-economic status, the more

Ernesto Lรณpez-Morales

noticeable the process, not least because the more

Panel #1

powerful the new users are, the more marked will be the

private redevelopment in the vast metropolitan center of the Mexican

concomitant change in the built environment. It does not

megalopolis, besides other aggressively effective public guidelines

matter where, it does not matter when. Any process of

that tackle informality in historical central areas.5 There have also

change fitting this description is, to my understanding,

been noticeable increases in the income, age and level of education

Gentrification. (p. 258)

of the resident population found in gentrifying inner neighborhoods in not only the famous La Condesa and La Roma colonias, but also

Clark indeed offers an analytical perspective ample enough to recognize

in a vast array of more pauperized neighborhoods surrounding the

contextual differences of each case, without losing the relational, class-

historical ring, where issues of displacement and sharp changes

sensitive perspective that the gentrification lens provides. The focus on

in the socioeconomic condition of residents are matters of public

the loss of use value of space experienced by the urban poor is also an

concern. For instance, an area of more recent gentrification is Juรกrez

important variable to bear in mind.

colonia, a case of intensive heritage regeneration-led gentrification.6 Nevertheless, probably the best known case of redevelopment-led

Gentrification in Latin America

gentrification in Mexico City is the Santa Fe area, a modern and globalized residential, service and business redevelopment, where

The relation between urban redevelopment and gentrification in Latin

the local and federal government carried out evictions of a portion

America has been systematically undertaken for the last five years

of the population that was legitimately occupying part of that land.

only. In Mexico City, several connected processes of devaluation and

The land consisted of nine and a half hectares, containing 510

abandonment in/from historical central colonias (neighborhoods) have

houses inhabited by a community of 3,200 inhabitants including

been followed by a whole back-to-the-city movement accompanied

garbage collectors, a church, a school and a small market. The entire

by revitalization policies and huge investment capacity by private

community was severely displaced after the metropolitan authority

actors embraced by international funding agencies like UNESCO. This

closed the dump in 1994, cleared the site and put in urban services in

context has led to the formation and exploitation of a rent gap in the

preparation for the development of a mega real estate project.7 As will

inner areas. More recently, state-led policies have intervened in the

be illustrated, in both cases from Mexico City and Rio de Janeiro, both

property-led, tourist-oriented reshaping of central spaces through the

central and relatively peripheral areas of the city are being gentrified

advantages offered to the market that concentrated and intensified



Redevelopment in Latin American Cities

As Mexico City sees intensive redevelopment in historic and new centralities, the case of Rio de Janeiro shows a general increase in land and housing costs in the whole metropolitan area. There, a whole process of urban restructuring has taken place with apparently massive rates of displacement, starting from the explosive and highly mediatized Vila Autódromo case, a shanty settlement close to the upper-income suburban Barra de Tijuca neighborhood. For the last three years, Vila Autódromo was almost completely bulldozed as part of the construction works for the 2016 Olympics.8 Also, intensified private investment in favelas (informal areas) with latent processes of displacement have been witnessed from Vidigal to Rocinha, as both places are currently experiencing an influx of local and transnational upper classes.9 The

View of the construction works in the Zona Portuária, Rio de Janeiro.

residential landscapes of Rio de Janeiro are indeed changing rapidly in a manner that can be deemed gentrification, in response to intersecting vectors such as a cycle of global mega-events; the occupation of strategic favelas by state military police following “pacification” policies prescribed by private consultant and former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani; and the implementation of state-led urban development projects. One of the more salient examples of this policy is the Zona Portuária, a three-neighborhood region that is undergoing massive state-led “revitalization.” Here, deep urban changes have occurred whilst the Police Pacification Units (UPP) have been permanently installed in select favelas to vanquish drug trafficking networks and enforce security, physically expanding under the national government’s Growth Acceleration Program (PAC). This initiative includes several transportation facilities, such

View of the Zona Portuária, Rio de Janeiro.


Panel #1

as cables that connect favelas to the central area, new housing, social

origins linked to the predominance of working class residential uses

services, and open spaces within some of the most consolidated favelas.

and industrial and manufacturing activities. All these areas have

The 2010 launch of the US $3.9 billion Morar Carioca program aims to re-

been affected by urban renovation policies, and are undergoing

urbanize, relocate, or cope with all of Rio’s approximately 1,000 irregular

gentrification processes that include the eviction of the more vulnerable

settlements, whilst the Minha Casa, Minha Vida program has also played

sectors. Still, the success of some grassroots activism has led to the

a role in the displacement of some select neighbors. The class-led

development of affordable housing in gentrifying neighborhoods.12

symbolic appropriation of the favelas of Rio de Janeiro has now led to the prospect of their urbanization giving rise to land speculation, newcomer

Last but not least, Santiago de Chile’s low-income central neighborhoods

residents, and the eventual socioeconomic exclusivity of gentrification

have for the last 25 years seen the increasing production of high-story

in these places. Also a “favela chic” phenomenon has emerged, namely

residential condominiums, aimed at middle-income consumers. The

the elevation of favela culture to global circuits of cultural consumption

proliferation of this type of construction has increasingly made the

through its associations with cinema, samba and funk carioca musical

central areas of Santiago resemble higher-density cities such as São

styles. Similarly, but starting much earlier than the Zona Portuária,

Paulo or Mexico City, a change that has also been possible because

Buenos Aires’ Puerto Madero mega-redevelopment drew on the

of the growing availability of financial and real estate capital; and the

privatization of vast areas of the city’s riverfront with massive public

increasingly higher costs of intra-urban mobility, which push urban

investment in access to transportation and infrastructure renovation.

residents back to central areas. The Inter-American Development

Since 1989, a creative private-public partnership named Corporación

Bank has even praised this case as a creative state policy of housing

Antiguo Puerto Madero (CAPM) has generated more than US $2.5 million

market reinvigoration that has reduced financial risks and increased

of private profit through privately-led “regeneration” of the port area,

expected private revenues.13 Decisive factors are the historically central

including massive construction of services and expensive housing that

concentration of public goods like good schools, health centers and

have excluded low-income households from access to affordable housing

parks; a strategic land upzoning in certain neighborhoods vis-à-vis a

and public spaces.11 However, beyond Puerto Madero’s area, the entire

discourse of derelict central and inner areas and new zoning regulations;

southern part of the city shows signs of commercial restructuring and

considerable public investment in metro and traffic infrastructure;

tourist-oriented redevelopment, especially in the neighborhoods

and state-led subsidies to buyers.14 However, rather than producing

of La Boca, Barracas, and Parque Patricios, which share historical

mixed communities, this systematically unequal appropriation of


Redevelopment in Latin American Cities

ground rent by large developers in Chile leaves small landowners and

Latin American authors also agree with the idea of gentrification

tenants at their mercy. This is a narrative of gentrification heavily

as an emerging process of urban change that is happening

relying on supply-side processes, facilitated by the intensive process

simultaneously in several of the highly neoliberalized cities of the

of capital concentration in real estate and construction. Demand-

region. In fact, redevelopment-led gentrification could be a current

led gentrification appears to be so weak that even the content of

“wave” that will link Latin American cities’ redevelopment in the

the term “gentrifier” has to be reconsidered in order to comprise a

future. For the last 20 years, urban capitalism has become radically

different kind of gentrification agent/producer, as the middle-class

more creative in setting the rules for “landed” capital accumulation,

clientele of the new housing developments is ascribed a much more

as the common economic characteristics of the cases shown

passive role, and even the state (indirectly) acquires gentrifying roles.

here demonstrate, leading to an increase in private accumulation

Apartment buildings as developed are accessible only to the middle

of the use and exchange value of space, the lack of access to

class; therefore lower-status original residents are displaced, while 50

housing and public spaces, as well as the stigmatization of places.

percent of former owners are forced to sell and be short-changed for

Cases of redevelopment also imply the strong participation of the

their properties, thus cannot afford to remain in their neighborhoods.



state as a necessary condition in support of these changes.

Conclusions For the last 30 years Latin American cities have seen the increase of state-supported urban redevelopment policies that have led to a valorization of formerly derelict places and exclusion of low-income dwellers. In this short text I have summarized several cases of successful privately-led, large-scale and piecemeal redevelopments in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Chile. Authors in the subcontinent agree on the relation between redevelopment and gentrification, as the former generates displacement from land and housing markets, and usually draws on the stigmatization of low-income neighborhoods.

1 For a summary, see Michael Janoschka, Jorge Sequera, and Luis Salinas, “Gentrification in Spain and Latin America—a Critical Dialogue,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research (2014): doi: 10.1111/14682427.12030 2 Ernesto López-Morales, “Gentrification in the Global South,” City: Analysis of urban trends, culture, theory, policy, action, vol. 19 no. 4 (2015): 564-573, doi: 10.1080/13604813.2015.1051746 and Loretta Lees, Hyun Bang Shin, and Ernesto Lόpez-Morales Planetary Gentrification (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2016) and Loretta Lees, Hyun Bang Shin, and Ernesto Lόpez-Morales, eds. Global gentrifications: Uneven development and displacement. (Bristol: Policy Press, 2015). 3 Eric Clark, “The order and simplicity of gentrification—a political challenge,” in Gentrification in a global context: The new urban colonialism, eds. Rowland Atkinson, and Gary Bridge (London: Routledge, 2005) 256-264. 4 René Coulomb (2012) “El centro de la ciudad de México frente al desafío de un desarrollo urbano más sustentable,” in Hábitat y centralidad en México: un desafío sustentable, René Coulomb (ed) and María Teresa Esquivel and Gabriela Ponce (coords.), (Mexico: CESOP, 2012) Estudio/Cesop/Documentos/Habitat-centralidad-mexico.pdf last accessed 10/22/2015.

Panel #1

5 Namely, Bando 2 policy for housing market reinvigoration, initially conceived to help build affordable housing but shortly after its implementation and due to lack of policy supervision, it ended up being an enormous incentive aimed at mid-income housing production. See Victor Delgadillo, “Selective modernization of Mexico City and its historic center. Gentrification without displacement?” Urban Geography, special issue on Latin American gentrification (2016). doi: 10.1080/02723638.2015.1096114 6 López-Morales, “Gentrification in the Global South.” 7 Delgadillo, “Selective modernization of Mexico City.” 8 Carlos Vainer, Regina Bienenstein, Giselle Megumi Martino Tanaka, Fabricio Leal De Oliveira and Camilla Lobino, “O plano popular da vila autódromo, uma experiência de planejamento conflitual, Anais, Encontros Nacionais da ANPUR (2013): 15. 9 Christopher Gaffney, “Gentrifications in pre-Olympics Rio de Janeiro,” Urban Geography, special issue on Latin American gentrification (2016). doi: 10.1080/02723638.2015.1096114 10 Jake Cummings, “Confronting Favela Chic: the Gentrification of Informal Settlements in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil,” in Global gentrifications: Uneven development and displacement, eds. Loretta Lees, Hyun Bang Shin, and Ernesto Lόpez-Morales (Bristol: Policy Press, 2015): 81-99. 11 Alfredo Garay, Laura Wainer, Hayley Henderson, and Demian Rotbart, “Puerto Madero: Análisis de un proyecto,” Land Lines (July 2013) last accessed 10/22/2015. 12 Hilda Herzer, María Mercedes Di Virgilio, and María Carla Rodríguez, “Gentrification in Buenos Aires: global trends and local features,” in Global gentrifications: Uneven development and displacement, eds. Loretta Lees, Hyun Bang Shin, and Ernesto Lόpez-Morales (Bristol: Policy Press, 2015): 199-222. 13 Eduardo Rojas,Volver al Centro. La recuperación de áreas urbanas centrales. (Washington DC: BID, 2004) 14 Ernesto López-Morales, Ivo Ricardo Gasic Klett, and Daniel Alberto Meza Corvalán, “Urbanismo ProEmpresarial en Chile: políticas y planificación de la producción residencial en altura en el pericentro del Gran Santiago,” Revista INVI, vol. 28 no. 76 (2012): 75-114. 15 Ernesto López-Morales, “Assessing exclusionary displacement through rent gap analysis in the high-rise redevelopment of Santiago, Chile,” Housing Studies (2015) doi: 10.1080/02673037.2015.1100281

Redevelopment in Latin American Cities


For the last 20 years urban capitalism has become radically more creative in setting the rules for “landed” capital accumulation ... leading to an increase in private accumulation of the use and exchange value of space, the lack of access to housing and public spaces, as well as the stigmatization of places. Santiago’s high-rise redevelopment


Like Ships Passing in the Night:

Downtown Cairo and its Publics

To most middle-class Egyptians, downtown Cairo is a dirty and dangerous place, associated with chaos and pollution. They rarely go there, even as they simultaneously extol its past glory. Lamenting the “decline” and “ruin” of Downtown has become a widespread cliché in Egyptian public culture. This dovetails with the perceptions of the failure of Egypt’s post-independence history—or even the failure of modernity. In this context, zahma (crowds) means not just physical traffic, but rather a form of human pollution. Downtown remains popular with low-income publics: lower-middle-class families come here to buy their Sunday best, or just to stroll and stare at gaudy shop windows. Young, low-income males come here to attend movies in Downtown’s many affordable movie theaters, or to just hang out, gawk and loiter. This, however, is hardly all there is to Cairo’s city center. Downtown’s patina of former glory attracts its own publics. It is well known today as the hinterland of Egypt’s January 25 revolution of 2011, the site of a vibrant cultural scene and the favored meeting-place of artists, intellectuals and activists. This is not a new phenomenon. Downtown’s history as the center of Cairene bohemia and political dissent is many decades old. Many of its ahawhi (street cafés), bars and restaurants represent de facto cultural institutions, patronized by generations of Cairene literati, artists and activists. Art spaces proliferate, as do cultural festivals big and small—though importantly, their publics may not always overlap. There is no one cultural scene in

Lucie Ryzova

Downtown, just as its cafés and bars don’t represent a single culture

Panel #1

of dissent, but many such cultures. When it comes to downtown

This nostalgia represents a radical departure from earlier, post-

Cairo, the whole is considerably larger than the sum of its parts.

independence models of a national historical imagery in which Downtown—the site and embodiment of colonial power and privilege—

There is no one cultural scene in Downtown, just as its cafés and bars don’t represent a single culture of dissent, but many such cultures. When it comes to downtown Cairo, the whole is considerably larger than the sum of its parts.

had no place. The growing interest in the area on the part of government, capital and sections of the educated Egyptian public writ large should be understood within the broader framework of neoliberalism, as well as in relation to the simultaneous urban flight by Egypt’s middle and upper-middle classes to newly built desert cities and gated communities.2 In this spatial logic, Cairo’s downtown emerges as the symbolic monument—an open-air museum—to Egypt’s colonial past, newly recast as a golden age of tolerance, liberalism, and prosperity. Clearly, downtown Cairo is a place with many competing meanings, a site of multiple claims: social, cultural, political and economic.

More recently, Downtown has been the focus of more tangible claims, backed by state legislation and private capital. Gentrification plans are under way, led notably by the company Al Ismaelia for Real Estate Investment, whose model of urban regeneration aims to encourage and exploit the artistic vibe of Downtown. In a parallel move, Egyptian government agencies have been contemplating the cultural rehabilitation of core parts of Downtown, although so far these efforts have been largely cosmetic. This newfound interest in downtown Cairo, perceptible not just in its valorization through law or capital, but also in the wave of public nostalgia, stems from a wider process of neoliberal reframing of Egypt’s modern history.1

These already contested meanings gained new resonance with the January 25 revolution of 2011 and the long-running revolutionary process. While the epicenter may have been Tahrir Square, the whole surrounding area—especially the southern edge of Downtown around Bab al-Luq Square and the streets leading to the Ministry of Interior—was a crucial site of protests and of epic urban battles with police. This struggle continues, although the forces of revolutionary change now appear on the defensive. In the winter of 2015, several episodes of “cleansing” Downtown of undesirable elements served to demonstrate the new regime’s attempts to impose its own order. They targeted two groups that, from the normative perspective, are

Like Ships Passing in the Night

most associated with “polluting” Cairo’s urban center: street vendors

hegemonic forms of behavior and is in turn constructed by them. It

and revolutionary activists.3 The “clean-up campaign” involved closing

is also a symbolic location that is crucial—first by its absence and

down cafés that over the past few years had become known as the

then by its presence (or indeed, its growing centrality)—to Egyptian

turf of activists and revolutionary youth—although they really served a

national imagery, and thus the site of competing claims on social

much larger clientele of youth from all over Cairo coming to hang out in

order that extend well beyond Downtown’s spatial boundaries.

Downtown. All these acts of “cleansing” were aimed at eradicating the non-hegemonic and socially porous space of Downtown, its essential

In this essay, I will chart a brief history of how Downtown became

liminality and heterotopic quality, which is the theme of this essay.

such a heterotopic space. Crucial to this story is the eclipse of Downtown as the site of power and privilege through the second

Heterotopic space, as defined in a brief essay by Michel Foucault, is “a

half of the twentieth century and the simultaneous rise of its

space that functions in non-hegemonic ways; an in-between space, a

bohemian, anti-hegemonic character. Secondly, I am interested in

space of otherness, simultaneously physical and mental.”4 It has many

how this heterotopia is produced and reproduced on the ground.

competing layers of meaning, and can only be understood in relation

Leaving investment and legislation aside, I will focus here on

to other spaces outside of itself: to normative spaces and social roles

some of the diverse publics that use this space, and on how their

as they exist elsewhere. Foucault’s heterotopia shares a lot with the

spatial practices (their ways of claiming and practicing the city)

notion of liminality, an in-between space (or time, or behavior) as

construct downtown Cairo as heterotopic. I will focus on subsequent

defined by anthropologists. Both share certain characteristics: social

generations of Cairo’s artistic bohemians, from the 1970s through

porousness; flexible boundaries of class and gender, even a temporary

the 2000s. However, it ought to be stressed that other publics equally

reversal of social roles; celebratory and/or carnivalesque qualities.

claim this urban space as their turf—most notably revolutionary

These characteristics appear to some as danger and pollution, or

youth hanging out in the Bab al-Luq and Ma‘ruf areas; and young,

“matter out of place,” especially when seen from the outside, while to

macho, low-income males who come to Downtown to gawk and

others they conjure up feelings of greater freedom and liberation from

loiter. Downtown’s heterotopic character is then the product of

normative social roles. Cairo’s downtown is a liminal, or heterotopic

the ways in which these separate groups claim and practice this

space par excellence. It is a heterogeneous urban space, a space where

urban location, while passing each other like ships in the night.5

everyone is a stranger de passage. This social porousness invites non-


Panel #1

Downtown’s History of Heterotopia

was attributed to President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s expulsion of

Founded by Khedive Isma‘il in the late nineteenth century, downtown

his nationalization policies of the 1960s. This interpretation is

Cairo (its core Isma‘iliya and surrounding neighborhoods) became—

historically wrong. Foreign minorities had been gradually leaving

in the inter-war years—the heart of the colonial metropolis. This is

Egypt, for diverse reasons, long before Nasser assumed power.7

foreign minorities from Egypt following the 1956 Suez War and

where the elites, both national and foreign, lived and where modern businesses, services and institutions were located. It was an area of upscale shopping and leisure. While in many ways exclusive, Downtown was also always heterogeneous (i.e. socially mixed) and predicated on drawing in publics from all over the city, even if temporarily. Middle-income Egyptians flocked there to participate in the many pleasures it had to offer. Downtown’s grands magasins catered equally to solvent outsiders, and middle-income families otherwise labelled as “traditional” came here for their seasonal shopping.6 Cabarets and cinemas along ‘Imad al-Din Street, the city’s prime entertainment district, catered to diverse audiences, including provincial youth visiting the brothels on its fringes; and of course many a middling youth, efendi (high-placed) students from near or far, came here simply to wander, window shop and check out the next movie on lobby cards. Throughout the second half of the twentieth century, Downtown was gradually abandoned as the site of upper-middle-class residences, business, shopping and leisure, and started to assume the shabby appearance it has today. Conventionally, in the public discourse of the late Mubarak era, this decline and abandonment

Strolling in downtown Cairo, photographs by ambulant street photographers, 1930s and 40s.

Like Ships Passing in the Night


The politically motivated narrative presenting Nasser as singlehandedly

in car ownership and the overall development of Greater Cairo during

responsible for the decline of Downtown significantly leaves out the

and after the years of Anwar al-Sadat’s presidency. The “decline” of

takeover of this area by Egyptian elites between the 1930s and 1950s.

Downtown thus ought to be located less in the Nasser era, but more

As Egypt’s foreign population was diminishing, middle- and upper-

so in the infitah years (the years of al-Sadat’s “open-door” policy), when

middle-class Egyptians, especially prosperous professionals—who had

the widening of social divisions and concomitant selective prosperity

always been part of the Downtown population, if at first as a minority—

started a process of urban segregation, which continues to this day.10

had been gradually taking over this upscale urban space during the middle decades of the twentieth century.8 This Egyptianization of

Although increasingly deserted as a place of upscale residence,

Downtown was equally demographic and symbolic, or cultural. By the

Downtown throughout the 1970s and 1980s remained a favorite center

late 1940s, Downtown’s grand boulevards had been fully appropriated and recast in Egyptian popular culture as the site of high Egyptian Modernism. Here, architectural wonders such as the Immobilia building (among many others) symbolized late-colonial nationalism and postcolonial pride and optimism alike. Immobilia was home to Egypt’s foremost cinema stars and the de facto headquarters of the entertainment industry. It was routinely deployed as a backdrop in movies and advertising of the 1940s and 1950s to conjure up images of urban glamor and national modernity.9 This Egyptianization of Downtown did not last long. Throughout the 1970s, prosperous middle- and upper-middle-class Egyptians started favoring new pericentral areas, such as al-Muhandisin, al‘Ajuza, and (a bit later, since the 1980s) Madinat Nasr, in addition to the older but expanding al-Duqqi, al-Ma‘adi and Heliopolis suburbs. These patterns of urban reshaping were closely connected to the rise

Immobilia building. Left: 1940s postcard. Right: Poster showing Isma‘il Yasin in al-Hawa malush dawa (Love Has No Cure, dir. Yusuf Ma’luf, 1952), a comedy shot on location in the Immobilia building.’

Panel #1

of shopping and entertainment. It remained a place for special visits

The 1986 movie Hubb fawq hadabat al-haram (Love on the Pyramids

for prosperous Egyptians who now lived in other upscale areas; and of

Plateau, dir. ‘Atif al-Tayyib) is an excellent example of the lure of

course it became even more “awesome” as a place for outings for those

Downtown for a young downwardly mobile man in the mid-1980s. The

coming from less privileged neighborhoods. Such outings included

protagonist comes downtown to escape boredom and a no-future

shopping for special occasions; but importantly, it meant attending

situation (his “waithood” for marriage and a future that never comes),

movies. Certain movies could only be “properly” enjoyed in Downtown—

to stroll, hang out, and check out women’s bodies. Despite the glitzy

say, the release of a new James Bond movie—and Downtown

shop windows featuring infitahi lifestyles that are the true source of

cinemas became the sites of rituals of young male autonomy (such

his misery, Downtown is not in fact alienating. Instead, it offers him a

as tazwigh: teenage boys from al-Duqqi or Heliopolis collectively

refuge to dream and fantasize about women—the kind of contingent

skipping class to attend a James Bond movie in Downtown).

autonomy with which Downtown became increasingly associated. When he finally falls in love, it is in one of Downtown’s cafés that he

The same selective prosperity that accelerated the rise of new upscale

meets his sweetheart and finds privacy in the midst of anonymity.

urban centers had yet another effect on the rapidly depreciating center of the city: Downtown became the showcase of a new and increasingly

Capital of Bohemia

exclusive consumer culture. Downtown’s shop windows of the infitah era featured glitzy fashionable clothing that few could afford, while

With the decline of Downtown as the residential and commercial heart of

al-Shawarbi Street became nationally famous for its black market of

Cairo during the last third of the twentieth century, it gradually acquired

branded clothing and consumer gadgets, smuggled from abroad or

a particular bohemian quality as the prime site of independent culture,

from the new free trade zone in Port Said. The black market of the

often linked to political resistance. A number of Downtown cafés, bars

1970s marks a crucial turn in the history of Downtown’s heterotopia.

and restaurants emerged as famous hangouts of generations of Cairene

Because it exists to undermine values and satisfy desires that are

literati, artists and political activists.11 They became associated with

created elsewhere, a black market is heterotopic by definition.

the 1970s generation, whose literary production reflected wider debates about the direction of Egyptian society and the role of intellectuals in it,

Downtown thus both generated new desires, including illicit, non-

concomitant with the crisis of Egyptian nationalism and more generally

hegemonic desires, and provided its own ways of satisfying them.

the end of the optimistic era of independence after the crushing defeat

Like Ships Passing in the Night


of 1967. These debates resurfaced with vigor in the 1990s, when that

expression signified the danger of scrutiny (or even rejection)

generation formed to contest (explicitly or implicitly) both options—

to which intellectuals who were too openly allied with the regime were

lingering Nasserism and al-Sadat’s realignment. While practically

likely to expose themselves if they breached the borders of this non-

none of them lived there, most writers and intellectuals worked nearby,

hegemonic space of alternative, oppositional cultural production.

because most cultural institutions—theaters, publishing houses, newspapers and bookshops—were located either in or near Downtown.

Something important happened in (or around) the 1970s. Downtown’s mainstream glamor was gone, overtaken by the thrill of the illicit (the

This Downtown bohemia became quasi-institutionalized through the

black market, the bars, the possibility of sexual encounters), or the anti-

ways in which certain people habitually frequented particular places at

establishment (the bohemian world); both being non-hegemonic. From

regular times. Downtown bohemia had its own rituals, like the Tuesday

the 1970s on, hanging out in Downtown no longer simply bestowed

night tradition, which emerged around regular nadwas (seminars/

one with status in the eyes of normative society, but rather made

discussions) at the Cairo Atelier, after which people sat in cafés and

a person socially suspect—just as this illicit (or “suspect”) quality

bars and debated culture and politics. Here, coteries of writers or

became actively sought after by some as a component of social capital

artists would form, dissolve and realign through their shared forms of

in particular subcultures. Sometime during the 1970s (or 1980s),

sociability: social capital was to be gained, careers and futures were

therefore, downtown Cairo became “hegemonically heterotopic,” so

made and unmade through the ways in which people congregated and

to speak.

socialized in one place or another, in the presence or absence of others.


Around the year 2000 a new transnational art scene emerged in This Downtown literary bohemia constructed itself in opposition to

Downtown. Starting with a handful of private galleries, this scene

official (i.e. hegemonic) cultural institutions, against the older generation

culminated with the opening of Townhouse Gallery in the late 1990s,

of artists and literati, and against official spaces of culture; it was also

soon to become a key regional and global art player. Townhouse was

mapped into concrete urban locations, specific Downtown hangouts.

an anti-establishment phenomenon of sorts; though registered as

This spatialization gave rise to the expression, in the 1980s, of the

a company, its economic model was based in part on support from

muthallath al-ru‘b (“triangle of horror”) denoting the area between

foreign grants, allowing it to overcome dependency on local tastes, and

Cairo Atelier, the Grillon bar-restaurant, and the Bustan café. This

to orient itself, instead, towards global tastes, publics, and art circles.

Panel #1

It broke the monopoly of state-owned art spaces and structures of power

Downtown has always been a heterogeneous place predicated on

and patronage. It partly liberated young Egyptian artists from dependency

drawing in different audiences from all around the city, temporarily, and

on the state while also introducing its own hierarchies of exclusion.13

only in certain moments. This non-hegemonic space also encourages a heightened performance of social roles—it works as a theater stage.

The hype surrounding the Townhouse Gallery was responsible for

Social porousness does not mean the absence of rules; rather, it is a

bringing a new kind of crowd into Downtown: a younger, more elite,

space of improvisation, which has rules, scripts, and codes of its own.

globalized crowd, raised in other upscale areas of Cairo. In hindsight, Townhouse’s venture makes perfect sense in its urban location, and

This cultural geography of Downtown, in which generations of artists,

ought to be understood within the pre-existing framework of Downtown’s

literati and activists hang out in different places, often only meters

heterotopic infrastructure: its many bars, cafés and restaurants; its

apart, reflects a salient (though rarely made explicit) conflict over the

patina of decay and past glory; its trademark feel of a “free zone” derived

ownership of “culture” and of political resistance. Particular cafés

from its characteristic social porousness.

may be associated with one coterie or another, but this will only be known to the initiated. Indeed, different coteries of the initiated may

This new Downtown cultural scene works in very much the same way as

also stay invisible to one another. It is therefore not surprising that

the earlier bohemias of the 1970s to the 1990s. Few of the protagonists

the younger publics who come to occasionally hang out in Downtown

and their publics (or indeed, few of the investors who have stakes in the

are largely ignorant of the long legacy of its bohemia, its protagonists

gentrification process) are willing to actually live there. Downtown is a

and its antics. But this is precisely how Downtown’s heterotopia

site of cultural pilgrimage: people come to hang out, and then they leave.

works: diverse publics come here to enjoy the radical autonomy that

To some, hanging out in particular bars and cafés marks their belonging

this space confers, while passing each other like ships in the night.

to an urban subculture, to which Downtown’s aura of decay is key (an aura that already has a neoliberal twist to it). Others come to Downtown

Conclusion: Like Ships Passing in the Night

to enjoy the relative freedom and autonomy afforded by its characteristic social porousness. To some from a very different social spectrum,

All this is possible because Downtown has no homogenous inhabitants

Downtown has retained its association with upscale festivity, and they

of its own; it does not really have ahali (locals). This partly depends,

come here to hang out, stroll, and gaze at shop windows and women.

however, on how we define Downtown geographically. For architectural

Like Ships Passing in the Night


historians, heritage professionals and investors, “Downtown” signifies

Downtown, around Bab al-Luq Square, one can virtually enter a different

the colonial core of Isma‘iliya quarter. The social scene of Downtown,

temporality. Here, youth who have taken active part in the January

however, is elsewhere: between the Bursa area and Bab al-Luq Square.

25 revolution of 2011 congregate at night in specific cafés and street

Taken as a whole, the actual inhabitants of downtown Cairo include a

corners. Some of them feel that time stopped back in the euphoric

number of separate groups: dwindling numbers of old-timers or their

moments of revolutionary battles, in the times of radical autonomy

offspring (typically older people); locally resident foreigners, most of

when the revolutionary project was on the offensive; and that part of

whom live here temporarily for a couple of years; a handful of Egyptian

them remains stuck there and then, when their friends died by their

intellectuals or artists who rent here but typically have a family home

sides. Frequenting this particular place offers an opportunity to revisit

somewhere else. The fringes of Downtown such as Bab al-Luq or

this time, and to be in the company of those who equally feel stuck in a

Ma‘ruf are more densely populated by downwardly mobile middle-class

time warp, and for whom reintegration into “normalcy” is impossible.

families whose failure to move out marks their social decline. To these should be added a substantial, mostly male population of workers and

Downtown’s heterotopic infrastructure is likely to ensure the continuation

small business owners who do not technically live in Downtown but

of this culture, just as the historical legacies discussed above are likely

who account for most of its social density during both day and night.

to ensure that the struggle over control of Downtown—its symbolic

These five categories of Downtown dwellers do not interact. Passing

or real ownership—will remain ongoing for the foreseeable future.

each other like ships in the night, they do not form a local community; indeed, they often look at each other with suspicion. It is the fractured nature of its inhabitants that accentuates Downtown’s character of a heterogeneous assemblage of strangers de passage, its trademark

1 The valorization of colonial Downtown at the intersection of public nostalgia, neoliberal economy and

feel as a place belonging to no one but available to everyone, which

legislation is described in the following works: Galila El Kadi and Dalila Elkerdany, “The Politics of Refurbishing

may be interpreted as chaos and human pollution by some, but also harbors possibilities for radical, temporary autonomy for others.

the Downtown Business District,” in Cairo Cosmopolitan eds. Diane Singerman and Paul Amar (Cairo: AUC Press, 2006); Mona Abaza, “Cairo’s downtown Imagined: Dubaisation or Nostalgia?” Urban Studies vol. 48 no. 6 (May 2011); Mercedes Volait, “The reclaiming of “Belle Époque’ Architecture in Egypt (1989-2010): On the Power of Rhetorics in Heritage-Making” ABE Journal 3 (2013); Mohamed Elshahed, “The Prospects of Gentrification in Downtown Cairo: Artists, Private Investment and the Neglectful State,” in Global Gentrifications:

In his brief essay, Foucault suggested that urban heterotopia is often connected to “slices in time.” Walking through the southern edge of 14

Uneven Development and Displacement eds. Loretta Lees et al. (Bristol: Policy Press, 2015); and Lucie Ryzova, “Unstable Icons, Contested Histories: Vintage Photographs and Neoliberal Memory in Contemporary Egypt,” Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication vol. 8 no. 1 (2014).

Panel #1

2 See Eric Denis, “Cairo as Neoliberal Capital? From Walled City to Gated Communities,” in Cairo Cosmopolitan

the 1970s as discussed further in the essay.

eds. Diane Singerman and Paul Amar (Cairo: AUC Press, 2006); Petra Krupinger, “Exclusive Greenery: New

12 For a fuller discussion, see Richard Jacquemond, Conscience of the Nation (Cairo and

Gated Communities in Cairo,” City and Society vol. 16 no. 2 (2004).

New York: AUC Press, 2008); and Sonallah Ibrahim, “Cairo from Edge to Edge,” Cairo From

3 For the ongoing war on street vendors, see Maha Abdelrahman, “Ordering the Disorderly? Street Vendors

Edge to Edge eds. Sonallah Ibrahim and Jean-Pierre Ribiere (Cairo: AUC Press, 1998).

and the Developmentalist State” Jadaliyya, 14 January 2013,

13 The first private galleries in Downtown included Mashrabia Gallery, Cairo-Berlin, and

ordering-the-disorderly-street-vendors-and-the-dev.; and Patrick Kingsley, “Why the Battle for Control of

Espace Karim Francis; on the wider context of the Egyptian art scene, institutions and

Downtown Cairo is a Fight for the Future of Egypt,” Guardian, 3 November 2014, https://www.theguardian.

practices, see Jessica Winegar, Creative Reckonings: The Politics of Art and Culture in


Egypt (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006).

4 Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces,” Diacritics vol. 16 no. 1 (1986).

14 Foucault, Of Other Spaces, 27. Other “slices in time” that exist in downtown Cairo are

5 This essay is part of a longer study, where I discuss these other publics in depth. See Lucie Ryzova,

the times of the ‘Ids (religious festivals marked by intensified young male strolling and

“Strolling in Enemy Territory: Downtown Cairo, Its Publics, and Urban Heterotopias” Orient Institut Studies 3

loitering), and the times of revolutionary battles. See Ryzova, “Strolling in Enemy Territory.”

(2015): 6 See Nancy Y. Reynolds, A City Consumed: Urban Commerce, The Cairo Fire, and the Politics of Decolonization in Egypt (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2012). 7 The reasons included: demographic decline; shrinking opportunities during the 1930s global economic crisis; 1947 (pre-Nasser) Egyptianization laws affecting work opportunities for foreign nationals; international economic “pull” factors drawing populations (particularly relatively mobile non-Egyptian communities) to other parts of the world; and the involvement of particular communities (and/or their national governments) in wars against Egypt. See Alexander Kazamias, “The ‘purge’ of the Greeks from Nasserite Egypt: Myths and Realities,” Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora vol. 35 no. 2 (2009), and Joel Beinin, The Dispersion of Egyptian Jewry (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998). 8 See statistics in Janet Abu Lughod, Cairo: 1001 Years of the City Victorious (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971): 203-5. 9 Hayat aw Mawt (Life or Death, dir. Kamal al-Shaykh, 1954) shows the centrality of this space to post-1952 revolution imagery. The movie’s drama evolves around the speed, chaos and anonymity of the modern city (the first Egyptian movie to be shot almost entirely in the street, including on a tram), but also a dynamic that can be tamed by a concerted effort of order and goodwill, epitomized by a police force at the service of citizens. 10 “Open door” policies refer to the opening of Egypt to foreign capital. The term is widely used to signal a major reshaping of Egypt’s foreign and domestic policy priorities, which started in the 1970s but marked the following decades: from Non-Alignment and strategic alliance with the Soviet bloc towards NATO, and from state-led industrialization, towards a market economy and (eventually) to a dependency on IMF loans and USAID. 11 The café culture of Downtown is, of course, much older. The Azbakiya area, ‘Imad al-Din Street, and other parts of Downtown have been Cairo’s entertainment district for decades. I am, however, concerned here with the nexus of bohemia, political dissent and transgressive non-hegemonic behavior, or the “heterotopic turn” of

Like Ships Passing in the Night


Panel #1

Heba Raouf Ezzat:

the façades; and then there is the

“[I have a question for] Lucie [Ryzova]

approach which works much more

regarding the contested or contesting meanings of Downtown. Can you highlight how these contesting meanings are managed, is it only the relation of power? That the government for example comes in and just drives the street vendors away, or tries to gentrify—by force; or the militarization of some spaces and sort of wiping of the whole memory of the urban wars, the urbicide, if you wish to call it that ... Can you highlight how these contestations have been managed? How these differences and diversities have been managed, in a way?”

Lucie Ryzova: “How are they managed? Well, obviously, it’s very much about power, and we have top-down processes of different sorts. There are the government’s plans ... of course there is securitization through clearing out Downtown’s street vendors; there is this policing approach; there is this beautifying approach of whitewashing

Al Ismaelia [for Real Estate Investment] organically, encouraging the art vibe and bringing new publics ... it really is a kaleidoscope of different forces and power relationships of course, and I was trying to give voice to the people who actually use the street and how they practice the city because I wanted to give back the agency to them.”



“I’m an AUC student,

seem to me, at least, very clear. This

and my question is for Dr. Ernesto

people—inhabitants—of certain spaces.

López Morales. What are the outcomes and consequences of gentrification in general?”

Ernesto López Morales: “Gentrification is, after all, a class struggle. Class conflict. It’s a conflict for the same space, for the use of the same space by different classes. And that brings us to a lot of connotations and discussions about what are, for instance, the rights of different classes to occupy the space. Some of them claim that right, struggle for that right. Some others just think that their rights come from their purchasing power. Lower classes who reclaim the space usually … [are] neglected by the renewing, regenerating, “creative” housing policy. Others who want to occupy that space ... come with enormous state and private resources in order to privatize it. Before discussing the outcomes, we should discuss the conditions that cause gentrification to occur. Because the outcomes

is a displacement of the less powerful For the sake of what? For the sake of recreational space, of opportunities for accumulation, of landed revenues.”

2. Proceedings

A- Plenary Sessions 1- Downtown in Context: Is Gentrification Inevitable? 2- Artists as Urban Catalysts 3- Cultural Policies and Urban Governance 4- Whose Public Space? Security and Access 5- Heritage and Urban Culture 6- Re-framing Downtown: Alternative Approaches


Panel #2

Artists as Urban Catalysts

Moderated by Cairobserver’s Mohamed Elshahed, the second panel addressed the role of artists and art organizations as urban catalysts, and the effect they have on their local communities, as well as their battles for funds and working space. Jane Hall of the London-based collective Assemble opened the panel by speaking about the interaction between design and making, and how to involve the public in the transformation of urban space. Assemble employs culture and creativity to “physically shape and


Mohamed Elshahed Cairobserver


Jane Hall Assemble, UK

William Wells

change the city.” Their grassroots activity works in recognition that artists are not only drivers of the economy, but also often of gentrification. Assemble’s interventions on the fringes of the London Olympic Games attempted to work against the tide of gentrification in the area by converting both a gas station and an overpass into movie theaters that could function as social and cinematic spaces.

Director, Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art

In a radical bid to involve the community in Balmarnock, East Glasgow,

Karim Shafei

they encouraged children to engage in free play in the unstructured

Chairman, Al Ismaelia for Real Estate Investment

Youssef Shazli Zawya

Assemble developed the Baltic Street Adventure Playground where space of an unused plot of land, which evolved into the community articulating its vision for the development of the plot. Hall says that such initiatives show how Assemble try “to instigate the understanding of what space can be.”

Panel #2

Hall presented Assemble’s studio, the Sugarhouse, as an experiment in

thinking about who they will possibly interact with.” Traffic on the street

the creation of new space. The collective was designated by a London

increased due to Townhouse’s activities, bringing economic benefit to the

local council as a temporary “occupier” in an industrial neighborhood

tradespeople, while artists learned about materials, techniques, and ways

slated for redevelopment. In this role, Assemble designed and self-

of making from them. “Whether we like it or not, or whether we set out to

built workspaces for makers and artists within their own studio as well

do it or not, we do change the societies we live in,” said Wells.

as on adjacent industrial plots, creating a hub of shared activity. While the Sugarhouse was funded by the London Legacy Development

Wells spoke of Townhouse’s struggle with dwindling funding for the

Corporation, other projects of theirs need continuous funding through

arts, and the establishment of corporate sponsorship with real estate

arts councils, which has been an ongoing issue. Hall argued that

company SODIC, in return for creating a gallery in one of SODIC’s gated

this speaks of the political will to gentrify through the arts, but not

communities. “We are now faced with the challenge of trying to replicate

necessarily to support their costs.

the same symbiotic relationship in a very wealthy neighborhood,” said Wells.

Hall was followed by William Wells of Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art in downtown Cairo, founded in 1998 and now an

While Hall and Wells focused on the interaction of community, space,

anchor of the independent contemporary arts scene. He recounted his

and art from the bottom up, Karim Shafei of Al Ismaelia for Real Estate

experience setting up the gallery in an area of Downtown considered

Investment provided a developer’s vision of community building

lower class, full of workshops and car mechanics. Wells spoke of

through the renovation of Downtown’s dilapidated structures. When

the initial need to overcome a mutual mistrust between the artistic

Al Ismaelia was established in 2008 and began purchasing buildings,

community and local residents. They eventually developed a symbiotic

Shafei estimates they found 30 percent of the apartments vacant, 20

relationship, forming “geographically, a working community.”

percent locked, and most of the remaining apartments occupied by low employment businesses. They began to settle complex ownership

Wells spearheaded these changes by fostering conversation,

disputes and purchased deteriorating buildings Downtown. Al Ismaelia’s

observation, and engagement, which brought all parties together.

spaces include Radio Theater, the Viennoise Hotel, and the famous

Activities with local children transferred artistic skills and created new

al-Shurbagi building. Meanwhile, they took note of the area’s cultural

horizons. He said, “if somebody enters into our space, we have to be

activity, which Shafei credits as one catalyst of the 2011 revolution.

Artists as Urban Catalysts


The company’s for-profit vision for a “Downtown for all” sought to

entrance to the building was thought to be undesirable, though the

capitalize on two trends that Shafei states Al Ismaelia identified as early

cinema’s patrons, who come in large numbers from all over Cairo, now

as 2008: the “Egyptianization of Egypt, and a move by the contemporary

make up a significant portion of customers at a local coffee shop situated

art scene back into Downtown.” They were particularly interested in

in the passageway.

making disused buildings active, such as the conversion of the Radio Theater into the studio for Bassem Youssef’s TV show Al-Bernameg, and

Shazli suggested that Zawya’s unexpected success at the box office has

later Abla Fahita. They further sought to tap into the arts scene to attract

proven the commercial potential of arthouse movies, and has shown how

people to Downtown, through the co-establishment with Studio Emad

creative activities can transform and sustain thriving urban environments.

Eddin of the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF), and the

He said that even though their business model mainly focuses on

renting of spaces to artists and art organizations.

box office revenues, Zawya still relies on a wide range of corporate sponsorships. Shazli said Zawya is considering expanding to another,

Shafei stressed that Al Ismaelia is a profit-seeking company, but that they

larger location, and is currently searching for another Downtown venue.

are committed to engaging with other stakeholders in the development of Downtown. He argued that a viable business model is the only way

The discussion highlighted the role of artistic and architectural

to preserve Downtown’s urban fabric, since the neighborhood cannot

interventions in the urban regeneration of decaying or underserved

continue to rely on government renovation funds or personal individual

neighborhoods, critically examining the interests and positions of both

donations. He put forward Al Ismaelia’s vision for the future: to encourage

real estate developers and civil society organizations. This set the

the creation of a NGO or board of trustees that would oversee the

stage for the conference panels that followed, which engaged the role

responsible development of Downtown for all Egyptians.

of government and small businesses in Downtown’s development.

Rounding off the discussion was Youssef Shazli of the relatively young alternative cinema venture, Zawya. Launched in March 2014 as a project under Misr International Films, the arthouse cinema set up shop in the smallest hall of Cinema Odeon, and has a separate entrance from the cinema’s back door in a Downtown alley. Originally, this secondary

Interior of Sugarhouse studios showing the Front of House’ space used communally by all of the makers working onsite.


Sustaining an Architecture of Collective Participation: Two projects by Assemble in London

Culture and creativity have long been recognized as crucial to the ongoing vibrancy of cities and their ability to attract investment from all over the globe. Indeed, London’s reputation is characterized by the diversity and innovation of its cultural offer, with former Mayor of London Boris Johnson emphasizing in 2015 the central role of the arts in the delivery of urban regeneration. However, this approach has been manifested in the production of blockbuster exhibitions, music venues and global sporting events, which have simultaneously been used as a tool to physically shape and change the city. The economic potential of using cultural activity in this way was enshrined in New Labour economic policy when the arts were seen as the driver of a new sector, leading to the work of artists and others involved in creative pursuits being valued for their fiscal relevance.1 As an extension of this thinking, there is a contemporary idea that the arts can offer services that tackle social objectives, including promoting small businesses and attracting longer-term investment through philanthropic and charitable organizations; establishing an infrastructure that previously would have been sustained through government subsidy.2 Despite an increasing onus being placed on the arts, little attention is given to the many artists, architects and makers who help facilitate these works, with the growing gentrification of previously industrial parts of the capital making it increasingly unaffordable to set up a studio.

Jane Hall

Panel #2

Assemble has emerged as both a product of, and reaction to this

In the first instance, our project Yardhouse is a full-scale pilot for

context, established not to try and reclaim diminished agency for

the provision of newly built creative workspace. Built adjacent to

designers, but to create a working alternative that allows us to be part

Sugarhouse Studios, Yardhouse is a timber framed building modeled

of a project right the way through, from the early stages to its eventual

on industrial A-frame metal sheds. Clad in Kingspan, which is both

occupation and use. Although the majority of the Assemble collective

an insulated and structural pre-fabricated component, the building

have architectural training, the group is unusual in that it brings together

provides workspace for a further 16 artists in our growing community.

a range of over 14 people from a multitude of other backgrounds,

Yardhouse provides a sociable and collaborative work environment,

working in a collaborative and democratic way that challenges the

as it is simply arranged as a two-story, three-bay structure. The two

hierarchical traditions of architectural production. Because of this we

outer bays are used as individual studio spaces, and open onto a

have found that our working model often becomes reflected in our built

generous double-height communal area. Studios are provided without

work, not only in the way that it is produced, but also in how that work

partitions, but tenants are free to adapt their space to suit their practices,

eventually comes to exist and continues to be created by a wider public.

combining adjacent units or enclosing their own space for greater privacy. The façade facing onto the Sugarhouse Yard is made from

Our studio and workshop, Sugarhouse Studios, is crucial to this

colorful concrete tiles handmade onsite, the intricacy of which form

working practice, allowing us to test things at a one-to-one scale with

a backdrop for the active public yard onto which Yardhouse faces.

the advice of skilled professional craftspersons with whom we share the space. In this way, our office is an ongoing project in itself, that

Assemble designed and built Yardhouse as part of a negotiated

seeks to advance the use of making in the design process. We are

commission from the London Legacy Development Corporation for UK

deeply aware that our current position is unsustainable, as we occupy

ÂŁ291 per m2, proving it to be an economical approach to construction and

a precarious site on the fringe of the Olympic Park, which is subject

guaranteeing that the space could then be let affordably. This particular

to expansive re-development and which will lead to our eventual re-

method has influenced a further nascent proposal, Open Studios, which

location. As a result, our practice is investing in developing a series

seeks to consolidate lessons learned from Yardhouse. Open Studios is

of proposals that focus on the affordable development of workshop

based on a much larger communal workshop model with shared facilities,

and studio space, not only out of current necessity, but also to forge

providing artists with generous workshop and build space, including

a template for much needed workspace elsewhere in the city.

their own studios but linked by communal areas. It is hoped that Open

Sustaining an Architecture of Collective Participation

Studios will be a place for productive exchange founded on the cooperative use of shared resources, allowing us to test our idea on a significantly larger scale, making it a viable model for replication elsewhere in London. On these particular projects we commonly work in multiple roles as client, architect, contractor and eventual occupant. However, through the design process, we have gradually realized that our main role is to facilitate the numerous conversations, and to nurture often-unlikely relationships between a diverse range of stakeholders, in order to make a project happen against the odds. While Yardhouse has been a decided success, its future is at risk due to the precarity of its current occupation, on a site earmarked for development. In one sense, Yardhouse is owned and managed by Assemble, going wherever we will eventually go, which is largely an advantage. However, this is not the case in many of our other projects, where our unusual non-proprietary relationship with a project has been both the key driver in its production, but also presents a difficulty when inevitably formal strategies must be put in place to achieve long-term success. Baltic Street Adventure Playground is one such example. Established on a site in Dalmarnock, East Glasgow, the playground was realized through an ongoing collaboration with local children and their families. The project was initiated as an immediate and practical response to the challenges faced by a community growing up in a relatively scarce urban environment. Drawing inspiration from the post-war junk playground and Lady Allen of Hurtwood’s 1950s mantra, “Better a broken bone than a broken spirit,” Baltic

Construction of Yardhouse with coloured concrete tiles attached to the façade.


occupancy went beyond the initial brief we received for the public art commission, awarded as part of the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Assemble’s role has since grown over time, as seemed appropriate as the playground developed. This helped create a distinct identity, but also contributed to a more nuanced and effective eventual design for the permanent ground works and landscaping. Despite Baltic Street being a positive contribution to a much-neglected area of Glasgow, its survival is also currently under threat. With no fixed income, and outgoings that cover three part-time staff, the playground is struggling to stay open. As members of the space’s governing board, Assemble is partly responsible for seeking the long-

Elevation of Yardhouse

term investment the project needs to continue. Beyond our initial role as instigator and catalyst for the creation of a meaningful design

Street is a supervized child-led space based on the understanding

and build project, we are now working as fundraisers to ensure the

that, as Hakim Bey put it, “cherishing and unleashing are the same act” thereby offering a space that embraces both creativity and destruction.


project’s longevity. It is not clear what the solution to the current situation in Dalmarnock will be; or to what extent we will be part of

Assemble initially began working with the children in Dalmarnock by

finding it. This continues to be problematic; both because of the

installing a container to create a presence on site. The first occupation

endless demand on us to continue to work for the project’s survival,

introduced primary forms of play based on creating a sense of

but also because of the emotional investment we have made, which

responsibility and ownership such as supplying children with basic

has generated ingrained and important relationships to us.

tools to work with, access to a daily campfire, and providing them with waterproof clothing. By inhabiting the site over a sustained

In this sense, our studio collective is sure in the knowledge that

period, Assemble worked on gaining the trust of the local community,

to achieve interesting and diverse outcomes, everyday working

whose investment in the project will prove its ongoing success. This

practices require rupture, critique and difference. By contrast, we

Sustaining an Architecture of Collective Participation


recognize that this change is only then sustained by the movement of many feet, the alteration of habit, to accomplish the gradual shift of expectation. We have realized that by challenging the dominant techniques of architectural production, we are able to make work that has greater meaning to our collective interests. However, only through a process of continual trial and error are we able to acknowledge the limitations and enduring struggle that projects take on to survive in the current economic climate, supported by an extended network that reaches beyond our individual role in whatever guise that may be.

1 Simon Moreton, “The Promise of the Affordable Artist’s Studio: Governing Creative Spaces in London,” Environment and Planning, 45 (2013): 424 2 Ann Markusen and Greg Schrock, “The Artistic Dividend: Urban Artistic Specialization and Economic Development Implications,” Urban Studies 43, no. 10 (Routledge, 2006)

Individual studio space in Yardhouse

3 Lady Allen of Hurtwood (1897-1976) was an English promoter of child welfare and an early advocate of adventure playgrounds. 4 Hakim Bey, T.A.Z. The Temporary Autonomous Zone. Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism (New York: Autonomedia, 1991)

Panel #2

Children play with mud on site at Baltic Street Adventure Playground

Sustaining an Architecture of Collective Participation



Urban Conditioning

Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art, with its various spaces and undertakings, sits in the heart of downtown Cairo, and reflects the spirit of its bustling neighborhood: it is a community, a coming together of interests. This community is not only made up of workers, artists, filmmakers and designers, but also the occupants of the street outside. Its identity can be found in the myriad interests of its participants and neighbors; the interests of the quarter. It is difficult to do justice to the Townhouse Gallery in words: one really needs to experience the space first-hand to understand its significance. By interacting with the space, one encounters the individuals who continuously revitalize the gallery: in a workshop, as an audience member, as a spectator at an exhibition, sitting in the library. They are individuals who contribute to and change the community, and continue to engage with society at large through this street. All of these people add to the space and its ever-changing, ever-living nature, its goals and its activities. Originally, the gallery was a response to a need in 1998 for a contemporary art space that would act as a platform for artists who were interested in reflecting the city they lived in, rather than the clichéd past of the Pyramids or the Red Sea coast, with which they had no

William Wells

relationship. These artists were actually engaged with the city and the country they lived in, and sought to question the idea of the “local.” In addition, more and more recent art school graduates were labelled as “junior” (at the government-organized Salon of Youth) in the exclusive

Panel #2

hierarchy of the art world, and they wanted a forum where their work

cigarettes expecting wine, and they certainly would not be interested

could be considered on its own merits rather than on the age of its

in mixing with that kind of community. “There is no street lighting and


your roads are unpaved, how could this possibly work? Thanks, but no thanks. Find another space.”

Townhouse emerged as a platform that attempted to expand a public discourse on the nature and ways of marketing identity. At that time,

For better or worse, the lease had already—optimistically—been

“ethnic marketing” played a prominent role in the agenda of the

signed. Consequently, two problems arose: first, the neighborhood

international art world, with exhibitions promoted under the straplines

needed to be convinced to accept artists. Second, the artists had

of “Middle Eastern,” “Islamic,” and “Egyptian.” Townhouse sought to

to be convinced to be accepted. Conversation, observation and

challenge this form of neo-Orientalism.

engagement were needed to tackle these obstacles. Community members were hired to rehabilitate the space. Conversations with

I found the Townhouse building by chance, and it was then opened up

locals explored questions of their identity, their history, and the

after decades of disuse. A remarkable building with pre-revolutionary

construction of the street. Finally, observing the local workers

aesthetics was revealed. Located on a disregarded back street

repairing car seats and such, revealed their multitude of skills. Their

populated by men idling in coffee shops, it had an unearned reputation

wealth of history and experience could all be hugely beneficial to

for shady activity and hostile masculinity. Indeed, the neighborhood

artists in their creative production.

reflects Downtown’s diverse, unsterilized urban landscape. The building sits amid cafés with rickety chairs, cars in various states of

In fact, what went on in the dappled light of the tree-lined street could

repair, and a palace built for a Turkish princess. Although the building

have been deemed a co-working space: glass makers, carpenters,

required huge investments of time and effort, its potential was clear.

sign painters, metal workers, and even car repair people worked side

However, the impression that the neighborhood was dodgy and reeked

by side, sharing materials, expertise, and companionship. Seventeen

of machismo (although completely false), proved problematic. Artists

years ago, these artisans had established a collective that could

automatically rejected the space. They insisted that a proper art scene

now be of great benefit to the art community. Here there were skills,

required a “nice,” respectable gallery that people can drive up to with

opportunities, and street spaces ready for artists to use creatively, to

cars. They felt people were going to arrive at the openings with their

engage in, and to cooperate with. This potential helped to persuade

Urban Conditioning


communities of Bulaq and al-Sayyida Zaynab which had relied on each other for a decade. The community was so established that it even used its own currency, the ‘Nabarawi Mark,’ named after the street. It was into this realm that Townhouse stepped so suddenly. The gallery began to flourish, becoming a catalyst for change as it allowed audiences and creative people to experience the district and revise their attitudes. Originally these people from “nice” backgrounds were estranged by the appearance of the area and its working class status, but through observing and being observed the two communities began to understand each other and see how they could mutually profit. In recent years Townhouse has been able to help shape Cairo’s art scene gradually, contributing to an identity of the “local” through a definition of the “other.” As Orientalists established the essence of the Occident through definitions of the Orient, so in art-making and exhibition practices have understandings of concepts such as otherness, the artists of the area’s true value. Sure enough, at the first opening,

authenticity, representation and audience been altered and accepted.

the street scene and art scene alike turned up out of curiosity, and each recognized the other’s promise.

Al-Nitaq festival was a watershed moment in attracting attention from international audiences by allowing for the expansion of discourse on

The street community was of course interested in one particular

the “local,” and by challenging the exclusivity of the accepted vision.

aspect of the gallery’s doings: the economic benefits. Initially indifferent

International interest in Townhouse sparked a debate about the

to the activities of the space, the neighborhood was eventually able to

hackneyed cultural representations that had dominated faculty and

focus on what advantage it could gain from the gallery’s activity. The

staff rooms, newspapers and exhibitions, drawing lines and causing

area had an already recognized social order, a marriage between the two


Panel #2

As the gallery expanded over the years into various nearby buildings,

The increasing activity of the gallery community requires a committed

and as it responded to the diverse demands of the different

investment, not only by the artists and local community in their

communities, it employed residents of the local streets and lanes,

engagement with the space, but also financially. The foreign funding

who in turn sent their children to workshops run by Townhouse.

on which the independent arts scene relied so heavily (besides some

The children learned creative skills and became creators, and in one

very generous local donations) has been disappearing since last

particular case the children’s program actually received the Coming

year. Alternatives have had to be found. Word had to be spread about

Up Taller award from the National Endowment of Arts presented at the

how the space offered opportunities and value to the community,

White House. Workers on the street collaborated with Townhouse’s

by the “alumni” of Townhouse speaking of their experiences.

activities in their garages as the gallery’s own buildings became overcrowded—one garage held a sound and light exhibition. This

Eventually the future was secured when Townhouse partnered

symbiotic relationship emphasized the importance of mutual respect

with real estate company SODIC, which agreed to invest in the

and cooperation. Thanks to its relationship with its surroundings,

neighborhood, guarantee its future, provide it with operational costs,

reflecting the relationship between the local and the foreign, the

a budget, and generally contribute to the running of the Downtown

gallery is able to demonstrate an understanding of both the skills

engine. SODIC’s only condition was the establishment of another

of the neighborhood and those of the artists, without necessarily

such community in one of their new cities. Townhouse now faces

speaking for a local identity or breaking the formulas of “tradition.”

the challenge of replicating the symbiotic relationship between space and community it has achieved with the working class

Today, Townhouse’s community is a unique example of the

neighborhood Downtown in a very wealthy one at Westown HUB

futility of segregation and the fertility of cooperation. There is

in New Cairo. The wealthy, with the privacy that money affords, are

no need to be wary of people of different backgrounds, lifestyles

certainly more difficult to converse with, engage with and observe.

or occupations; artists have also been often denounced by the public. Together, the space and the society around Townhouse have evolved and developed: the road has been paved four times, lighting and a water supply have been added, but the neighborhood has still retained its character and a sense of constancy.

Urban Conditioning

The gallery began to flourish, becoming a catalyst for change as it allowed audiences and creative people to experience the district and revise their attitudes.



Restoring Downtown … Restoring Hope

Over its 150 years of existence downtown Cairo has witnessed several waves of gentrification. Its first wave of urban renewal happened in the beginning of the twentieth century with a real estate boom that replaced its existing mansions with European-style buildings. By the mid 1930s and early 1940s, Downtown witnessed a smaller wave of urban renewal where some of its elite moved to newer developments leaving space to a growing middle class. The 1950s and 1960s then saw an exodus of many of the districts’ residents in favor of a new ruling elite. The 1970s marked another wave of gentrification with President Anwar al-Sadat’s open door policy, and the rise in consumerism which saw many of the area’s restaurants, book stores and handcrafts (such as tailors, shoemakers and bookbinders) replaced by shops retailing cheap imported goods. The apartments were converted into import/export companies that thrived on the new growing demand. The 1980s saw many residents abandon their buildings, and by the 1990s many of the businesses had also moved, leaving mostly the retail outlets serving a largely price sensitive consumer. The second half of the 1990s meanwhile saw a revived interest in Downtown led by a nascent contemporary movement of young artists, a movement that solidified its position in the 2000s and created an almost completely art-focused ecosystem in Downtown. With the start of the twenty-first century, Egypt was also witnessing a very important shift as Egyptians started pushing away the two imported

Karim Shafei

and conflicting cultures that governed the country’s society over the previous three decades: Arab/Islamic culture and American culture. The

Panel #2

shift came in favor of the Egyptianization of society, taking the country

development possibilities were key, given the founders’ belief that,

back to what many believed is Egypt’s “true and original” identity. This

to guarantee sustainability, the refurbishment of downtown Cairo

nostalgic definition has often been linked to and described in terms of

had to be a profit-seeking and economic initiative. This view is often

Egypt’s perceived golden days: the first half of the twentieth century. At

at odds with a more romantic belief that the preservation of such

the heart of that era was downtown Cairo. It therefore is no wonder that

heritage is the role of the government.

the January 25 revolution, which hinged on such an Egyptian identity, started right in the heart of Downtown.

When Al Ismaelia started, we realized that we were operating in an area that had degenerated on almost all levels. On a legal level we

Al Ismaelia For Real Estate Investment started in 2008, tapping into the

found that building ownership was fragmented between scores of

renewed interest in the revival of that Egyptian identity, and the links

heirs. The tenants’ right-to-rent contracts were also divided among

that this interest had to Downtown. The company saw an opportunity in

several heirs. Legal papers were often missing, incomplete or

the area, boasting as it did some of Cairo’s most admired architecture,

outdated. Such a legal mess is a major threat to those buildings,

enjoying a central location and—due to its degenerated state—

and as time goes by the issues become more complicated.

commanding low prices, allowing for development possibilities. These

Additionally, due to lack of maintenance, most buildings had physically degenerated. Infrastructure was outdated, services were non-existent or not functioning, and buildings suffered from decades of neglect, garbage and abuse. These conditions had resulted in many residents abandoning their units and offices and moving to newer city centers. When Al Ismaelia started operations, around half of all units were either vacant or abandoned, less than five percent of all units were used for residential purposes, and the remaining 45 percent were mostly old and tired offices from a bygone era, contributing little or nothing to the economy or the local ecosystem. Save for the ground floor retail, downtown Cairo was an old, dying district. A ghost town.

22 ‘Abd al-Khaliq Tharwat building 1920

Restoring Downtown … Restoring Hope

The only vibrant sector in Downtown is a retail scene that is so exclusive

theaters, buildings, retail stores, etc. An example of adaptive reuse

to a single socioeconomic segment that it almost prohibits the use

of buildings would be the Radio Theater, which was turned into a live


of the space by other strata of society. Whereas city centers are

television studio hosting first Bassem Youssef’s show Al Bernameg, and

characterized by their diversity and their ability to accommodate various

eventually Abla Fahita. Finding such a new use for this property after the

types of users, downtown Cairo offered few or no activities for members

disappearance of the theater industry in Egypt is an example of the core

of the middle class and affluent societies.

of Al Ismaelia’s vision in practice.

Despite such challenges, Al Ismaelia managed to acquire a number of

With regards to reviving the area, we have worked for the past eight

buildings in Downtown, focusing on some of the most iconic properties

years to create a renewed interest in Downtown. We have supported

in the area with a clear vision for the district: “A Downtown for all.” Such

an existing and striving art scene by providing free or low-cost spaces

a view means that we envision a Downtown that is diversified, that is

to artists and, in some cases, have supported them with funding. We

welcoming to various socioeconomic segments. A Downtown that is

have also provided platforms for artists, such as D-CAF (Downtown

not exclusive to either a more financially capable group or to a price

Contemporary Arts Festival), which has, over the past four years,

sensitive group. A Downtown that enjoys various types of activities:

become an international event attended by key artists and curators

touristic, offices, retail, entertainment and residential. A Downtown

from the region. Moreover, in some cases we have provided long term

whose activities target different economic groups while offering safe,

spaces to key institutions in the art scene to ensure their continuing

accessible and affordable public space. To realize such a vision, Al

presence in downtown Cairo. Finally, we have worked with various urban

Ismaelia is working on two key levels: 1) to make the space available

activists and Downtown enthusiasts to contribute to the preservation of

and 2) to revive the district.

the district’s urban fabric and its heritage. Examples of such supported initiatives include CLUSTER’s study on the use of pedestrian passages,

To make the space available, Al Ismaelia work on the refurbishment

a Downtown guided tour, and various research projects to document the

of our buildings, upgrading infrastructure and modernizing services

visual and oral history of the district.

to accommodate contemporary needs. We also acquire buildings and properties that can host various functions to reflect our vision

Having said all this, Al Ismaelia strongly believes that a vision for

for an area with diversified activities. We acquire pieces of land,

downtown Cairo is not to be left to the private sector alone. We believe

Panel #2

that such a vision is the responsibility of a wider audience and should engage the various users and stakeholders. Sharing a unified vision makes Al Ismaelia’s job easier and ensures that all users of the district are engaged and committed to it. This has motivated Al Ismaelia to attempt, on various occasions, to start a civil society initiative that will represent various stakeholders and care primarily for the development of the area; setting a vision, lobbying the government, setting building codes and attracting businesses that complement the vision. We hope that one day such an initiative will see the light.

Hotel Viennoise, built 1928

Restoring Downtown ‌ Restoring Hope


Zawya’s entrance



Alternative Films and the Struggle over Space

Since 2004, Misr International Films, the company that was founded by the late Egyptian director Yusif Shahin in 1972, has organized the Panorama of the European Film in Cairo. Over the years, this annual showcase of European cinema has grown immensely, attracting an average of 10,000 admissions in its last edition in 2016. Because of the steady growth of the Panorama, the idea of a permanent venue for alternative film programming in Cairo acquired a flair of feasibility that might have been difficult to imagine otherwise. From that point onwards, Zawya, the first arthouse cinema in Egypt, metamorphosed from an idea in the minds of many cinephiles to a project that opened in downtown Cairo in 2014. If there was a keen interest in European art movies, it followed that an arthouse cinema in Cairo could become a hub for movie lovers, industry professionals and audiences who are typically marginalized by the dictates of the market. The movie distribution and exhibition business is primarily a profit-driven sector that privileges specific types of movies over a wide array of other works which may be perceived as not profitable. Therefore these marginal movies rarely get screened theatrically and their audiences are left to either pirate the movies or give up on the possibility of watching them altogether. Zawya had an immense belief in the existence of an audience for arthouse films, which had previously been overlooked. This was the niche audience to whom Zawya aimed to cater. From the start, Zawya

Youssef Shazli Alia Ayman

was conceived as an initiative that aims for financial sustainability while minimizing compromise on content, rather than being a non-profit or a non-governmental organization. Our aim was, and continues to

Panel #2

be, directed towards the creation of an infrastructure for the exhibition

more congested by the day, it was important for us to be located

and distribution of alternative movies in and from Egypt, with hopes for

as centrally as possible. For that purpose, Downtown was the ideal

potentially expanding, both spatially and in terms of activities in the

location. Secondly, we wanted to be as accessible and affordable as

near future.

possible. Because most cinemas in downtown Cairo are significantly cheaper than the multiplexes across the city (now mainly located

Zawya opened its doors to the public on March 14 2014, tucked away

in the suburbs), we saw a good opportunity to capitalize on this.

in one of Downtown’s alleys, taking over one of the three screens of

Furthermore, the existence of affordable cafés, restaurants and bars

Cinema Odeon. The first film to screen at Zawya was a Saudi-German

throughout Downtown allowed us to create an environment whereby

co-production, Wadjda (2012), directed by Haifaa al Mansour. Crowds

audiences can stick around before or after the film. The existence of

of journalists, industry professionals and movie lovers flocked to the

many rundown and abandoned cinemas across Downtown created a

opening, arguably the first Saudi Arabian movie to screen theatrically in

good opportunity for us to jump in and operate one of those cinemas.

Egypt. The Arab movie industries vary in their strength and reach, with

If cinemas in the area were doing financially as well as they had

the Egyptian movie industry being by far the most popular regionally.

been before the 2000s, it would have been much harder for Zawya to

With a heightened focus on screening Arab movies alongside Egyptian,

penetrate the market and be given a chance. Finally, the idea of being

American and European movies that do not get theatrically released

surrounded by tens of different art spaces and cultural institutions

in Egypt, Zawya’s program aspires to become as eclectic as possible.

within the same neighborhood was essential for us. It created a sense

Such eclecticism will hopefully offer a much-needed diversity in the

of community and made collaborations and partnerships much easier.

Egyptian cinematic landscape, which is otherwise dominated primarily by Hollywood blockbusters and commercial Egyptian productions.

However, as Cairo is a highly segregated city, so Downtown remains frequented by very particular crowds, despite its centrality. More often

The Perks of Running a Cinema Downtown

than not, people comment that they would love to come to Zawya but that they do not go out in Downtown and would like us to operate in

From the very beginning, it was clear to us that we did not want to

other areas. Since 2011, Downtown has become much more attractive

be located in any neighborhood besides Downtown. This was the

to specific crowds while quite alienating to others. Some associate

case for four reasons. Firstly, given that Cairo is growing larger and

Downtown with hipsters and intellectuals, and may be intimidated


set box office records in our fifth and sixth months of operation, with the release of the much anticipated documentary Jews of Egypt, and a week-long retrospective in memory of late Egyptian director Yusif Shahin. These successes completely altered the nature of our relationship with the cinema owners. A new one-year contract was offered, which we considered the winning of our first major battle. From this point onwards, with box office numbers continuously improving (to the point where we were doing better than the cinema’s other two commercial screens combined) and a common Zawya’s caféteria

understanding with the owners, it felt like Zaywa was finally home.

to frequent any of the cultural spaces because they see them as

But these successes have led to a need to expand beyond one

exclusive. Based on anecdotal evidence, it seems many of those

screen. Now, two and half years later, Zawya is seeking to branch out

people Zawya has come to regard as a potential audience actually

to other areas across the city and develop activities outside of

view its location as a drawback. Despite this, the Zawya team is

the capital.

committed to continuing to operate Downtown, where the diversity of audiences is both a challenge and an inspiration.

However, moving to a bigger space in downtown Cairo is proving to be a very difficult task. Most of the cinemas located at the heart

The Struggle Over Space

of the city are either owned by large entrepreneurs or the state. So far, the former have not been receptive to the idea of a potential

We firmly believe that our location in Downtown was essential to

collaboration, while the latter is very difficult to access. One

Zawya’s rapid growth over the past two and a half years. One factor

interesting case is the iconic Cinema Radio which was acquired by

that complicated the process was the struggle over space with

Al Ismaelia for Real Estate Investment a few years back. While there

the cinema owners. Following extended negotiations, Zawya was

were talks with the company over Zawya potentially programming

granted a six-month trial period for operations. Halfway through this

the space, unfortunately a deal never concretized mainly due to the

period we learned that our contract would not be renewed. Zawya

very high costs of space renovation.


Panel #2

Conclusion Looking towards the future, financial sustainability is critical with respect to Zawya finding its place within the market, but also within the neighborhood. We are seeking complete independence and self-reliance. The potential to buy our own space, with the help of investors who may be keen to invest in arts and culture, offers a good alternative to the current funding system for culture based on annual grants that create a vicious circle of dependency. However, for the alternative movie scene in general to thrive, the crux of the matter lies in the legal system that governs film exhibition, distribution and the building/purchasing of movie theaters owned by both the public and the private sectors in Egypt. The problems of permits, an archaic taxation system for ticket sales, and the inability of the law to absorb the many alternative models of movie exhibition (such as outdoor cinemas, old spaces converted into movie screening rooms, micro cinemas and so forth) create barriers to growth for the alternative movie scene. Furthermore, the dearth of funds available for acquiring a movie theater or to renovate a previously existing one make such moves prohibitive. In short, the creation of a sub-industry that serves alternative and art movies, and independent or less popular visual production, rests more broadly on a structural reformulation of the legal and economic conditions in Egypt. While one could be optimistic, it seems like an uphill battle from here.


Zawya at full capacity


Panel #2

Galila El Kadi:

should be legislative and media tools.

apartments in Downtown are vacant,

The legislative mechanism provides

according to the census of 2006, for

loans either to resident owners of the

different reasons. 25 percent is the most

25 years, I was born here, and I have

flats or to the owners of the buildings,

conservative estimate—it may reach

witnessed the different phases of

for their improvement and then to

Downtown. Following the earthquake [of

remove the taxes. This mechanism has

1992] there have been many changes,

happened in many countries; providing

the most important of which is not the

those who want to refurbish and re-

maintenance of infrastructure or the

rent their apartments with a loan, and

maintenance of buildings, but rather

cancelling their taxes. However, there

the cultural activities that have been

aren’t enough legislative tools to do this.

[Translated from Arabic]

“I have been living in Downtown for

growing. The problem of Downtown is that it has become an empty place

This mechanism is not there, but it may

... More than 1.5 million people left

be derived; more than 2,200 relevant

Downtown between 1976 up to 2006,

laws or decisions have been made

and they are still leaving. Why is there

since June 30 [2013]. Thus, when I

no return? Or a type of re-habitation

say that there is a project to revive

as happened in many European cities,

Downtown, I think this project should be

whereby the upper classes left the

an integrated one, and it should have all

center and then returned later? I, 25

the possible tools. The media as a tool

years ago, decided to come back and I

is represented in all the advertisements

thought that I would be a pioneer and

focusing on peripheries, encouraging

many people will follow this model,

people to go to Porto Cairo or Porto

but this, of course, didn’t happen.

wherever. Yet there is no media ...

It never happened because of two

developed to show people the buildings

important things. It’s not only about

of Downtown, and the values that these

the improvement of public space,

buildings embody. […] So actually, many

this is the intervention of the state,

mechanisms should be developed to

that should be direct, but also there

attract residents. 25 percent of the

50 percent or sometimes 75 percent”


Mohamed Elshahed:

Because you do recognize as you’ve

“Of course the big missing actor in

being here, and the kind of environment

this kind of session is the Ministry of

said the value of these institutions that they can create in Downtown.”


Karim Shafei: “It was an option eight years ago, and it is still an option today, and

Culture, which sits across the river

it will continue to be an option.

in the Opera [House] complex and

We have an interest in Downtown

nobody really knows what’s happening

remaining a very inclusive space,

there or what they’re thinking. They

that it remains attractive for lots of

probably don’t even understand that

different segments in society …

this whole conversation is happening here about the relationship between

We think that certain activities are

urban development and arts and

non-discriminatory between social

culture. So unfortunately, despite the

segments: activities such as politics,

fact that they own so much space

sports and arts. These activities don’t

Downtown—cinemas, theaters, puppet

look at how much money a person

theaters even—and despite the fact

has, compared to other activities that

they have a huge budget; in a way they

are commercial in nature, such as a

have just taken themselves out of the

restaurant or a clothing store which

conversation. So then, we have to figure

typically have a client coming from a

out what we can do. So this is all built

specific market segment. So for us to be

up to ask [Karim Shafei of Ismaelia for

able to stay true to our commitment to

Real Estate Investment]—do you think

having a very inclusive Downtown, we

besides providing space temporarily or

are not doing that just out of corporate

long term leases that have preferential

social responsibility, but actually

rates or so on—do you think it might

because we believe that this is how our

actually be necessary to invest directly,

project is going to succeed. So out of

as a form of investment, into arts and

that commitment, we have to maintain

culture spaces? Not because they

a certain part of our investment in the

will generate a profit ... but as a form

art scene, making sure that we continue

of corporate [social] responsibility?

to attract a very wide audience.”

2. Proceedings

A- Plenary Sessions 1- Downtown in Context: Is Gentrification Inevitable? 2- Artists as Urban Catalysts 3- Cultural Policies and Urban Governance 4- Whose Public Space? Security and Access 5- Heritage and Urban Culture 6- Re-framing Downtown: Alternative Approaches


Panel #3

Cultural Policies and Urban Governance

The Cultural Policies and Urban Governance panel was moderated by Khaled Abdelhalim, Professor of Public Policies at the American University in Cairo (AUC’s) School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, who pointed out the importance of clear, well-communicated public policies with regard to Khedival Cairo or Downtown, and sought to investigate what public policies of the state influence this important area of the city. He asked how Downtown might be influenced by cultural policy and the preservation of its urban and architectural character, questioning the link between urban polices and cultural policy in general. Abdelhalim noted that there is a need for a clear framework for resource management,


Khaled Abdelhalim

School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, American University in Cairo


Emad Abou Ghazi Department of Libraries, Documents and Information at Cairo University

a clear public policy, a legal framework, an institutional framework, and a funding framework to implement policies in addition to an applied framework that makes clear how policies will work in practice. Abdelhalim emphasized that Cairo is still experiencing the aftermath of the 2011 revolution, raising the need for a clear legal framework upon which management and governance can be based. The first presentation was by Emad Abou Ghazi from the Department of Libraries, Documents and Information at Cairo University, who was

Ahmed Ragheb

Minister of Culture between March 5 and November 20, 2011. He gave

National Community for Human Rights and Law

a brief history of cultural policy in Egypt prior to the establishment of

Galila El Kadi

the Ministry of Culture in 1958, from Rifa‘a al-Tahtawi, to Taha Hussein’s

Director of Research, Institut de recherche pour le développement en Égypte

1938 publication The Future of Culture in Egypt. He detailed how various cultural policies often suffered weak execution, presenting the example

Panel #3

of President Husni Mubarak’s government having had the intention of

He noted that cultural control in recent years has taken the form

protecting historically significant buildings in Cairo by registering them in

of restrictions to independent artistic practitioners, notably the

cooperation with the National Organization for Urban Harmony (NOUH),

prohibition of the El Fan Medan art festival that took place regularly

founded in the early 2000s. NOUH, however, never had the executive

in ‘Abdin Square and across the country until one and a half years

power to protect the buildings, and often found its decisions overturned

ago. He concluded by noting that the utilization of public space

in court. This led Abou Ghazi to raise the question of what institutions do

for independent cultural activities has always faced opposition

have the power to execute cultural policy.

by the security apparatus, and the state continues to reject the expansion of independent cultural activity in public space in

Abou Ghazi also raised the issue of the relationship between the state

Cairo’s center.

and public space in the city. He spoke of the state controlling public space in the city through monumental architectural constructions,

In the second presentation Ahmed Ragheb from the National

as a means to impose its authority. He provided the example of the

Community for Human Rights and Law introduced the issue of

Muhammad ‘Ali mosque, built on a high hill so it can be seen from around

municipalities as they relate to decentralization, and the role

the city as a symbol of the authority of the modern state. He detailed

they should play in urban planning. He stressed the potential of

the establishment of Khedival Cairo, and Khedive Ismail‘s installation

municipalities to democratize public space, if only the government

of statues memorializing military and public officials. “In Cairo, it took

were willing to decentralize and distribute executive, legislative

two revolutions and 50 years for there to be representations of populist

and judicial power among them. Ragheb gave a brief history of

public figures installed in public spaces,” said Abou Ghazi. He described

municipalities in Egypt, from their creation by law in 1913 to their

some of the history of populist statues in Downtown, including the

early manifestations as district councils, formed in the aftermath

example of Mahmud Mukhtar’s Nahdit Masr statue, which represents

of the 1923 revolution. At the time they possessed a wide range

the 1919 Revolution, and adopted the symbol of the Egyptian farmer.

of authority, with members both appointed and elected. In the

He noted the statue represents popular revolution, and, in this way, both

era of President Anwar al-Sadat, these powers expanded, and a

the people and national governments worked towards its completion:

clear separation was made between the appointed members of

“When a constitutional coup carried through, the work on the statue

the executive council and the elected members of the popular

stopped, and when a national government returned, the work resumed.”

council. In Mubarak’s presidency, these advances were reversed.

Cultural Policies and Urban Governance

Ragheb stressed that the core issue facing local municipalities is that

The second phase of rehabilitation efforts was dominated by

they act as subordinates to the state. He noted the state has often

beautification projects such as the painting of building façades, and

sought to reserve the right to appoint the heads of local units, from the

was undertaken after the establishment of NOUH, in 2003-2004, in

governor to the mayor, which limits their independence. However, the

coordination with the Cairo Governorate.


2014 constitution grants the opportunity to elect the local council and governor.

El Kadi described numerous missed opportunities to learn from prior projects, characterizing a failure to take on board accumulated

Ragheb stated that having elected governors and councils would not

experience and knowledge as “starting from point zero and reinventing

only democratize the municipalities but also public space, and that it

the wheel.” She referred to the European Union-funded Heritage

is in the interest of citizens, scholars, architects and urban planners to

Conservation and Management in Egypt and Syria (HERCOMANES)

hold a clearer vision of local governance and advocate for strong local

project between 2000–2006, which undertook research on the

administrative councils, independent from the central government.

preservation of Cairo and Aleppo’s nineteenth and twentieth century heritage sites, as “the first real conservation plan for Downtown,” but said

Finally, Galila El Kadi, Director of Research at the Institut de recherche

not all of its findings were implemented. She emphasized the need for a

pour le développement en Égypte (IRD) gave an overview of the cultural

holistic regeneration plan for Downtown, highlighting the benefits to be

authorities’ three waves of restoration efforts over the past two decades,

gained from urban renewal.

and discussed her participation in the third and most recent effort, begun in 2014. After the 1992 earthquake, which damaged many buildings in

El Kadi spoke of the sometimes limited role that consultants to the

Cairo, the private sector selected 14 landmark buildings Downtown to

Governor are able to play in urban renewal, but on a positive note

rehabilitate, strengthening foundations, upgrading electrical and sewage

suggested that there is an improved level of transparency and willingness

systems, and removing groundwater. The governorate focused on the

to cooperate among government entities.

process of reducing vehicular traffic and increasing pedestrian traffic in the main walkways of al-Alfi Street, Zakariya Ahmad Street, and Saray

Over the course of the three presentations, speakers gave a

al-Azbakiya. In al-Bursa area, the government cooperated with private

comprehensive overview of the historical and contemporary factors

investors who partially funded the rehabilitation of the area.

affecting cultural policy and urban governance in Cairo. A common

Panel #3

thread, as Khaled Abdelhalim noted in closing, was the state’s interest in imposing its presence at the heart of those policies by representing its authority and control over public space and urban management in general. This is reflected in the limited devolution of executive, judicial and legislative power from the center, which according to Ahmed Ragheb is crucial for more productive urban planning and preservation. Despite increased cooperation between government departments, the projects related by Galila El Kadi also told of some resistance to outside experience and visions. Greater consultation—with as many specialists, non-specialists, and community stakeholders as possible—arose as a key concern with regard to a future vision for cultural policy and urban governance in Cairo.

Cultural Policies and Urban Governance


Panel #3


Cultural Policy in Egypt: Architectural Preservation and the Conflict Over Control of Public Space

Downtown The construction of Downtown, or what is now called Khedival Cairo, started during the reign of Khedive Isma‘il (1863–1979) and was completed by his successors. In his al-Khitat al-Tawfiqiya al-Jadida (“Tawfiq’s New Plans”), ‘Ali Pasha Mubarak defines the borders of alIsma‘iliya , that were the foundations of Khedival Cairo, as Bulaq Street (currently 26th of July Street) to the north and the al-Qasr al-‘Aini Street and al-Khalij al-Misri Street to the south, the Nile and the old mouth of al-Isma‘iliya Canal on the west, and the western wall of Fatimid Cairo on the east. These areas were originally gardens during the Bahari Mamluk era known as Ard al-Luq, but with the passing of time turned into swamps and ruins.1 Khedive Isma‘il’s plans successfully salvaged the area from ruin, transforming it into a new district in the style of modern European quarters. The plans featured intersecting streets, a number of squares at the center, paved roads with sidewalks for pedestrians, water pipes and street lamps. The area was connected with al-Jazira through the Qasr al-Nil bridge. This signaled the beginning of change in the planning of the Egyptian city, reshaping it in the style of modern European cities.2 The planning of these new cities coincided with the transfer of the seat of government from the Citadel, which had served

Emad Abou Ghazi

for seven centuries as the center for most important government offices since its founding by Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi, to ‘Abdin

Panel #3

Palace at the edge of the new quarter. The government administration

Downtown or Khedival Cairo became a space for cultural and artistic

was also relocated at that time to the quarter’s Dawawin district.3

activity; the Opera House was constructed on its borders, and theaters were built in neighboring Azbakiya Park. ‘Imad al-Din Street became a

The founding of the new district may be viewed as yet another

later hub for theatrical performances. As cinema developed in Egypt,

manifestation of the imperfect modernity Egypt experienced throughout

not only did first class cinema theaters appear in the area but so did

the nineteenth century. The modernization of the city, similar to all

“Terzo” movie theatres at its peripheries.4 In addition, Downtown saw the

other attempts at modernization in Egypt, was based on parallels and

emergence of grand art galleries, artists’ studios, the largest photography

juxtapositions. The new did not replace the old; it bordered it and was

studios and the most important modern Egyptian and foreign bookstores.

developed alongside it. The new quarter that was planned during the

Numerous cultural, artistic and scientific organizations founded their

reign of Khedive Isma‘il and expanded by his successors, became the new

headquarters in Downtown and its periphery, such as the Institut

center of the city, not necessarily in the sense of being geographically

d’Égypte and the Geographical Society at the southern entrance of al-

central, but in the sense that it housed the core political and administrative

Isma‘iliya Square (currently Tahrir). The Fine Arts Appreciation Society

affairs, and was the hub for new cultural and artistic activities. Later

headquarters were set up in the center of Khedival Cairo, then later

it became the commercial and economic center of the city. Fatimid

moved to Garden City. On the northern side of Downtown the Egyptian

Cairo to the east, and the quarters established during the Mamluk era

Automobile Club, the Muhammad ‘Ali club, the Egyptian Society of

to the north and south, remained unchanged for years, existing in the

Historical Studies and the Cairo Atelier were established. On the opposite

periphery of the state’s care. When elements of modernization reached

side, on what is now called Ramsis Street, were the Egyptian Society for

these quarters, they came in an unplanned manner, so the area neither

Political Economy, Statistics and Legislation and the Egyptian Society of

maintained its historical character nor did it become truly modern. The


new district and the surrounding neighborhoods that were later built by foreign companies, garnered a lot of attention. During the period

In addition, Khedival Cairo hosted a number of political and cultural

beginning in the 1870s, for almost the next 100 years, the modern part

cafés, of which Mataya Café was the most famous, and remained in its

of the city continued to develop its architectural style and urban and

location behind the Opera House until the 1970s. The number of cafés

cultural order with few exceptions. Downtown became a vital center of

and bars in Downtown increased with time, including Café Riche, Groppi,

cultural, commercial, administrative and even political activity in the city.

Salt, Bar al-Liwa’, Asivitch, Casino Safiya and Astra. These cafés became

Cultural Policy in Egypt


gathering spaces for artists, writers and politicians as well as forums

freed from government control and receiving financial support from

for political activity and debate. The area was the center of artistic and

foreign cultural institutions. New cultural activities found a footing

cultural activity as well as the main destination for political protests,

Downtown, given an increase in their currency and financial market value.

which converged in particular in ‘Abdin Square and al-Isma‘iliya Square. The last decade of the twentieth century and the early 2000s witnessed On January 26 1952, the area was subject to significant destruction,

diverse independent cultural activities in the Downtown area as new

in what came to be known as the Cairo Fire.5 Despite the restoration

cultural institutions appeared, such as Mashrabia Gallery, the Townhouse

of most of the buildings and shops damaged that day, Downtown

Gallery and Rawabet Theater. New coffee houses sprang up as hangouts

was never the same. A few months later, the Free Officers’ Movement

for new generations of artists. These included coffee shops along Zahrat

succeeded in claiming power and changes began advancing Downtown;

al-Bustan and its extensions, and throughout al-Bursa and al-Tak‘iba, in

a crackdown on political activity and restrictions on community-

addition to the established cultural coffee houses, such as Café Riche.

based organizations led to the decline of independent cultural activity

A few movie theaters were renovated and brought back to life. The

in general. From the mid-1960s on, the cultural landscape began to

Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF) was launched, a series of

alter gradually, a process that accelerated in the last 40 years. From

programs hosted in different spaces around Downtown each spring, with

the 1970s particularly, the area’s cultural scene began a substantial

its sixth cycle concluding in Spring 2016.6

decline, and many cultural spaces were turned into commercial establishments. By the mid-1980s, a number of cultural spaces had

Concerning changes in architecture, the state initiated projects in the

been turned into shoe stores, restaurants and banks, and the quality of

1950s and early 1960s that gradually changed the face of Downtown,

cinema theaters Downtown declined while some shut down completely.

of which the Cairo Governorate building was the most prominent. This building was later made the headquarters of the Arab Socialist Union,

By the second half of the 1980s, there had been a partial reversal of

then was set fire to during the January 2011 revolution. The building,

these transformations, which gradually brought back many cultural

with an architectural style that seemed alien to the rest of Downtown,

activities and establishments. This was due to a number of factors: first,

occupied the empty plot that had been dedicated to the expansion of the

new shopping malls started to appear in areas far from Downtown. In

Egyptian Museum. Later, in a blow to Downtown’s architectural heritage,

addition, nonprofit civil society organizations returned to Downtown,

some architecturally and historically significant buildings were torn

Panel #3

down, including Huda Sha‘rawi Palace and the Count Zughayb Villa

which was one of the most important geological museums in the

that housed the Museum of Modern Art. These stood in the triangle

world, was demolished and its contents “temporarily” relocated to the

between Qasr al-Nil Street, Champollion Street and Tahrir Square. The

public transportation garages in Athar al-Nabi in the south of Cairo.

pretext for this demolition was to make space to build modern hotels

This “temporality” has lasted for 35 years. During the 1980s, tens of

as part of what was known as the “Hotelization Policy” adopted by

villas, palaces and buildings of significant architectural and cultural

one of the Ministers of Culture and Mass Media who was also a Free

value were replaced by hotels, shopping malls and atrocious parking

Officer. Accordingly, some historical palaces were turned into hotels,

garages, a phenomenon that was not exclusive to Downtown but

including the Lutf Allah Palace in Zamalek and the garden of Prince

extended to many other neighborhoods and Egyptian cities especially

Muhammad ‘Ali in Manyal. As a result, the state opened the gates for

Alexandria, Assiut, Minya and Luxor. The couple of years following

real estate and shop owners to change the features of their buildings

the 2011 January 25 revolution, particularly during what was called

without regulation. This phenomenon worsened in the beginning of

the “Lawlessness Phenomenon,” witnessed many encroachments on

the 1970s, resulting in the loss of many architectural features of

architecturally significant buildings and on the street level in Downtown.

Khedival Cairo.

The ease with which the state regained control over the streets in the


beginning of 2014 may suggest that this lawlessness was perhaps The 1970s witnessed a new level of change in Downtown and

intentional. Outside of the borders of Downtown, the encroachment on

the erasure of its historical features. Following the Opera House

architecturally significant buildings is still ongoing.

fire in 1971, rather than restoring the building or constructing a new modern Opera House, the Cairo Governorate instead built

The State, Culture and the Architectural

an administrative building with a multi-story parking garage. The

Preservation of Downtown

governorate demolished the building behind the Opera House that hosted the Mataya coffee shop; a hub for thought, art and politics

Egypt witnessed its first attempt at modernization in the Muhammad

since the 1890s. A few years later, the Museum of Science on al-

‘Ali Pasha era at the beginning of the nineteenth century. After the

Bustan Street was demolished and a multi-story parking garage and

revolution of 1805 that brought him to power, the Pasha gradually

mall was subsequently built in its place. During the construction of

implemented new policies that reshaped Egyptian society. These were

the first metro line, the Geological Museum on Shaykh Rihan Street,

based on a legacy of policies dating back to the mid-eighteenth century.

Cultural Policy in Egypt

Within this context, the nuclei of the first modern cultural institutions

cultural institutions were added to those that had been realized in

were linked to the building of the nation state. These institutions

the first half of the nineteenth century, such as the Department of

were further developed by his successors with the introduction

Arts and later the High Council of Literature and Art. By late 1958 the

of cultural production in Egypt through the first printing press. As

Ministry of Culture was renamed the Ministry of Culture and National

a result of his programs, including educational missions abroad

Guidance. During this time the state mapped out a cultural policy

and the modernization of schools, a new cultural elite emerged,

and oversaw its implementation, as private cultural production had

whose modern European education became the cornerstone for the

declined with the waves of nationalization in the early 1960s.9


translation program led by Rifa‘a al-Tahtawi. Although these cultural programs were subject to the fluctuations of Muhammad ‘Ali’s

The 1970s witnessed a clear change of direction in the work of

political project, with alternating growth and recession, they came

the Ministry of Culture. The role of the state in cultural production

to form a new Egypt that was culturally different from when he first

declined until the Ministry of Culture was dissolved and replaced by

came to power. Throughout the nineteenth century, the role of the

the High Council of Culture. Cultural palaces were given over to the

Egyptian state continued to dominate; during the reign of Isma‘il the

municipalities, while the Department of Antiquities and the General

Egyptian Opera House and the Khedival Library were established,

Book Authority were preserved. The Minister of Culture became the

and governmental institutions were established to oversee culture,

Minister of State for Culture and Mass Media. This occurred in the

such as the Department of Antiquities. By the end of the nineteenth

context of ministries being converted from service providers to state

century, these cultural institutions were fully established and were

ministries, and municipalities being given a larger responsibility in

considered to be among the most important pillars of modernity in

the service sectors. By the early 1980s, following the assassination

Egypt. During the first half of the twentieth century, state museums

of President Anwar al-Sadat, a new state cultural policy was

were established as well as the Department of Fine Arts in the

instituted, which involved the state reasserting its presence in the

Ministry of Education, which was responsible for part of the state’s

cultural scene. During that time, the state affirmed, at least in public

cultural sector. Civil society took on a substantial role in the cultural

discourse, the importance of the architectural character of the city.

field, and was responsible for an increase in cultural production.8 The Ministry of National Guidance was established in July 1952,

While the oldest document titled “Cultural Policy” in Egypt dates back

and was renamed the Ministry of Culture in 1958. Gradually, new

to the second half of the 1960s, the state always had a vision or policy

Panel #3

for culture, even before the establishment of a designated ministry.10, 11

their development over time, and that the plan should involve a number

Since its establishment, six ministers have declared cultural policy plans.

of fields, including architecture. The plan also suggested a unity in

Tharwat ‘Ukasha in 1968, did so under the name of Cultural Policy, as

architecture and art around the Arab world.14

did Badr al-Din Abu Ghazi in 1971, under the name of the Program of Cultural Action. During his position as Deputy Minister, ‘Abd al-Mun‘im

The absence of official interest at that time in the architectural

al-Sawi developed a cultural policy project that was implemented when

preservation of the Egyptian city is notable when compared with other

he became Minister of Culture in the mid-1970s. Later, as Faruq Husni

African states. At the first World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar in 1966,

became Minister of Culture in 1987 and then again in 1998, he published

in which the Egyptian Ministry of Culture participated, there was a strong

a book entitled Culture is the Light that Shines in the Nation’s Sky, followed

emphasis on African architecture and its preservation.15

in 2003 by his plan entitled “Culture as a Structure and Direction.” The 12

author of this article then developed a plan in 2011. Lastly, a strategy

The interest in architectural preservation is evident in the cultural

was put forward by Jabir ‘Asfur, whose first draft was published in 2014.13

policy put forth by ‘Ukasha to the National Assembly in June 1969

Parts of these visions and policies were about urban planning and taking

when the Ministry of Culture was planning a roundtable discussion

a position vis-à-vis antiquity sites or sites of architectural significance. In

on the architecture of Cairo in the framework of celebrating the city’s

most of these policies the state institutions assumed responsibility for

millennium. Here he quotes a statement to clarify the importance of the

the preservation of the city’s architecture and character.

architectural preservation of the Egyptian city:

The first initiative for a cultural policy in Egypt was developed as part

Architecture is an important aspect of Cairo life,

of the General Conference for Culture and Arts that took place in the

its elements are the results of a thousand years of

Cairo Opera House, April 18–22 1958, a few months after the Ministry of

civilization. During prosperous times, these elements

Culture was established. Despite this plan focusing on the propaganda

were of artistic significance and garnered the attention

aspect of culture, those responsible for cultural policies at that time

of artists and architects around the world, thanks to its

realized the significance of architectural preservation as a cultural

urban planning and design offering the best solutions

component, as was evident in the plan they put forth. They proposed

that harmonized different architectural elements and

that any cultural plan must take into account environmental factors and

principles of mapping and design. There is no doubt

Cultural Policy in Egypt

that a roundtable discussion with participation from

This necessitates that the Ministry and its institutions

international experts on architecture and urban planning

have a say in all matters concerning the planning and

along with Egyptian expertise in those fields is important

alteration of the landmarks of the environment with

for the examination of Cairo architecture and its

respect to art, beauty, historical and cultural values in

development in comparison to other cities. Study of the

every aspect of Egyptian life.17


design elements that resulted in the architectural forms in Cairo and discussion of the effect of modern technology

He also called for cooperation with the municipalities to make sure

on the prevailing design and planning processes in the

that cultural and aesthetic values be given due consideration in urban

civilized world will have application to Cairo, and may

planning projects. He sought a new architectural formula for cultural

lead to the development of the best possible outcomes

sites to create a balance between the environment and heritage.18 These

for the architecture of Cairo, in the present as well as

plans and projects came to a halt once he left office in May 1971.

the future. We must continue to contribute to laying the proper foundations for upgrading and change

The Minister of Culture assigned the Committee of Architecture in

that are taking place in Cairo and other cities.16

the High Council of Arts, Literature and Social Sciences, headed by ‘Abd al-Mun‘im Haykal to study this issue. The Committee took an

While making a presentation to the National Assembly, at the beginning

interest in planning and architecture in Egypt and included in its report

of 1971, Badr al-Din Abu Ghazi dedicated a large part of his Program of

a national framework to coordinate between the council and the

Cultural Action to the preservation of the national artistic quality of the

institutions responsible for architecture and planning. The Committee

Egyptian city. He saw that

continued to discuss the topic for many years, even after the Council changed its name to the High Council of Culture. In the early 1980s,

the Ministry of Culture must be diligent in and responsible

the Council organized a seminar on the characteristics of national

for preserving the artistic and cultural environment, and

architecture headed by Badr al-Din Abu Ghazi because of his position

must participate in urban planning that mitigates the

as the head of the Arts Division in the Council. The seminar coined the

disfigurement of the character of the environment and

term “Architectural Riot” to describe the state of architectural chaos in

contributes to the beautification of landmarks of the area.

Cairo and other Egyptian cities and especially Downtown. Architectural

Panel #3

preservation is still to this day the most pressing cause on the agenda

of the National Organization for Urban Harmony (NOUH) in 2001,21

of the Architecture Committee in the High Council of Culture.

an initiative to restore and revive Downtown or Khedival Cairo

The Specialized National Councils, under the supervision of the

began.This leads us to discuss the institutions responsible for the

presidency, undertook the creation of a framework for national cultural

architectural preservation of the Egyptian city. It is noteworthy that

policies, from 1984–2000. In a 1984 report titled “Cultural Policy:

these institutions are as old as the modernization project itself, going

Studies and Principles,” many pages were dedicated to the question

back to the nineteenth century. It all started with the Diwan al-Abnya

of Egyptian architecture and the state of the contemporary Egyptian

(Department of Buildings) that later became the Department of Public

city, whose informal growth was showing an inharmonious mixing

Buildings, which was the only governmental body that supervized

of building designs, and lacked a future vision. The report concluded

all government constructions in compliance with the city plan. The

with recommendations regarding the issuing of laws for architectural

Department focused on Downtown where there was a concentration

preservation so as to guarantee the restoration of the aesthetic quality

of ministries and government offices. There had been a government

of Egyptian cities.19

interest in Downtown since its construction, but during the 1940s various ministries particularly sought to end to the control of the

Faruq Husni was perhaps the most engaged Minister of Culture when

Diwan on new constructions. As they succeeded, each ministry began

it came to architectural preservation. His tenure lasted more than

its independent projects, and so initiated the devolving architectural

20 years, enabling him to achieve a few milestones. Most notably

chaos of the city.22

he was responsible for the upgrading of the northern part of alMu‘iz Street and saving its landmarks, which had been under threat

From the 1920s several advisory committees for the arts were

from groundwater. He turned the street into an open museum, and

established, the most noteworthy being the committee formed in

introduced the adaptive reuse of some of its historical buildings and

1927. Among its tasks were the development of proposals for the

sites in Fatimid Cairo for various cultural activities. These include

improvement of aesthetic taste, the preservation of Egyptian scenery,

Bayt al-Suhaymy and a number of historical houses close by on the

as well as the regulation of buildings and the planning of streets.

Darb al-Asfar alley, Qasr Bashtak, and the Sabil (drinking fountain) of

These proposals were never implemented. In 1949 the Advisory

Muhammad ‘Ali along al-Mu‘iz Street, and the Harrawy, Zaynab Khatun

Committee of Fine Arts was reestablished and headed by Muhammad

and al-Sitt Wasila houses off al-Azhar Street. With the establishment

Mahmud Khalil Bey who was also Head of the Fine Arts Appreciation


Cultural Policy in Egypt


Society. The Committee was formed by a royal decree and among its

preservation of the city. Its mandate was to confront the phenomenon

responsibilities was the preservation of historical sites, natural scenery

of encroachment on the architectural heritage of Egyptian cities, and to

and public squares, as well as the buildings and statues they housed.

address the lack of environmental or esthetic plans.26 It is remarkable that

The state, represented by ‘Ali Ayub Pasha, the Minister of Endowments,

despite all the efforts of those running it, NOUH was unable to fulfill its

realized that the government was incapable of creating a political vision

purpose, as the destruction of the architectural heritage of the Egyptian

for the development of fine arts. Thus, the burden of developing plans

city continued on the ground. Downtown was more fortunate, being at the

and proposals fell on the Committee, while the government bodies would

center of the government’s attention.

be responsible for their implementation. It is noteworthy that during the Liberal period (1923–1952), the Fine Arts Appreciation Society

Along with the NOUH, the High Council of Urban Planning was

collaborated in shaping the government’s policy on fine arts.23

established and headed by the Prime Minister, and among its many responsibilities was the architectural preservation of the Egyptian city.27

With the increased endangering of the architectural character of Downtown, the government formed the Greater Cairo Committee in the

The Conflict Over Public Space

1960s in response to informal encroachment upon Historical (Fatimid and Mamluk) Cairo. The decree stated that the Committee, which

Since ancient Egyptian civilization, architecture was the government’s

was annexed to the cabinet, must approve all major projects. Being

tool to assert its presence in city spaces. After the rise of Muhammad

empowered as such, the Committee was thus able to halt many of the

‘Ali Pasha to power, the new state started producing its designs. The

manifestations of architectural chaos.24

Muhammad ‘Ali Mosque, constructed in 1830 at the Citadel, was the most prominent architectural achievement in his reign; an example of an

But as the saying goes, nothing is written in stone. The Greater Cairo

Ottoman-style mosque derived from Byzantine churches in the Middle

Committee was replaced by the General Organization for Physical

Ages.28 It was built on the top of the Citadel so it could visually assert

Planning (GOPP), which had less power than its predecessor and fell

its presence on the landscape of the city, emphasizing the power of the

under the jurisdiction of the Housing Ministry, limiting its ability to

new state and its ruler. Muhammad ‘Ali Pasha found excuses to stay at

control the urban expansion that changed much of the city’s character.25

the Citadel, refusing to live in the Azbakiya district, in contradiction to the

The NOUH was established to be responsible for the architectural

terms of the revolution that brought him to power.

Panel #3

Since ancient Egyptian civilization, architecture was the government’s tool to assert its presence in city spaces.

before 1952, and between the new regime and the old after 1952. After the 1919 revolution, Egyptian sculptors gained visibility and Mahmud Mukhtar gained prominence when he made the “Egyptian Renaissance” statue which expressed the national sentiment. He asserted the presence of the female peasant in public space, with a work that symbolized the popular revolution. Work on the statue was undertaken through widespread public fundraising, and later

When Khedive Isma‘il began the urban expansion project in Cairo and

supported by the government. Under pressure from authorities loyal

other cities, modeling its new quarters after European cities of the

to the Royal Palace, the work was halted several times. After the

time, he included artistic elements to beautify the city. He ordered

Constitutional Coup of 1926 failed, and a coalition government was

the construction of the four lion statues at the entrances of Qasr

formed between the Wafd Party and the Liberal Constitutional Party,

al-Nil Bridge, built in 1872 to connect the Isma‘iliya district with the

work on the statue resumed. Mukhtar finished it in the winter of

Jazira. The state commissioned European sculptors for the erection of

1927, and the curtain was finally lifted in May 1928, after a number

statues of the Muhammad ‘Ali family and their statesmen.29

of postponements due to King Fu’ad I’s dissatisfaction with the

The state continued its beautification project by erecting statues in

Hadid Square to its current location near Cairo University in 1955.

sculpture’s artistic concept.30 The statue was later moved from Bab alpublic squares and parks. It sought to beautify Egyptian cities through art, and through the installation of sculpture to assert its presence in

After Sa‘d Zaghlul’s passing, the government commissioned Mukhtar

public space. Statues of leading figures of the Muhammad ‘Ali dynasty

to make two statues of him in Cairo and Alexandria. The statues

occupied the city’s main squares. It took more than half a century and

were the subject of a long dispute between the artist and the

two popular revolutions to see statues of figures outside of the Royal

government, which reflected a state of conflict over public space.

Family inhabit public spaces in the city.

After the government was changed, it refused to erect one of the commissioned statues in al-Isma‘iliya (currently Tahrir) Square and

Statues in public squares and parks acted as sites of conflict over the

selected an alternate site for its installation. The government decided

occupation of public space; between the state and political powers

instead to make the al-Isma‘iliya Square the site of a statue of Khedive

Cultural Policy in Egypt


Isma‘il. When Mukhtar finished sculpting the statues, the government

of foreign origin. In addition, sculptures and monuments appeared

refused to erect them at all. It considered the height of the pedestals

immortalizing national events such as the victory of October 1973 and

inappropriate, because the base of the statue made for Alexandria

the reopening of the Suez Canal. Decisions regarding these memorials

was higher than that of the statue of the Founder of the Muhammad

were made exclusively by the government. A famous case circulated

‘Ali State in Manshiya; and the pedestal destined for Cairo was higher

through the administrative courts, to force the government to erect

than that planned for Khedive Isma‘il.

a statue of Mustafa al-Nahhas in a square in Downtown. Despite the claimant getting a final ruling in his favor 10 years ago, it was never

The stalling continued and the issue was taken to court. The


state did not want popular leaders to occupy public space. It had accepted the symbolism of “Egyptian Renaissance,” being unable

In the aftermath of the 2011 Egyptian revolution, the cultural scene

to stand in the way of public demand, but it would not repeat this

witnessed activity on many levels. The conflict over public space in

“mistake,” especially with statues depicting a man who was a symbol

Downtown took the form of two battles, one over graffiti and the other

of challenging the King’s authority. The statues were unveiled in

over the public art initiative El Fan Medan (Art is a Square). Artistic

1938 after the death of King Fu’ad, the same year that the statue

expression became bolder and seemed limitless. Art returned to the

of Mustafa Kamil was moved from his school to Swaris Square

streets and through it, direct contact with the people became possible.

(currently Mustafa Kamil Square) in Downtown, after the statue had

New artistic forms spread expressing the revolutionary state, especially

been hidden for 30 years.

in music and the plastic arts.

Many statues were moved from their locations after 1952, due to

Graffiti can be considered one of the weapons of the revolution as well

political developments. The Sulayman Pasha statue was moved from

as a record of it. It covered the walls of Egypt and especially Downtown

Sulayman Pasha Square to the Military Museum and was replaced

where the most important events of the revolution took place. Authorities

by a statue of Egyptian economist Tal‘at Harb by sculptor Fathy

have viewed this phenomenon as a provocation over the last five years.

Mahmud. The street and the square were also named after Tal‘at Harb.

Every regime that has come to power since the revolution sought to

With the passing of years, statues of Egyptians started to occupy

erase the graffiti from the walls of Downtown, and even reached the

public spaces that previously had exclusively honored Egyptians

point of criminalizing it. The battle of graffiti and its erasure became

31, 32

Panel #3

recurrent, reflecting a conflict over the walls of Downtown as a carrier of

preservation and the cultural role of Downtown. Yet the tide was stronger

the political message of the youth.33 The number of walls covered with

than the power of the state’s cultural institutions. Is there a future for

graffiti in Downtown has decreased and is almost limited to the walls of

the reclamation of Downtown through a collaboration between state

Muhammad Mahmud Street, and this too could be erased by the time

institutions, civil society organizations and the private sector? Perhaps

these words are published.

the rest of the research papers of this seminar can answer this question


from different angles. But the question remains: why the focus on El Fan Medan could be considered one of the most important projects

Downtown? Aren’t underprivileged areas in the city and different villages

coming from the heart of the revolution, being the richest, most diverse

more worthy of attention? Why all this obsession with Khedival Cairo?

and lasting of experiments. This pioneering project was inspired by the creative participations in the 18 days of the revolution and was

I still cannot find an answer to this question.

conceived by the Independent Culture Coalition that included cultural groups that worked on the revolution and paved the way for it. The project started in 2011 and ended in the summer of 2014. El Fan Medan was an open space where different cultural practitioners could present their work in public squares and parks in the midst of the people. Despite the project being initiated in different cities in governorates around Egypt, the project was strongest and most impactful when it took place in ‘Abdin Square. It continued taking place in the square on the first

1 ‘Ali Pasha Mubarak, al-Khitat al-tawfiqiya al-jadida li-Misr al-Qahira wa-muduniha wa-biladiha al-qadima wa-al-

Saturday of every month for three years. The event was attended by

shahira, Volume 3 (Cairo: Dar al-Kutub,1970), 117.

thousands who engaged with its exhibitions, film screenings, book fairs, concerts, poetry readings, traditional crafts, theater as well as circus and Bedouin arts. The government pressure on El Fan Medan started in the summer of 2014 and then it was shut down completely. Finally, it is certain that the state, represented by the Ministry of Culture, since the 1960s, realizes the importance of architectural

2 See Muhammad Kamal al-Sayyid Muhammad, Asma’ wa-musammayat min tarikh Misr-al-Qahira (Cairo: alHayʼa al-Misriya al-’Amma lil-Kitab, 1986), 189; Muhammad Husam al-Din Isma’il, Wajh madinat al-Qahira: min wilayat Muhammad ‘Ali Pasha hatta nihayat hukm Isma’il,1805-1879 (Cairo: al-Hayʼa al-Misriya al-’Amma lil-Kitab, 2014), 340–358; and Suhayr Zaki Hawwas, al-Qahira al-khidiwiya: rasd wa-tawthiq ’imarat wa-’umran mantiqat wasat al-madina (Cairo: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiya, 2010). 3 See Khalid ‘Azab, al-Hajar wa al-sawlajan (Cairo: al-Dar al-Misriya al-Lubnaniya, 2014), 128; and Dar al-saltana fi Misr: al-ʻimara wa-al-tahawwulat al-siyasiya (Cairo: al-Majlis al-A‘la lil-Thaqafa, 2007). 4 The third-class cinemas, “Terzo” is an Italian word meaning “the third.” Many Italian expressions and words are used in the Egyptian language.

Cultural Policy in Egypt


5 See ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Rafi‘i, Muqaddimat thawrat 23 Yuliya sanat 1952, second edition (Cairo: Maktabat al-

madinat al-Qahira, 339; Zaki, Mawsu‘at, 53, 235; and Cynthia Myntti, Paris along the Nile: Architecture in Cairo from

nahda al-miṣriya, 1946), 113–125; and Muhammad Anis, Hariq al-Qahira fi 26 Yanayir 1952 ‘ala daw’ watha’iq

the Belle Epoque. (Cairo: AUC Press, 1999), 9–12.

tunsharu li-awwal marra (Cairo: Maktabat Madbuli, 1982).

30 General Authority for Cultural Palaces, al-Maththal Mukhtar (Cairo, 2003), 38–50, 276–289.

6 Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival, “D-CAF,” last accessed 05/09/2016,

31 Zaki, 54.

7 Badr al-Din Abu Ghazi, al-Fann fi ‘alamina (Cairo: Dar al-Ma‘arif, 1973), 26–33.

32 Ibid, 263-267.

8 See Emad Abou Ghazi, “al-Muʼassasat al-thaqafiya al-haditha fi Misr” in Archives and the Study of Arab

33 Mariam Abu Ghazi, “The Surrounding of the Square: A Space of Memory, Resistance and Oppression” MA

Civilization in the Middle Ages, The Middle East Research Series no.6 (2011), 88–98; and “al-Siyasat al-thaqafīya fi

Thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London, 2014.

zaman al-tahawwul” in al-Thaqafa fī zaman al-tahawwul (Cairo: Markaz al-Dirasat al-Siyasiya wa-al-Istiratijiya

34 By the time of this essay’s publication, part of the Muhammad Mahmud wall had been demolished as part

bil-Ta‘awun ma‘a al-Muʼassasa al-Thaqafiya al-Suwisriya, 2014), 89, 94.

of the American University in Cairo’s plan to tear down their Science Building, which used to command the

9 Emad Abou Ghazi, “al-Siyasat al-thaqafiya,” 94.

corner of Muhammad Mahmud Street and Tahrir Square.

10 Tharwat ‘Ukasha, al-Siyasa al-thaqafiya: Bayan wazir al-thaqafa amam Lajnat al-Khadmat bi Majlis al-Umma fi 16 Yuniyu 1969 (Cairo: Dar al-Kutub, 1969). 11ʻEmad Abou Ghazi, “al-Siyasat al thaqafiya,” 103. 12 Ibid, 104. 13 Ministry of Culture, Istiratijiyat al-manzuma al-thaqafiya lil-dawla 2014-2030 (Cairo, 2014). 14ʻ‘Abd al-Mun‘im Sawi, ‘An al-thaqafa (Cairo: ‘Alamiya lil-Nashr wa-aI’lan), 337–346. 15 Ibid, 353–366. 16ʻEmad Abou Ghazi, “al-Siyasat al-thaqafiya,” 23–24. 17 Al-Sayyid Badr al-Din Abu Ghazi, Al-‘Amal al-thaqafi: Barnamaj wa munjazat Nufambir 1970–Mayu 1971, Bayan li-Majlis al-Umma (Cairo, 1971), 6. 18 Ibid, 8–9. 19 The Specialized National Councils, al-Siyasa al-thaqafiya mabadiʼ wa-dirasat (Cairo: al-Majalis al-Qawmiyah al-Mutakhassisa, 1984), 228, 229. 20 Ministry of Culture, al-Qahira al-tarikhiya (Cairo: al-Majlis al-A’la lil-Athar, SCA, 2002). 21 Presidential Decree no. 37, 2001. 22 The Specialized National Councils, 227. 23 Badr al-Din Abu Ghazi, al-Funun al-jamila fi Misr: jil min al-ruwwad (Cairo: Jam‘iyat Muhibbi al-Funun al-Jamila, 1975), 33–39. 24 The Specialized National Councilss, 227. 25 Ibid, 228. 26 Presidential Decree no. 37, 2001. 27 Law no. 118, 2008. 28 ‘Abd al-Rahman Zaki, Mawsu‘at madinat al-Qahira fi alf ‘am (Cairo: Maktabat al-Anjlu al-Misriya, 1969), 333; and Isma‘il, Wajah madinat al-Qahira, 144. 29 ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Rafi‘i, ʻAsr Isma‘il, Volume 1, second edition (Cairo: Maktabat al-Nahda al-Misriya, 1948), 70; ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Rafi‘i, Asr Isma‘il, Volume 2, third edition (Cairo: Dar al-Ma‘arif, 1984), 29; Isma‘il, Wajh


Local Councils in Egypt: A Legislative Philosophy and its Future after the Constitution1

The Concept of the System of Local Authority The first element by which we can understand the concept of a system of local authority is the idea of decentralization, which is defined as “the method by which the power of the government is distributed between the central government and other legal entities.”2 As such, these distributed powers include the principal governmental legislation and judicial and executive functions. These can either be distributed fully, or limited to the legislative and judicial branches, or to the executive branch. When a distribution of all governmental power (legislative, judicial and executive) exists between the central government and local authorities and/or local and regional offices, creating a complex political landscape and diverse network of centers of power, we speak of a “federal state” system. When the central government applies a system of decentralization of power solely to the executive branch of government, we speak of an “administrative decentralization.” If this administrative decentralization between the three government entities (legislative, judicial and executive) is distributed according to region or governorate it is described as a “local authority” system. Thus, we define a “local authority” system as one of the forms of decentralized administrative authority in which the executive power is distributed to local entities (governorates and so on).This executive power is distributed to local authorities either

Ahmed Ragheb

by delegation of the executive branch of the central government or by transfer of these powers in a lawful and constitutional manner.

Panel #3

Local Authority or Local Governance

The Legal and Rights Basis of Local Authority

The distinguishing factor that determines a “local authority” or “local

The local authority is not only an economic necessity related to the need

governance” is mainly based on the type of power that is transferred

for local development, nor just an executive necessity related to judicial

to the local units and councils. If there is a full transfer of power or a

and democratic governance. It is also a fundamental human right, tied

transfer of both the legislative and judicial functions, then both terms

to international values that have been guaranteed by the constitution

can be used. However, if the transfer of power is limited exclusively

and Egyptian law. Furthermore, each citizen not only has the right to

to that of the executive branch, then the correct term in this context

contribute to a system of local authority, but it is also a constitutional

would be “local authority.”

duty to do so.3

Before we go on to further define the terms of a system of local

The Historical Development of the

authority it is important to specify that this type of system functions via two complementary branches; one on the level of the local

Legislative Policies of Local Authority

administrative units and councils who take up an executive function by implementing regional and local services; and the other concerning

Despite the fact that the Egyptian state is considered to be highly

elected local (popular) councils which here fulfill legislative functions

centralized, its history of implementing structures of decentralization

by being responsible for overseeing and supervising the local services

dates back to 1913 when the country was divided into 16 governorates.

managed by local units.

In general, it is possible to classify the development stages of the local authority system in Egypt into five eras: the era of the monarchy; Nasser’s

In my personal opinion, the term “local authority” when speaking

era, al-Sadat’s era; the Mubarak era; and lastly, the current state of local

about local councils in Egypt is preferable for a number of reasons.

authority initiated after the revolution of 2011 and under the current

Firstly, the current constitution uses this term and it should thus be

constitution of 2014.

adhered to. Secondly, the term “local governance” can be mistakenly interchanged with the term “self-governance,” with its implications of

1. Monarchy Era

political independence, and may lead to confusion.

The first law that governed local authority in Egypt concerned the

Local Councils in Egypt


regulation of local authorities’ administration, and was included in

constitution provided extensive regulations concerning local authorities

the 1923 constitution. In 1931, 1934 and 1944 a series of laws were

in 10 articles, Nos. 157–166. Under this regime local authorities saw their

enforced, outlining the electoral as well as regulatory conditions

role, function and power drastically limited. New regulations included a

related to the newly appointed local councils and administrations

provision that gave the president the power to abolish any local council.

(both on local and regional levels and in towns and villages). These councils were made up of a combination of indirectly elected

3. Al-Sadat Era

members as well as appointed members who represented the

Following the adoption of the 1971 constitution, President Anwar

Ministries of Health, Amenities, Social Affairs and Finance.

al-Sadat issued Law No. 57 which was called “Concerning local governance and the annulments of the articles of the Law No. 124 of

2. Nasser Era

the year 1960.” This law made fundamental amendments, including

Though President Gamal Abdel Nasser came to power in 1952,

changing the name of the units from “local administration” to “local

it was not until 1960 that his regime concretely impacted the

governance”, and dividing the local offices into two parts: executive

regulation of local authorities, with the issuance of Law No. 124 in

and elected. It was also the first law to give elected members of local

1960.4 This was the first comprehensive law for local authorities;

councils the authority to start investigations.5 Yet this law still gave

it included regulation of local councils in the governorates as

the power to a single political organization—the General Socialist

well as in the cities, quarters and villages. It was also the first

Union—in local councils. Furthermore, in 1979 Law No. 43 aimed at

law to use the term “local authority” instead of “directorate.”

transferring more power to these local councils and governorates.

The general philosophy of this law was based on the political regime’s

4. Mubarak Era

complete control of the local councils, through the National Union, the

During the era of President Husni Mubarak, the Egyptian state made

only political organization at the time. In addition, this law saw significant

amendments to the current Law No. 43 of 1979; most notably to the

restrictions to the authority and jurisdiction of local councils, putting

amendment of the year 1988. The investigation system was annulled

them under continuous supervision of the state. However, this law

under the pretext that it contradicted the local council’s role as an

abolished the electoral class requirement that considered social class

executive power. In addition, it abolished the governorate’s right to

a determining factor in the provision of voting rights. Nasser’s 1956

discuss its budget with the Minister of Finance directly; requiring the

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intervention of the Minister of Local Authorities instead. It also gave the government the right to intervene in the local councils’ work under the pretense that the councils were refraining from performing their

Decentralization (The Relationship of the State to Local Authorities)

role without just reason. It also annulled the regulation of positive discrimination for women (quota) along with the electoral list system

Upon close examination of the Egyptian legislative policies concerning

which required each party to submit a list of electoral nominees, adopting

local authorities, it can be observed that the state has followed a few

instead the individual election system. Another amendment was made

strategies to maintain its central power despite the local authority

to Law No. 84 of 1996, which completely annulled the electoral list

system being based on decentralization. This illustrates a deep belief

system after the Supreme Justice Council deemed it unconstitutional.

by the state that the transfer of power to local authorities constitutes a threat to the state, hence it seeks to assert its control through

5. After the revolution of 2011 and under the current constitution

constant supervision and oversight of the local councils and units. This

After the revolution of January 25, 2011 successfully toppled Mubarak,

emphasizes the idea that these councils are merely the state’s tools

the constitution was suspended and parliament dissolved. The

with prescribed and limited roles that they may only perform under the

administrative court ruled that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces

supervision of the state.

and the Cabinet must dissolve the local councils across the republic and in all the local administration units. Egypt continued without local

The state has used various means to achieve this control and oversight:

councils and temporary councils were formed until elections were held.

• The appointment of heads of local units under the administrative

A new constitution was adopted in 2012 and amended in January 2014.

supervision of the executive power;

The amendment included a major change to the local council system,

• Central agencies overseeing the local units and People’s Councils;

on a legislative level, through the state’s support of decentralization, as

• Obliging heads of local units to report directly to either the Prime

well as through articles on the authority, jurisdiction and independent

Minister or the Minister of Local Administration;

budgets of local councils including both the executive and elected arms.

• Direct supervision over the local units.

It was sponsored by the Committee of 50 which then added articles concerning the electoral system and a quota system that includes

Despite the law referring in more than one instance to the transfer of

women, youth, workers, farmers, Christians and persons with disabilities.

governmental executive power to the local authorities—suggesting a

Local Councils in Egypt 101

commitment to decentralization—the state uses means to guarantee its control over these local authorities, subjugating them to executive powers.

The Jurisdiction of the Local Authorities and the Rights of the Elected Members of Local Councils

The Rights of the Members of Local Elected Councils In order to perform their regulatory role, the local elected councils and their members require instruments for implementation such as raising concerns, requesting briefings or withdrawing confidence. Following the separation of the executive council and the elected council,

The authority and jurisdiction of local councils are geographically

there has been a tendency for the Egyptian legislator to disregard the

based, meaning that they oversee the services and amenities in the

regulatory role of these units, further weakening their roles.

specific area where they are located. In order to address the issue of the authority and jurisdiction of local councils, it is necessary to distinguish between, on the one hand, the elected local councils, and

Creating the Budget of Local Authorities

on the other, the administrative units or the executive councils. The

With the passage in 1960 of Law No.124, the local councils of the

authority and jurisdiction of the latter is building and managing local

governorates gained control over the budgets of the local councils within

facilities, whilst the elected local councils oversee and supervise the

their geographical borders (cities, villages, districts or neighborhoods).

local facilities that lie within their geographical borders.

The governmental committees that were formed to discuss the budgets of local councils were replaced by committees affiliated with the

The current constitution amended in 2014 includes jurisdictions for

National Union, without there being in place intermediary mechanisms

the local elected councils. It determines their three main jurisdictions:

and tools to solve disputes and mediate between the involved parties.

supervising the implementation of development plans; overseeing

In the context of the current situation, the constitution distinguishes

the different activities; and monitoring the local executive authorities

between the budgets of local units and those of local councils. It specifies

through presenting proposals, initiating interrogations, and so on.

that the local units have independent local budgets, their resources

The elected local councils also have the right to withdraw confidence

allocated directly from the resources of the state with an additional tax

from the heads of local units, which contradicts the local unit’s

and fee. This positive change supports financial decentralization and

former jurisdiction to administer local facilities in Article No. 176.

is expected to result in the fair distribution of facilities, services, and

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resources, as well as bringing social equity through the leveling of rates

constitution, and how they have affected the legislative policy of the

of development.

system of local authority.

The Relationship of the Elected Councils to One Another

1. Transitional Amendments The system of local authority in Egypt requires a paradigm and philosophy

The Egyptian legislative philosophy with respect to the elected local

shift, especially in order to guarantee a system of administrative,

councils requires them to be independent from one another. This

financial and economic decentralization, as well as the empowering of

independence includes the ability of each council to work within

administrative units. The latter can be accomplished through the provision

their authority and jurisdiction without supervision or oversight from

of local facilities, and a timeline for the transfer of power and budgets from

another local council, and guarantees that the councils of directorates

the state to the local administrative units, as specified by the constitution.

will not infringe on councils of villages and municipalities in cases of intersecting jurisdictions. For example, the Law of the Directorate

The current law must be amended before the local council elections

Councils gives them the right to determine the number of patrolmen

take place in accordance with Article no. 181 of the constitution.

that would guard each village or city, except for the villages or cities

Therefore, it is necessary to define the new groups that were recognized

that have their own councils. Law No. 43 implemented in 1979 regulates

by the constitution and given them quotas in local councils like

the local councils, authorizing the governorates to supervise all the

Christians, women, persons with disabilities and others, as well as

other local councils. The hierarchy within the local authority system

lowering the age of the candidates eligible for running for office.

here becomes evident as the higher elected councils enjoy far greater authority, supervising their lower counterparts (governorates/cities/

2. The assemblies and the high council of local administration must be


empowered, and executive control over issues of local administration

Proposals and Recommendations

limited. In order to strengthen democracy and reach elected councils capable of carrying out community dialogue, it is necessary to increase the power of

In this section I will address a few proposals and recommendations

elected bodies at the expense of all that is executive. Most importantly the

that are mainly based on the latest amendments to the Egyptian

position of governor should be determined through an electoral process.

Local Councils in Egypt 103

It must be ensured that candidates be permanent inhabitants of the

5. The local council election process should be controlled

governorate, and term limits for governor must be restricted to two

by the National Election Organization.

consecutive terms.

The authority of the executive power, as specified by law, should be given to the National Election Organization, providing it control over the national

3. The power of elected local councils must be increased, and

council election process.

corruption in local authorities curtailed. New amendments should include the right to form special fact-finding

6. Citizens should be empowered to participate proactively in the local

committees, similar to the right given to the Parliament by the new

authorities’ system, and the system of beneficiaries of services should be

constitution. They should regulate the right of the members of local


councils to conduct interrogations and enable the withdrawal of

Finally, it is necessary that the citizens living in the governorates and

confidence from the governor and heads of other government bodies

neighborhoods be given opportunities that enable them to proactively

if necessary. Amendments should be introduced to forbid contracts

participate in the local authority system. This can be done through the

between members of local councils and local units, and require

activation and expansion of the beneficiaries’ system, which would

members to present a declaration of finances when becoming

encourage citizens to participate and monitor the services provided to them.

a member.

1 This paper was a contribution to the “Law and Society in Egypt 2011-2015,” conference which took place between November 28–29 2015, organized by the Law and Society Research Unit of the American University in Cairo. 2 The term “decentralization,” is opposed to the term “centralization,” meaning to make decisions from the center by a single

4. Women should be empowered as candidates, voters and beneficiaries of the local authority system. The National Election Organization should pass a resolution raising awareness around women’s empowerment whether as candidates, voters or beneficiaries. It is also important to dedicate proper lodging for members with disabilities, and for the council to provide private and safe transportation for female members and members with disabilities in order for them to perform their work duties.

presidential authority, which performs all tasks by itself or through directing employees. See Dr. Tharwat Badawi, al-Qanun alidari. Al-Nahda al-‘Arabiya (1973):344 . 3 Article 87 of the constitution states that: “The participation of the citizen in public life is a national duty, and every citizen has the right of election and candidacy and expression of their opinions in a referendum, and the law directly organizes these rights, and an exemption from this duty may be allowed in certain cases determined by law.” 4 Prior to Law No. 124, the same year Law No. 66 was issued concerning municipal councils. Despite being issued in the Nasserist era, it still used the same methodology as Law No. 145 from 1944, from the era of the monarchy. The accompanying memo, explaining the increase in financial assets that a candidate in local or village council needed, reads as follows: “To guarantee the people are represented by the appropriate representatives, the amount of financial assets that are required to qualify as a candidate are hereby increased.” Therefore it cannot be considered to represent the Nasserist era. 5 The first paragraph of article 15 of Law No. 57 of 1971 states that: “Each member has the right to question the governorate or members of the executive council regarding the issues related to their authority”


Reviving Khedival Cairo: A Facelift or Removal of a Tumor

Downtown, or Khedival Cairo, with its financial, administrative and entertainment centers, represents the beating heart of the city. Its living memory is embodied by its remarkable buildings, with their varied architectural styles and unique historical value. Throughout history, Downtown’s streets have witnessed processions, funerals, weddings, joys and protests. Its architecture is an expression of Egypt’s journey into modernity during the nineteenth century. As an important heritage site, Downtown is considered a mirror of the city and a destination for all visitors to Cairo. Countries pay special attention to developing their centers as key tourist attractions, maintaining their heritage and promoting their values through media around the world. The New World Order witnessed the increasing importance of large urban centers around the globe, as capital cities competed fiercely to become the most attractive destination. It was necessary for Cairo to catch up. Despite being the capital of the Arab World, its center was ironically drowning in misery due to decades of neglect; a condition unfit to its cultural status, its demographic weight and its political significance. A number of urgent, though sporadic, initiatives have been launched since 1984, in the form of interventions to restore and improve a few important buildings.1 This paper will present a chronological survey of these interventions, including my involvement in a current project to

Galila El Kadi

revive Khedival Cairo, which began in 2014.

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Khedival Cairo Improvement Projects

The diversity of these buildings is noteworthy: some were coffee shops,

The First Phase

the Misr Bank, the Arab Music Academy, the Diplomats Club, the

In 1992, an earthquake caused the collapse and fracture of many

Stock Exchange building; the vintage department stores Sidnawi

buildings in both Khedival and historic Cairo. This was a turning

al-Khazindar, and Omar Effendi, at ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Street; headquarters

point in raising awareness of Egypt’s losses in architectural wealth,

of foreign delegations; as well as the Cosmopolitan (formerly

and a warning of potential losses it may face if the neglect of its

Metropolitan) Hotel and the Jala’ Hospital.2

such as Café Riche and Groppi; others were public buildings, including

damaged buildings continues. Although many palaces and villas, dating from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries,

These interventions were implemented according to the highest

had already been converted to schools, national campaigns were

international standards: restoring these structures by reinforcing and

initiated to forbid their demolition. For example, several resolutions

insulating foundations and roofs, renovating the sewage systems

were issued between 1993–1998, which led to the architectural

and electrical networks, upgrading the light wells and service

tradition of those eras being recognized as national heritage.

staircases, and fixing the elevators. All the necessary restorations were

Additionally, state authorities such as the Ministry of Culture and

undertaken, including the removal of accumulated layers of grime on

the Cairo governorate, in collaboration with a few businessmen,

building surfaces, prior to finishing touches such as the repainting of

embarked on the renovation of several palaces and villas,


converting them into spaces for cultural and touristic activities. Furthermore, some streets Downtown were pedestrianized,

While restorations were taking place, a number of authorities mapped

including the streets around al-Bursa (Cairo Stock Exchange), as

and classified buildings of architectural significance in order to list

well as al-Alfi and Zakariya Ahmad Streets, which helped create a

them as protected.3

space for recreation and contemplation amidst the noise and chaos. The private sector also renovated 16 buildings with artistic and

The Second Phase

historical value in the heart of Cairo. While this number might seem

Beginning in the third millennium, precisely in 2008, the National

humble, it does signify an interest in beauty and the preservation

Organization for Urban Harmony (NOUH) in collaboration with the

of aesthetic values, particularly those at risk of vanishing.

Cairo governorate undertook the painting of the façades of the

Reviving Khedival Cairo

buildings overlooking important roads, such as Ramsis Street, as

point in Egyptian history, public space emerged in the sociopolitical

well as important squares like Tahrir, Tal‘at Harb, and Mustafa Kamil

and cultural sense as an open space for all, without exclusion; and

Squares. These renovations were of lower quality than previously.


discussions, protests and creativity were welcome.6 A new younger generation began to learn about the streets of Downtown, where they

The frontal façades were painted, and the sides were left with their

had never set foot before, taking a whole new look at its buildings

faded colors. This provoked significant criticism at the time and

and becoming aware of the buildings’ value while adding to it with

within a few months, these embellishments faded due to their poor

their presence. For example, building number eight on Qasr al-Nil

quality and their neglect of basic technical standards.4 Another

Street gained new significance after the meetings and discussions

effort saw the organization of several urban and architectural

held by the revolutionaries at Merit Publishing House. The al-Bursa

competitions around the following themes: reorganizing squares

area witnessed the establishment of 25 new famous coffee shops,

(Ramsis and al-Khazindar), the revival of Khedival Cairo from

becoming the destination for revolutionary youth, and housing cultural

Azbakiya to the Nile Corniche, and the adaptive reuse of important

activities and festivals. During the security vacuum that followed

buildings following their restoration, such as Sidnawi al-Khazindar.

the January 25 protests, street vendors took over every sidewalk

Many of these projects never saw the light of day. However, the

in Downtown, lending a negative perception to the area, in contrast

NOUH continued developing legislation and lists of buildings of

to the cultural boom that distinguished it. The presence of street

architectural value in most major Egyptian cities—something

vendors also undermined the usability of sidewalks and streets for the

that resulted in the relative protection of these buildings.

use of pedestrians and vehicles, calling for crucial action to reclaim


the functions of these public spaces. Therefore, the Cairo governorate The Third Phase

undertook programs for the relocation of street vendors to alternative

This phase began with January 25, 2011; a day that saw

spaces and launched the “Revival of Historic Cairo” project.

revolutionary protests propagate in Tahrir Square, the heart of Cairo. Over the next three years, millions of Egyptians flocked to the square

The “Revival of Historic Cairo” project began with the renovation of

and dispersed in the neighboring streets, squares and coffee shops

al-Alfi Street, which had been pedestrianzed in 1993, along with the

of Downtown. Some streets turned into battlefields, other spaces

repainting of buildings overlooking Tahrir and Tal‘at Harb Squares. The

emerged as centers for discussion and debate. During this turning

governorate also wanted to improve a historic street in its entirety. At

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the invitation of the governorate, I proposed the renovation of ‘Imad alDin Street based on an earlier study within the framework of a European

Project Assessment

research program and made in collaboration with Cairo University.7 Our

In order to assess the project, we must first examine the overall

selection of this street was not at random; it connects Ramsis Square

goals of the project and its technical and administrative aspects, in

with Muhammad Farid Street and ‘Abdin Square, and includes some of

addition to its funding sources and mechanisms for implementation.

the most beautiful buildings Downtown, most notably the four Khedival

The project was called the “Revival of Khedival Cairo.” No one knows

Buildings, considered by many as the “Pyramids of Downtown.” The

exactly the geographic boundaries of the area to be renovated, and

street also includes rich and diverse architectural styles ranging from

no comprehensive vision or strategic plan has been put forward

Art Deco, Art Nouveau and hybrid Arabic styles, to the Baroque, Neo-

to organize the project into phases with clear budgets, priorities,

gothic and Eclectic styles. There is also the diversity in the functions of

reassessments and course corrections. Therefore, the renovation

these buildings, including the entertainment industry of performance

project turned into simply the more skilled painting of façades, yet

and movie theaters that turned the street into the El Dorado of the East.

with a decline in methodology in the second phase compared to

Its famous coffeehouses, once the gathering places for intellectuals, are

the first. Further, the project completely neglected the upgrade of

now in terrible condition, amongst an array of old established banks and

sewage systems and the creation of a rainwater drainage system for

insurance companies.

the main and side roads, which is a critical issue due to the rise of sewage water in the buildings’ basements to unacceptable levels.

The Governor of Cairo was convinced of the importance of this street, and landmark buildings were selected for renovation,

The second problem stems from the deterioration of the light wells

including the four Khedival Buildings, and three buildings along

and service staircases, as well as the accumulation of heaps of

the southern section of the street, called Muhammad Farid,

debris on the rooftops. It thus became clear that the purpose of the

including the Bryan Davis Building.8 I was also charged with the

project was cosmetic improvement of the façades, to highlight their

revival of Saray al-Azbakiya Street, which had been converted for

aesthetic quality, to add a bit of luster to the historical milieu, and

pedestrian use in 1993, and is now in dire need of renovation due

to reorganize some important squares and sites, while expanding

to infrastructure deterioration following the conversion of many

the sidewalks on main roads and regularizing the paving. But these

electrical equipment shops on the street into cafés and restaurants.9

interventions are not sustainable. They neither prolong the life of a

Reviving Khedival Cairo


building, nor contribute to improving the environment. This brings

Square. Why then did the Downtown revitalization plan start with al-

us to the decision-making process, raising obvious questions.

Alfi Street and not one of these squares? A third consultant conducted

Why are the renovations always limited to painting exteriors and

a study on the deteriorated areas in the Downtown triangle, which

paving main roads, while leaving the side streets in dire need

identified three areas as a priority for redevelopment: the northern area

of renovation? Why weren’t the previously mentioned studies

in Khalij al-Khur extending to Najib al-Rihani Street; in the Ma‘ruf area

and project proposals used? And who makes the decisions?

in the west; and ‘Abdin in the south.10 Yet, none of these deteriorated

Since launching this project, the Cairo Governor formed a committee

areas were included in the revival process.

of three professors with both academic and applied knowledge of Khedival Cairo. This was a positive step as it assigned the right

The answer to these questions is tied to the context in which this

people for the right positions. The Governor regularly attended a

project was launched, with the main aim being the eviction of street

weekly meeting to follow up on the development of ongoing work in

vendors and achievement of tangible results in a short time. While

the presence of the heads of districts, members of the consulting

this logic had justifications at the time, it has become necessary to

committee, representatives from the contracting companies, the

establish a broader vision taking into account the aforementioned

insurance holding company, as well as officials from utilities and

studies. However, decisions continued to be incomplete and relied on

roads in the governorate. While onsite issues were raised freely during

cosmetic improvement rather than the development of a long-term

these meetings, the decision-making process took place outside

strategy that would transcend the tenure of the current Governor. The

this framework, such as the selection of buildings to be painted and

pretext of a shortage of funds is now irrelevant given the generous

squares to be reorganized, as their numbers were increasing by the

contribution to Downtown redevelopment by banks and insurance

day without clear criteria for a selection process. Here one should

companies as well as private companies and advertisement agencies.

point out an important paradox in the framework: first, one of the Governor’s consultants had won the first prize for her project to

Concerning the construction onsite, and based on my experience with

develop downtown Cairo. However, this project was not used as a

the renovation of Saray al-Azbakiya Street in Downtown, one is faced

framework for the revival project. A second consultant used to be the

with other challenges in the implementation process as a result of

vice-chair of an important authority that organized the competitions

predetermined and rather rigid rules that preclude innovation, and often

and selected the winning projects for Ramsis Square and al-Khazindar

reproduce the same old methods and results. For example, there is

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a list of items and terms that are difficult to modify, which defines specific contractors, suppliers and producers that the governorate may work with, stifling any creativity. In addition, such supplied materials are usually cheap and of poor quality. They deteriorate quickly and hence are soon in need of replacement, which is a massive waste of resources. If one wishes to deviate from these terms one faces a long battle, wasting valuable time and resources. Moreover, lack of skills, slow implementation and lack of dedication have been systemic problems throughout the project. For example, a contractor started pouring concrete slabs before checking the condition of the foundations, and a lot of time was spent later breaking up the concrete. Another contractor reused the materials Saray al-Azbakiya St. before, November 2014

dug up for infill, whereas the work statement listed the supply of tons of sand. We were therefore forced to demand its removal, wasting additional time. Later, we discovered that the factories that the contractor cooperates with were lacking in experience and quality; to the extent that a third of the tiles supplied for paving the street had to be returned, as they did not meet the required standard. As for the public utilities companies, in general they represent an impediment to every project. They do not adhere to deadlines, their laborers lack experience or are too few or too powerless. Furthermore, the employees of the electric utilities companies are exposed to numerous dangers without any form of protection, which results in delayed implementation; what would normally take a month, takes a year to complete.

Saray al-Azbakiya St. after, January 2015

Reviving Khedival Cairo

Positive Aspects Despite all the aforementioned criticism, there are some positive aspects to be considered. First of all, Downtown has regained some splendor which would attract visitors to enjoy and appreciate the value of the area, and so develop a desire to preserve it. Secondly, the project established the basis for dialogue and partnership. In al-Alfi and Saray al-Azbakiya Streets, stakeholders were involved in funding


1 The Aga Khan Foundation held a conference in Cairo that year, discussing Cairo and its problems. Robert Elbert raised the issue of the importance of the preservation of the heritage from the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century using the Heliopolis suburb as an example. Hasan Fathy agreed and described the suburb as the perfect marriage between East and West. Cairo, the Expanding Metropolis November 2014 2 Galila El Kadi and Sahar Attia, “Tarmim wa-idarat al-mabani al-turathiya fi Misr” in Misr al-Mahrusah, vol.17, Cairo: Max Group, 2002. 3 The governorates along with the Council of Antiquities undertook the listing and classification of what they called “buildings of significance” in order to prepare preliminary lists of buildings and forbid changes being made to them, and later to list them as heritage. Sahar Attia, in Partagés de la Partimoines Méditerrannée, Shared

the improvements on the exteriors, lighting and landscaping, while a

Mediterranean Heritage eds. Sahar Attia and Galila El Kadi (Alexandria: Biblioteca Alexandrina, 2009), 233-236.

partnership between the governorate and major funding institutions

and Judicial Studies and Documentation CEDAJ, 2008

succeeded in lifting a large financial burden on the state. Thirdly, the different crews working on the project collaborated with a consultant’s

4 It is important to take note of the conference held at the Centre of Economic 5 Sahar Attia’s consulting firm won the first prize for the Khedival Cairo master planning project. 6 Jürgen Habermas, “L’éspace public. Archéologie de la publicité comme dimension constitutive de la société bourgeoise,” in Payot Vol. 2 No. 5 (1988) 95-96 and Hannah Arendt, La crise de la culture (Galimard: Paris, 1989).

team, developing higher standards in the implementation process and

7 The Heritage Conservation and Management in Egypt and Syria (HERCOMANES) 2004 is a research

methodology, as well as attention to detail and professionalism.

of Architecture and Engineering Design Support in collaboration with the French Institute for Research and

project funded by the EU, conducted by the Faculty of Engineering at the Cairo University through the Centre Development and the University Institute of Architecture Venice, Italy as well as the architecture section at

Aside from the immediate results on the ground, the dialogue that took place at the governorate meetings had nonetheless important

the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Aleppo, Syria and Lyon 2 University in France. The project aims to establish a rational and comprehensive method to conserve heritage from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It also seeks to coordinate the different efforts and help with the decision making.

results. The ideas communicated had receptive listeners among the

8 Al-Shurbagi building from 1911, designed by Robert Williams with the Gatinio building next

governorate’s technical team, which was important despite the decision

9 The works in Saray al-Azbakiya Street were interrupted after the departure of the governor. The last

makers. This will lead to a slow and gradual correction process, and eventually will help tip the scales.

to it, were built around the same time and they are numbered 40, 38, 36 consecutively. third of the street from Harit Saray al-Azbakiya to ‘Urabi Square has not been renewed. The lighting and greenery were not installed due to financial shortage; the banks were not fully satisfitied with the project results, and ceased financing when the governor, who had special contacts with them, left. For this, we only needed EGP 35,000 for the renewal of the gas line, and the cost of the replacement

This experience is worth contemplating now that we are in the process of documenting it. It becomes an example through which we can teach future generations and present them with the results with all its aspects, to light their way in the future.

of the sewage system had already been agreed. After two more months of discussions with no result, I resigned. One and a half years of work to develop a 150m street is really unbelievable. 10 Al-Jumhuriya Street lies on its east side, Tahrir Street to the south, Ramsis Street on the west and it starts with ‘Abdin Square and Ramsis Square and Tahrir Square.

Panel #3


name is Ahmed.

[Translated from Arabic]

My question is for Dr. Emad Abou Ghazi. During the era of Mubarak, we constantly heard about unenforced policies and visions, and you indicated that after the constitutional amendments of 2014, the municipalities were supposed to have increased authority. Do you think that, apart from appointing someone in the right place and these considerations such as the call for appointing more youth in the

and a third representing intellectuals,

indication, and stemmed from the Nazi

and so forth. The project of constituting

pattern of propaganda. When its name

a modern state that began following

was changed to the Ministry of Culture,

the 1923 constitution boiled down to a

the “National Guidance” term also

sectarian state; a number of institutions

remained for years, so it was the Ministry

competing and conflicting with each

of Culture and National Guidance.

other, and this falls in line with the

It was a ministry for orientation.

idea posed by Mr. Fathi Riad. To do so, we must have a real democratic

In my opinion, the mandate of the

system. Without this, no political

Ministry of Culture is limited to three

position can be put into practice.

areas only: To provide cultural service for the public through providing public

Policymaking, per se, cannot be

areas for cultural activities to take

undertaken by the highest person in the

place; not to produce culture, and not to

ministry. If we are talking about cultural

make determinations about what one

in order to put them into practice?”

policy, the Minister of Culture or a group

can or cannot do, or what one can or

of specialists should not be the only ones

cannot watch. Their domain includes the

Emad Abou Ghazi

responsible for developing this policy.

preservation of freedom of expression

All stakeholders and activists in the

and intellectual property rights.

municipalities and so forth, there are any efficient means through which we can enforce policies and visions

[Translated from Arabic]

“We need the rule of law, a state of law, a real one, not a number of conflicting

field should participate as well. Without this, there will be no implementable

Their third mandate is to preserve

cultural policy or real cultural vision.

heritage and make it accessible, not

entities. When we have a government, it

to hide it. We have many institutions

should represent the view of a political

Is it the mission of the Ministry of Culture

accumulating heritage and hiding it

party, or a coalition of parties with a

to produce culture, or to cram people’s

from people, making it inaccessible.

vision, instead of having a cabinet that

heads with certain thoughts? … The

In my opinion, these are the missions

represents different social groups and

Ministry of Culture began in 1952 under

of the Ministry of Culture. Is this the

strata, with one minister representing

the name of the Ministry for National

doctors, another representing engineers,

Guidance, which I think is an important

vision of the state? I doubt it.”

Dialogues 113

“I am Doaa, a student of Anthropology at the AUC

Emad Abou Ghazi:

Ahmed Ragheb:

[Translated from Arabic]

[Translated from Arabic]

[Translated from Arabic]

“... Of course, I live close to Downtown

“... How can people be represented?

… We keep talking about buildings

and I would like to see the streets

How can they be an effective element?

with the people is built on respect and

rather than humans, while we must be

renovated, and the buildings refurbished

How can we integrate them in the

appreciation. Not a relationship that

more concerned with humans whose

and made beautiful, but what about

public sphere? The private sector

portrays the people as those who throw

lives are related to what is going on

the needs of millions of inhabitants

and companies have the ability to be

garbage and urinate in the street. So

in the street. The street vendors, for

in other areas who have been

present in the public sphere and to

I think there should be another kind

example, tuk-tuk (motorized rickshaws)

deprived of their rights for years?

negotiate with the government or with

of relationship. The relationship in

the local councils or with the Governor,

this case would be based on the fact

drivers, and all those people who are

really represents people, and when the Governors or the heads of the districts know that their relationship

not represented here. Nobody is talking

... We are a very centralized country in

no matter how difficult it is or how

that these people are the ones who

about humans, we’re all talking about

the modern age. The idea that Egypt

many problems they may face. Even

elected the Governor and the heads

buildings. The ultimate proof that

has been centralized since ancient

civil society is capable of doing that.

of the municipalities, and therefore

there are financial resources is that

civilization, in my opinion, is a myth.

all this money is spent on renovation

There is a difference between a unified

But to say “the people” in general; it’s

projects, whether through private or

state and a centralized one. Since

dangerous to use a term like this in

public bodies, but in the end, who

Muhammad ‘Ali Pasha established his

general, it must be specified and have

is receiving only four percent for

state, it has had a very big head at the

some sort of a form. This should come

education and health? That would

expense of the limbs. There has been

from our insistence on having a real

again be those who are not here, the

a process of bringing the economic,

electoral process that represents the

marginalized, the “dirty” citizens, whom

social and cultural surplus from the

people. People should be able to choose

we point at as the problem itself.

peripheries to the center ... The recent

their Governor or their district head, or

focus on Downtown is symptomatic

the members of their local councils who

Will we continue to talk about buildings

of this. Surely, there are other areas

can make demands in their name so

and stones, and exclude humans?

that are of higher priority than the

that fixing the sewage networks would

If that continues, we will be faced

development of al-Alfi Street twice in

be the governorate’s priority instead of

with the same outcomes as in Latin

less than 20 years. Meanwhile there are

restoring the buildings, for instance.

America, and the same outcomes that

other places deprived of clean water,

happen in any neoliberal city. At whose expense does this happen, and why?”

sewage systems, gas and electricity.”

they can also prevent them from

This can happen when there is a strong electoral process and a system that

keeping their positions in the future.”

2. Proceedings

A- Plenary Sessions 1- Downtown in Context: Is Gentrification Inevitable? 2- Artists as Urban Catalysts 3- Cultural Policies and Urban Governance 4- Whose Public Space? Security and Access 5- Heritage and Urban Culture 6- Re-framing Downtown: Alternative Approaches


Panel #4

This panel addressed issues concerning public space, its ownership

Whose Public Space?

Security and access

and the right to the city. Raising the question of increasing securitization, which imposes new limits on the public’s imagination and use of public space, the panel brought together planners, sociologists, academics and experts in law and rights. Moderator Lina Attalah, Director of Mada Masr, opened the conversation by posing a series of questions regarding the shifting nature of public space. Noting that city management is an element of public policy, she asked how the government deals with public space as a social space. Given that a social space has requirements related to day-to-day activities, such as the ease of circulation, mobility and accessibility; and at the same time may have unexpected movements and energy: How to balance between the needs of


everyday activities and the political potential of public space?

Director, Mada Masr

Sahar Attia of Associated Consultants reflected on how to

Lina Attalah

create a better relationship between citizen and space. Attia’s


Sahar Attia Head, Department of Architecture, Faculty of Engineering, Cairo University, MD at Associated Consultants

Amr Abdelrahman Law and Society Research Unit, American University in Cairo

Jerold S. Kayden

firm was the winner of a 2010 government competition to propose

Department of Urban Planning and Design, Harvard University Graduate School of Design

a comprehensive revitalization plan for Downtown. Through an overview of this project she addressed the need to develop the

Mona Abaza

plan included connecting Downtown to the waterfront on one side,

Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology and Egyptology, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, American University in Cairo

public realm through safe, social and green spaces. Her renovation and to Islamic Cairo on the other, through a green public corridor that envisioned improving pedestrian mobility and circulation around the city.

Panel #4

A key concept was creating “livable neighborhoods” to attract residents

assembly law of 1914), as well as security and economic controls.

back to Downtown. Attia claimed that the broken connection between

He noted the emergence of a new aspect of moral control over

citizens and space is evident in the lack of respect towards the city

public space, with claims to preserve both public health and ethics.

environment, which results in people throwing trash and wastewater in

Abdelrahman argued that with the pretext of moral authority, the state

the River Nile and elsewhere. Attia pointed out that the solution must be

has targeted both religious and sexual minorities. He reported that

found in the willingness to prioritize public space and create a city that

public holidays of religious minorities have been called off, specifically

citizens would love and take care of.

Shi‘a Muslims, in past years, and through a systematic campaign guided by the investigation of public morals, there have been crack

Attia concluded that the solutions are not only in the hands of the

downs on gatherings of homosexuals in the city. This campaign

government and the designers but also in the public whose interests

included the 2014 case of the Bab al-Bahr bathhouse Downtown, in

should be heard and addressed. She proposed the creation of collective

which dozens of men were charged with practicing fornication in the

solutions to how unused public spaces can be used, and cited good

public sphere, and later acquitted.

governance and a strong monitoring authority as the necessary preconditions for the implementation of any Downtown revival project.

Abdelrahman argued that the concept of the public sphere itself needs to be reconsidered. He noted that the idea of public space

Amr Abdelrahman of the Law and Society Research Unit at AUC and

in the Egyptian context is used in correlation to civil society, civility

the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) discussed the roots

and secularity, remarking: “The idea of civil life states that rational

of increasing security policies in Cairo. He argued that discussions are

people who go out from the private sphere to the public sphere

typically limited to only two aspects of the security issue; that of the

leave behind, in the private sphere, all that is related to affection,

prohibition of peaceful gatherings and demonstrations in the public

feelings and passion that can be sub-categorized to include religion,

sphere, and that of neoliberal economic policies leading to the eviction of

sexual identity, etc.” He suggested that rather than talking about the

street vendors, street children and residents of certain neighborhoods.

concept of a single public space, we ought to accept the existence of several “publics.” Following this logic, Shi‘ites and homosexuals

Abdelrahman discussed the state’s mechanisms for controlling public

would be free to express their religious and sexual identities as

spaces using legal means (the protest law of 2013, and the older

they transverse public and private boundaries. Abdelrahman

Whose Public Space? 117

championed the idea of “civicity” over “civility,” conceiving of a

Kayden used the example of Occupy Wall Street to “demonstrate

public realm that invites everyone from different backgrounds

how diverse ownerships, city governance structures, civil society

and with different identities to use public space as they wish.

participation and typologies of public space all can lead to diverse outcomes anywhere in the world.” Occupy Wall Street as a group took

Abdelrahman concluded by stating that security policies may be

over Zuccotti Park, a POP in New York, and in Kayden’s words: “at least

viewed as a reaction to the failed neoliberal policies of the 1990s.

for a while enjoyed greater rights in that privately owned public space

Instead of creating the utopia the Egyptian elite dreamt of, they

than it would have enjoyed in a publicly owned city park right next to

paved the way for a city out of control, resulting in increasing security

the city hall several blocks away. How can private property provide

efforts to maintain the neoliberal order. He argued against the trend

greater rights than a public property? Who and what determines the

of subjugating civic life to economics, and the neoliberal strategy of

nature of rights to public space?”

stirring moral panic against segments of society who threaten the neoliberal development plan, e.g. street children, pointing to the urgent

Kayden included Occupy Wall Street in the category of increasingly

need to “desecuritize public space.”

popular “guerrilla” urban movements noting that “the most popular movement today is thinking about urbanity in terms of temporality

Professor Jerold S. Kayden from the Department of Urban Planning

in addition to permanent structures.” Kayden indicated such thinking

and Design at Harvard University argued that public space will always

would have important implications for design, asking: “Should rules

be contested because it raises questions of what rights individual

for public space demand spatial pluralism?” He enquired whether,

groups may have with regard to its use. What complicates the matter

as the occupation of Zuccotti Park extended for weeks, the right to

further is the fact that ownership of public space is not necessarily

political protest began to give way to the broader public’s right to

linked to accessibility. This particular ambiguity is manifested in

access and enjoy the space. He noted in closing that “there is no

the case of privately owned public spaces (POPs), a worldwide

such a thing as a non-political public space,” because politics are

phenomenon prevalent in New York City, which grant provisions for

pervasive, and this is what makes our public spaces so vibrant.

privately owned companies to erect larger buildings in return for opening a portion of the space to the public.

Mona Abaza from AUC’s Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology and Egyptology began her presentation by quoting

Panel #4

Janet Abu Lughod on the phenomenon of the rebirth of two cities

agenda that is concerned with erasing traces of struggle and urban

in the center of Cairo: what she called the militarized city versus

guerrilla warfare.

the gentrified city. She spoke of the concept of walls in Downtown and in the city of Cairo generally, as an outcome of an increasing

Throughout the four presentations and ensuing discussion, the panel

securatization, dividing the city and hindering free movement. The

raised questions about securitization and control, through both tangible

walls, she said, ought to be seen in the light of security policies that

and intangible means, walls and laws, in the context of increasing global

aim at controlling the streets as a part of the global “war on terror.”

trends toward securatization and neoliberal policies. The examples from downtown Cairo and New York, juxtaposed with suburban gated

Parallel to this, Abaza noted, the expansion of gated communities in

communities, highlighted the need to reconsider the notion of a

satellite desert cities, and the billboards advertising them, created an

monolithic public, towards/in favor of multiple and competing publics.

exclusionary urban visual imaginary fuelled by neoliberalism. “Satellite gated communities become the havens of peace and isolation,” she said, referencing the “Cairo 2050” plan involving a Dubai-style modernization. Abaza continued to argue that the chaos before and after the 2011 revolution, surprisingly, did not cause a collapse in the real estate market. Instead it created a massive flood of gated communities that came to stand for a peaceful alternative to the crowded and chaotic streets of Downtown. Once again, new walls had been created to exclude others and maintain order. In this context Abaza called attention to the graffitied walls Downtown as what she termed a true battleground between the revolutionaries and neoliberal agendas. She addressed the rupture between preserving the memory and experience of urban spaces, such as the graffiti imagery in Muhammad Mahmud Street, and the neoliberal

Whose Public Space? 119

Panel #4


“The Waterfront”: A Fundamental Component for the Regeneration of Downtown Cairo

Introduction Downtown Cairo is a place of rich urban culture and heritage. The Khedive Isma‘il’s plan for downtown Cairo left a legacy of important spaces, urban blocks and cultural programs, which provide a powerful and rewarding setting for public realm interventions. The outlines in the illustration on p. 122 summarize the outcome of the revitalization vision and plan for Khedival Cairo, proposed in March 2010.1 The main objective of the revitalization vision of the area relies on the concept of a better utilization of existing resources focusing on the public realm. An ecological path has been suggested to link the Nile to al-Azbakiya garden (illustration p. 122) creating a pedestrianfriendly environment, while reducing the through traffic in Downtown. This plan envisions a new urban scheme that would promote the concept of a sustainable Downtown without jeopardizing the identity and value of buildings and spaces in this unique historic district. One of the main issues this plan responds to is the clear absence of public spaces, and the lack of places for interaction among citizens, which leads to the social gap between Cairenes.2 The goal of achieving a world-class vibrant public realm for pedestrians that

Sahar Attia

will increase the quality of life, stimulate economic vitality and create exciting and comfortable public spaces, is still on the agenda today.

Panel #4

One of the major proposed outcomes of the Khedival revitalization plan is to connect Downtown to the Nile bank, known as Corniche al-Nil (Nile Corniche). The Nile should not be considered as the edge of Downtown, but it is the source of Downtown’s future regeneration. It will promote pedestrianization and the integration of public spaces as major elements connecting the Nile to the city.

The Context: Flashback Downtown has long been a preferred site for research, investigations and studies: its unique location, its Haussmanian urban tissue, its iconic and valuable buildings and its diverse activities offer the basis for an integrated regeneration project. Downtown Cairo has been witnessing

This short article focuses on the waterfront of downtown Cairo as an important pillar for revitalization, creating an exciting and comfortable experience for locals and tourists, and delivering pedestrian-oriented, friendly, accessible, and safe places.

multiple transformations, especially in the socioeconomic structure of its dwellers and visitors. These transformations have produced layers of activity and behavioral patterns. Migration trends have activated this process: the high-end shops, the middle class, and the upper middle class all migrated to new cities. The important businesses transferred

This article raises questions about the role of the different actors to be involved, and sheds light on challenges related to new practices in the urban regeneration process. Furthermore, it raises awareness around issues related to the expected behavioral patterns of the citizens vis-Ă -vis public spaces on Corniche al-Nil.

their activities to other Cairene districts, and later to new cities where better environments for work and living are offered. With the turn of the century, two upgrading projects took place in Downtown aiming at creating pedestrian streets, namely al-Alfi Street and the al-Bursa (Stock Exchange) area. Comparing both initiatives it was obvious that when the private sector interferes (as happened with al-Bursa), the implementation process and the resulting product is of a different quality. The regulations set forth by the National Organization for Urban Harmony (NOUH) and the committees to register valuable buildings marked another governmental approach highlighting the concern given to Downtown. The private initiatives of Al Ismaelia for Real Estate Investment, and the involvement of Misr Real Estate Assets company, mark another positive contribution. Just a few years prior to the uprising events of 2011, Al Ismaelia for Real Estate Investment realized the richness of Downtown, recognizing

The revitalization of Khedival Cairo conceptual plan, March 2010, competition awarded to Associated Consultants and AECOM Middle East.

The The Waterfront Waterfront 123

the historical, cultural, and architectural value of the buildings. They

Even for the iconic projects, such as the Maspero Building, the Ministry of

launched their activities with support from Beltone Financial. By 2010

Foreign Affairs, and the famous hotels, the Nile was always on the other

they had already purchased 18 valuable buildings, and proceeded with

side of the road, left without even considering safe pedestrian crossing

their restoration and refurbishment. Their initiative had significant impact


in positioning Downtown as an asset. Gradually, the Corniche al-Nile hosted middle and low-income families to The 2011 events aggravated the situation, leading to further migration

enjoy the breeze of the summer nights in Cairo, offering a recreational

as individuals and businesses sought to escape the site of the

venue during feasts and national holidays. Illustrations on p. 124 show

incidents. Downtown was left with more vacant apartments, popular

the informal settings that were offered to citizens.

commercial activities, degraded services, deserted restaurants, and poor maintenance. Accordingly, the clientele accessing Downtown

The Shift in Downtown

changed, and a dynamic interrelationship occurred between users and existing facilities, who were no longer interested in raising the value of

In September 2014, the Cabinet and Cairo governorate (CG) decided to

their assets, considering that their clients also had limited resources.

give back to Downtown its lost identity. Since then, and to ensure the

Goods and products were shifted to match the new client base, while

sustainability of this decision, the Egyptian government announced

the residential community dwindled. The opportunity for street vendors

the initiative “The State of Downtown,� launching a national interest for

opened wide. They invaded Downtown, spread along the streets and used

this area.4 One year later the refurbishment of the Nile Corniche was

the parked cars as display facilities for their goods. During this time, most

announced, with the objective by CG and The Ministry of Irrigation and

of the streets in Downtown became inaccessible and unsafe.

Water Resources (MIWR) of improving the public realm. Both institutions have different mandates related to usage of the Nile.5 The overlapping

As for Corniche al-Nil, it remained without major interventions or

responsibilities affected the control of the Nile banks (known as al-

transformations, though it had its share of informality expressed strongly

mistah, referred to as the lower Corniche in this article), causing different

in the spread of unlicensed and unregulated boats, thus jeopardizing the

forms of appropriation, and depriving citizens’ access to the Nile as a

lives of citizens.3 Connecting the city to the Nile was not a major concern

right belonging to all. The concept of having a lower pedestrian Corniche

except for a few study projects carried out by university researchers.

path has been long neglected due to a lack of vision, and the erroneous

Panel #4

perception that the banks should be inaccessible to preserve the Nile. The lack of concern on the part of the authorities about the role of the Nile in the city, whether as a transportation route, or an element of the public realm, also prevented the development of related visions. The Nile was considered an economic tool, raising prices of adjacent land parcels. But for the citizens, the Nile was always the source of life, and for the most populated districts, it was the only accessible open area. The idea of the Corniche project started later in September 2015. A meeting gathering all involved institutions raised issues related to responsibilities, and liabilities. Who will design? Who will finance? Who will implement? Who will control? Who will secure? These questions each presented a challenge, highlighting the need for coordination and collaboration between the different institutions. The CG is the main stakeholder and project manager, but has no legal mandate to perform any actions on the Nile banks in the lower Corniche. The MIWR is the responsible institution for these areas, with the mandate to protect them. The MIWR’s role is to prevent any intervention without approval, and conduct detailed impact studies. Despite the regulations, many constructions are spread all along the Nile River banks in Greater Cairo Region (GCR), occupied and appropriated by the private sector and governmental bodies. The Corniche project reclaims the public space overlooking the Nile for all. While governmental institutions and banks have long been Informal settings and accessibility to the Nile River bank.

The The Waterfront Waterfront 125

dedicated to the preservation of Downtown buildings, only recently

the Nile, the lower Corniche will allow pedestrians a safe and recreational

have they focused on public spaces. The Nile Corniche has received

walk with an immediate interface with the Nile. It is a physical

its share of this interest. The district of Qasr al-Nil and the Ministry of

refurbishment process, but with an important meaning that reveals the

Tourism expressed the will to finance and contribute to the project,

potentials of the city on the one hand, and social inclusion on the other.

with the assumption that it would be of added value for tourism. Non-

Normally, physical approaches are criticized as they lack a socioeconomic

governmental stakeholders include academics from the Department

dimension. This project, although focusing on physical aspects,

of Architecture at Cairo University, and the private sector. Although

generates a new concept that emphasizes the connection between the

participants from the private sector do not have legal power, they

citizens and the river, expressed through the connection between people

are still able to provide either consultancy or funding. The series of

and the natural environment. Illustrations on the following page show

five-star hotels located in the waterfront area should be engaged to

the expected final stage after implementation in the lower Corniche area

contribute, as they also constitute prime stakeholders. On the other

(before and after). The illustrations show the upper Corniche before and

hand, the owners of Nile boats represent another type of stakeholder,

after the completion of the project, with the cycle path, seating areas, and

as beneficiaries of the Nile. These motorboats replaced the sail boats

eventually—pending further studies—kiosks and services.7 The provision

which had been regularly used by tourists and locals, causing noise and

of public toilets is also being considered for a location under the bridge,

pollution along the Nile. Moreover, few were licensed, posing a hazard

and a ramp for persons with disabilities to access the lower Corniche has

to the safety of the citizens. Accordingly a decision was made to define

been conceived as well. These two paths will attract more citizens, and

areas for the motorboats, and to clear the project site while taking

will contribute to the creation of the public realm needed in the city.


actions to ensure security and safety of citizens. This decision proved to be somewhat controversial, and was challenged and debated.

This project constitutes a new benchmark regarding the process of coordination between governmental institutions. Despite the

Delivering a Safer Public Space on the Corniche

implementation challenges, it is to be noted that the linkages CG established with the MIWR (which reviewed all sections to prevent any

The idea of the waterfront project consists essentially in the exploitation

abuse in the water line) and the Ministry of Tourism (which funded

of al-mistah to create a pedestrian path. While the upper Corniche has

the first phase of the project), were successful and enabled a smooth

had its share of upscaling, and is considered by default the main walk on

contribution for all.8

Panel #4

The lower Corniche path and expected plan.

The upper Corniche and the expected refurbishment.

The The Waterfront Waterfront 127

Challenges: For a Sustainable Regeneration Public spaces in GCR still lack a sense of public ownership, and suffer from the mistreatment of objects, plants, and features that result from behavioral patterns of citizens. Several examples can be recorded in streets, gardens and other public spaces. The government has always taken precautions to protect public spaces by building fences and creating a barrier between people and public spaces, which only increased the misuse of public utilities and objects. Mutual trust between government and the people has to be regenerated before the regeneration of places and spaces. In fact a sustainable urban regeneration has to consider the three facets

Mutual trust between government and the people has to be regenerated before the regeneration of places and spaces. In fact a sustainable urban regeneration has to consider the three facets of regeneration —urban, social, and economic— that are represented in the waterfront regeneration project.

of regeneration—urban, social, and economic—that are represented in the waterfront regeneration project. These key facets would be supported by regulations, penalties, and control. Awareness programs

for functional purposes. At this stage, due to a lack of awareness about

should precede the project implementation to ensure its durability.

the value of plantation, citizens descending from the microbuses step on green areas, while planting was proposed to prevent such disorganized

Regarding the Corniche, three main considerations should be

stops. Drivers still stop anywhere all along the Corniche. Moreover, hantour


(horse-drawn coaches) with horse traction abuse the planted areas.

• Materials and planting: the provision of safe public spaces require

• Informal services provided by citizens, which offer a source of living

the selection of safe and durable materials. Regarding design of public

through serving tea, sandwiches, and so on, should be given the

space; it should achieve a balance between the behavioral patterns and

opportunity to remain in business. They provide a needed service, but

the management of practices prevailing in the urban space. Plantation

should be licensed and made to abide by standard hygiene procedures.

is not only used for urban beautification, and greening the path, but also

The governorate should either offer an alternative or manage their presence.

Panel #4

• CG’s capacity should be enhanced in the supervision, management, quality control, and implementation of upgrading projects, to ensure a successful final product. The challenges for sustainable regeneration can be summarized in three main categories. The first relates to awareness and behavioral patterns. The second category considers informal activities such

3 In September 2015 authorities gathered efforts to review all boat licenses after the sad event of al-Warraq boat sinking in July 2015. 4 Cairo University Faculty of Engineering and Institut de Recherches pour le Développement, “Regenerating Public Space in Central Cairo, Third Report of the Research Project,” (internal report, Cairo University, March 2015). 5 Including the Ministry of Transportation, which has the mandate for boat licensing, but is not involved in the upgrading process. 6 The author of this article contributed to the proposal of a scheme for the lower Corniche which was approved, and supported by the involved parties. The author acted as main coordinator, volunteering to provide the necessary approaches.

as those related to boats, microbuses, food and beverage services;

7 It is agreed that kiosks should be allocated to offer beverages for citizens. This decision is also subject to

asking how to ensure productivity and safety while responding to the

beneficiaries of these licenses, or should the opportunity be announced through open bids?

needs of citizens. The third category consists of governance issues: mostly building the capacities and skills of local government in implementation, project management, and quality control. It is obvious that the revitalization of Downtown is a national and international priority. Unifying efforts, partnerships, and coordination is the only way to reach new ground in creating the public realm in the GCR, and the only way to acknowledge the importance of these spaces in preserving the identity of Downtown.

1 The revitalization of downtown Cairo was a conceptual master plan project competition initiated by the General Organization for Physical Planning (GOPP) and the National Organization for Urban Harmony (NOUH). The winning proposal was presented by AECOM and Associated Consultants. After the uprising events in 2011 the government of Egypt reconsidered the priorities of projects, delaying its regeneration of Downtown until the plans were revived in September 2014. 2 Sahar Attia, “Revitalization of Downtown as Center for Social Democracy and Sustainable growth, Ecocity Builders Summit Book (2012).

a definition of the licensing system and the determining of who should benefit. Should current vendors be 8 The first phase spans the area between Qasr al-Nil Bridge and 6 October Bridge.

The The Waterfront Waterfront 129

The removal of the Muhammad Mahmud wall with the help of the residents of the street in 2012.


Cairo’s Two Downtowns:

Once Again, Walls Through a Tale of Two Cities1

A Tale of Two Cities: Two Inconsistent Spaces, Two Visions. If the late Janet Abu Lughod were here to take a stroll around present-day downtown Cairo, she would be delighted that the thesis of her 1965 article “Tale of Two Cities: The Origins of Modern Cairo,” which she developed later into an invaluable posthumous work, still remains a vivid example of Cairo’s contradictions and unrelenting dualities.2 Having said that, the paradoxes that resulted from the post-January 2011 urban reshaping of Cairo turn out to have a different character to Abu Lughod’s vivid account depicting postcolonial sixties Cairo. Her essay attempted to come to terms with the duality between the Belle Époque khawajat (sing. Khawaja, i.e. foreign national) city in contradistinction to the so-called Islamic city demarcated by the borderline of ‘Ataba Square. Today, Downtown’s spatial dualities look more diverse. The spatial segregation seems to be the outcome of four years of urban wars and confrontations, which resulted in the fencing off and zoning of entire areas. Obviously, since 2011 Cairo has undergone a momentous militarization of its urban texture. This novel “military urbanism” of downtown Cairo, to paraphrase Stephen Graham, could be simply graphically

Mona Abaza

translated through the creation of two clearly divided Downtowns.3

Panel #4

On the one hand, there is part of the Belle Époque Downtown that since

continues to be difficult for residents in terms of mobility and parking.

2013 has experienced an ongoing gentrification and beautification—

During the past few years the area surrounding the Ministry of Interior

the main theme of the Creative Cities conference—through repainting

has been protected by tanks, police vehicles and barbed wire, armored

façades and refurbishing building entrances. This gentrification,

cars and countless perpetually camping soldiers. Today it is bounded by

which was on its way well before January 2011, has been evident in

newly erected iron gates and walls, and checkpoints at its four corners.

certain buildings of ‘Adli Street, the entire ‘Urabi Square, and the al-Alfi pedestrian area, up to Tal‘at Harb Square. In these places intensive

But Muhammad Mahmud Street remains as the line demarcating the

real estate speculation by mega-companies has capitalized on both

previous war zone, with its growing fences and walls that kept appearing

nostalgic sentiment and neoliberal dreams. The gentrification plans

and reappearing long after the violent incidents of November/December

were interrupted during the revolution, but have picked up again

2011 and 2012. Some walls have been removed, like those on al-Falaki

recently. These seem to be undergoing a kind of a repertoire or déjà

Street and al-Qasr al-‘Aini Street, to be replaced by iron gates that can be

vu of Downtown refurbishment undertaken by a bureaucratic mindset

closed, but which remain open almost all the time. However, after violent

revealing a steady continuity with the rule of ousted President Husni

incidents, even more walls were added much later, designed to resist car


bombs and terrorist attacks.

At the same time, there is another part of the city, in which the

The concrete wall that blocked off al-Qasr al-‘Aini Street from Tahrir

borderline between the gentrified area and the previous war zone

Square, erected at the end of 2011, was replaced recently by iron gates

is epitomized by the iconic “Street of the Eyes of Freedom,” or “The

that can be closed at any time. Across from the Institut d’Égypte,

Street of Martyrs,” as revolutionaries have dubbed Muhammad

situated along with several ministries at the intersection of al-Qasr

Mahmud Street. This demarcated spatial zone of the city includes

al-‘Aini Street and Shaykh Rihan Street, is the Garden City quarter, the

the intersection of al-Qasr al-‘Aini and Shaykh Rihan Streets, Yusuf

site of the British and American embassies. The area around these

al-Jindi Street, up to Nubar Street and ‘Abdin Square, all of which have

embassies remains a closed-off, heavy-handed security zone. This

witnessed violent confrontations and urban wars over the past four

quarter has been transformed into policed-cum-militarized space.

years. The center of that state of exception is the colossal Ministry

During the summer of 2015, one more concrete lower barricade/wall

of Interior, which has turned into a fierce citadel. In this area, life

was added around l’Institut d’Égypte, just opposite the Shaykh Rihan


Cairo’s Two Downtowns 133

Gate of the American University in Cairo (AUC). These bunkered walls

since the million-person marches and demonstrations ceased to occur

and surrounding fences have multiplied around the city: at al-Itihadiya

after August 2013. Perhaps the state remains still seriously concerned

Palace in Heliopolis, the Ministry of Justice in al-Duqqi, the Internal

about the terrorist attacks of the Islamists. However, the magnitude,

Security building of Nasr City, the main Internal Security Ministry all

length and concave form of the walls designed to resist car bombs

around Lazughli Street and the huge Egyptian-style “Great Wall of

basically function as a means to “terrorize” citizens, as reminders of

China” around the People’s Parliament passing through al-Qasr al-‘Aini

possible punishment for insurrection. These walls certainly intimidate

Street; the People’s Parliament itself, up to Lazughli Square, and al-

passers-by from daring to imagine what is behind the walled areas,

Falaki Street. I argue that all these walls, replicated all over Cairo, are

since these are mostly surveilled by round-the-clock internal security

becoming spaces that incite “terror” and fear. Perhaps too, the walls

plainclothed guards. These spaces have become steady panopticons for

remain witness to the painful political memory of the massacre of

the residents.

Muhammad Mahmud Street in 2011, the famous iconic dragging of the “blue bra woman” and the dumping of the corpse of a demonstrator

Real Estate Speculation Galore

in the trash, images that in 2011 went viral on a global scale. If one were to decode post-January 2011 Cairo using David Harvey’s The Ministry of Interior in Lazughli Street was transformed into a citadel

reading of the “right to the city” or impediments to it, it could be argued

with once again remarkably visible multiplying black iron gates and

that the 2011 revolution had no real impact on transforming the blatant

terrifying fences surrounding it. What is at stake is the public visibility

inequalities in Egyptian urban life.6 It is surprising, for example, that in

of the might of the powers that be, exemplified through the highly visual

spite of the political turmoil the country has experienced, specifically the

public statement of these walls.

escalating violence and instability in the streets, the real estate market never collapsed. On the contrary, even during the rule of the Muslim

Most of these fences and walls were constructed well after the violent

Brotherhood between 2012–2013, an unprecedented boom in land

clashes and confrontations. With the increasing terrorist attacks the

speculation took place.

country has witnessed during the past two years, the “war on terror” has provided a legitimation to the multiplying erection of walls. Nonetheless,

After June 2013, after the massacre of Rab‘a al-‘Adawiya, advertisements

it is possible to argue that these walls have no real utilitarian function

proliferated for villas and flats in gated communities and coastal resorts

Panel #4

(which have been one of the main financial speculations of the neoliberal

the entire Middle East. Most interesting is the work of Ahmed Kanna on

Mubarak-ist tycoons). Coastal resorts, often inhabited for only one month

Dubai, which, far from being related to the Arab Spring, speaks equally

a year, continue to multiply wildly all along the North Coast and the Red

of a differing subjectivity, this time in relationship to an emergent

Sea, despite the countless run-down, failed resorts constructed during

neoliberal, individualistic, “valuable citizenship.”7 Kanna borrows

the past decades that look like war ruins. Advertisements proposing

from Aihwa Ong’s concepts of “flexible” and “valuable” citizenships

flats in condominiums, semi-detached houses, and villas, all located in

and applies them to Dubai’s struggle with the modernity/tradition

enclosed compounds and complete with swimming pools, gyms, and

paradox. He convincingly weaves the discourse of global corporatist

spas, priced as high as US $6-7 million, continuously bombard Facebook

ideology; self-made solutions achieved within the intricate local ethnic

accounts, newspapers, and websites. Hyper-inflated real estate prices

hierarchical specificities. However, while Kanna contrasts with Sari

in Egypt have now surpassed any logic or relationship to value. We are

Hanafi’s approach, they seem to converge on similar conclusions:

told that since not all the rich could move their cash abroad, real estate

that these novel figurations of subjectivities, both revolutionary and

remains the most lucrative, fast-profit investment in Egypt. More than

neoliberal, point once again to fresh understandings of self-reflexive

ever, a savage and uncontrollable market has been on the rise, just as

individuality, which nonetheless can differ from neoliberal individualism.8

if the 2011 revolution and its struggle for dignity and social justice had never taken place. Not only that, some of the forthcoming new satellite

Egypt, standing at the crossroads of a counter-revolutionary moment,

gated communities and highly luxurious cities have recently been

seems to suggest that the future appropriation of the post-revolutionary

advertised using the subversive symbols and language of January 2011.

city of Cairo will arise from the struggle between these two opposing subjectivities. A struggle between preserving the memory, knowledge and

Two Conflicting Models: Dubai versus Tahrir

experience of urban wars and performative revolutionary advocacies, and neoliberal agendas obsessed with erasure. A struggle today confronted

Prior to the ongoing writings, multiplying by the day, that speculate on

by a neoliberal gentrification supported by a military “order.”

the success or otherwise of the Arab Spring/Winter, studies focused on the impact of neoliberal policies and consumer culture on the

Parallel to the neoliberal agenda, the aggressive politics of the “war on

reshaping of Middle Eastern cities. These studies made a particular

terror” might end up inviting even more terrorism to Egyptian cities in

emphasis on Dubai as a successful and replicable utopia/dystopia for

retaliation for the unresolved economic crisis, similar to the scenario

Cairo’s Two Downtowns 135

Stephen Graham identifies as the “new military urbanism” that is becoming a normalized quotidian reality.9 It is no coincidence that Dubai’s neoliberal subjectivity as an urban utopia, with its bombastic shopping complexes, was proposed by the Egyptian government in 2011 in the “2050”’ futuristic plan for reshaping Cairo. In that plan, large alleys, highways, skyscrapers and gentrified quarters would necessarily lead to the mass eviction of countless slum dwellers. Once again, the encampment/Occupy movements have given birth on a global scale to an unprecedented accumulation of material knowledge in re-evaluating the worth of public spaces. People have learned to read their own cities in a new light, through protests, marches, urban wars and the refinement of the tactics of attack and confrontation with police forces. Recent years of intensive street politics and urban wars have resulted in an ascending toll of martyrs, the militarization of space, policing, lethal gassing of protesters, separation by walling and segregated spaces, as well as the zoning of Cairo and various other

Al-Qasr al-Aini wall

cities. All these public performances, plus graffiti, filling the walls of

4 See my two articles: Mona Abaza, “Downtown Cairo Imagined: Nostalgia and/or Dubaization?” Urban

the city with insults, were confrontations that created an entire new

Studies (May 2011), and Mona Abaza, “Post January Revolution Cairo: Urban Wars and the Reshaping of

visual landscape and “know-how” in learning about and moving in the city, at the same time as exhausting and physically ruining it. 1 A longer and amended version of this text will appear in Contemporary Political Theory under the title of “Public Space in Cairo: Dubai Contra Tahrir” and some points are further expanded in a forthcoming article in Theory, Culture and Society. 2 Janet Abu Lughod, “Tale of Two Cities: The Origins of Modern Cairo,” Comparative Studies in Society and History vol. 7 no. 4 (July 1965): 429-457 3 Stephen Graham, Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism (London: Verso 2010).

Public Space,” Theory Culture Society, (2014): doi: 10.1177/0263276414549264 5 Abaza, “Downtown Cairo Imagined,” and Abaza, “Post January Revolution Cairo.” 6 Harvey argues that the capitalist monopoly over private property appropriates surplus production as a major urban resource that needs reconsideration in transforming the city we live in. See David Harvey, “The Right to the City,” New Left Review 53, (September-October 2008): 23-40. 7 Ahmed Kanna, “Flexible Citizenship in Dubai: Neo-Liberal Subjectivity in the Emerging City Corporation,” Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 25, Issue1 (2010): 100-129. 8 Sari Hanafi, “The Arab Revolutions; the Emergence of a New Political Subjectivity,” Contemporary Arab Affairs, Vol. 5, No. 2 (April 2012): 198–213. Last accessed 08/09/16. website/publications/2012_Arab_Revolution_CAA.pdf 9 Graham, Cities Under Siege.

Occupy Wall Street at Zuccotti Park, New York City

Whose Public Space? 137

Whose Public Space?

The Case of Occupy Wall Street and Zuccotti Park

It is not news that claims to public space are deeply contested. Protests at Tahrir Square, Gezi Park, Zuccotti Park, and Central in Hong Kong are recent examples of the contest, amply demonstrating the difficulty of knowing for certain what rights individuals and groups have with regard to public space use. Contests founded on civil disobedience axiomatically challenge existing law, placing the spotlight on how governments react to the “illegal” action and how protesters respond to the governmental action. Contests not involving civil disobedience raise other issues. For example, the ownership of public space matters, but only to a point. Occupy Wall Street, one of the earliest and most famous manifestations of the worldwide Occupy movement, legally took over a privately owned public space and, at least for a while, enjoyed greater rights within that space than if it had taken over a city-owned park. How can private property provide greater rights to outsiders than public property? More broadly, who and what determine the nature of rights in public space? Are there universal principles to be applied, or is the only universal principle that there aren’t any, and that conclusions reached depend to a significant extent on the observer’s assumptions about the purpose of public space? Physical public space comes in many flavors. There are sidewalks, streets, and squares. There are parks and plazas. Some would include private shopping malls and hotel lobbies, although an owner’s nearabsolute entitlement to govern such spaces may place them outside of

Jerold S. Kayden

what many would deem the core definition of public space. Whatever

Panel #4

flavor, public spaces have multiple ambitions and capabilities. First,

outcomes. There is the language of “do-it-yourselfers” (DIY), with

they can provide sites for casual and recreational activities. Second,

their quick and dirty “let 1,000 flowers bloom” approach. How about

they can enhance the “publicness” of a city by creating space for

placing a thousand movable chairs in X public space and seeing

chance encounters and empathetic observations. Third, they can

what happens? Experiments are popping up everywhere under

accommodate and promote political activities. Fourth, they can

such labels as temporary urbanism, ephemeral urbanism, guerrilla

decrease inequality by supplying useful places for individuals whose

urbanism, tactical urbanism, and, yes, pop-up urbanism. There is

financial circumstances prevent them from otherwise enjoying

the language of public space managers, those government officials,

such places. Fifth, they can perform environmental services by, for

“friends of” organizations, and private owners charged with oversight

example, storing and absorbing excess storm water. In short, in these

of the space. There is the language of public space neighbors, be

multifaceted places, one can have a picnic with family and friends,

they next door or citywide. And, finally, there is the language of

exercise, fly a kite, demonstrate politically, watch the world go by,

public space users, the residents, employees, visitors, and jobless

engage with strangers, read a book, skateboard, or sleep. That’s not

and homeless individuals of all ages who speak differently about

to say, however, that this can happen in each and every space.

spaces depending on the use to which they would like to put them.

The very pluralism of public space can be overwhelming. Those

The case of Occupy Wall Street, the protest movement/group in New

interested in the subject often speak passionately past each other,

York City, and its temporary home in Zuccotti Park, a privately owned

a veritable Tower of Babel. There is the language of theorists, of

public space, illustrates how diverse ownerships, governance structures,

Henri Lefebvre, Jürgen Habermas, Don Mitchell, Manuel Castells,

civil society participation, physical typologies, and public reactions

Edward Soja, and Walter Benjamin to name a few. Omar Nagati is

can lead to unpredictable outcomes. What is especially fascinating is

Cairo’s Benjamin, serving as intellectual guide to the passageways

that Occupy Wall Street took over a privately owned public space and,

of the old city. There is the language of designers, be they architects,

at least for a while, enjoyed greater rights in that space than it would

landscape architects, or urban designers, attempting—if not always

have enjoyed in City Hall Park, a publicly owned public space several

successfully—to put into words what they have designed. There is the

blocks to the north. The juxtaposition is intriguing if not confounding:

language of environmental determinists, who believe that, properly

how can public space on private property grant greater rights to such a

planned, designed, and operated, public spaces can improve social

political occupation than public space on government-owned property?

Whose Public Space? 139

Named after John Zuccotti, an admired public-spirited executive at the

demonstrations,” hardly surprising since the owner never anticipated

private company that owned the space, Zuccotti Park is one of about

such events. Nor did it specify other behavioral limitations. In fact, the

540 plazas, arcades, and other indoor and outdoor privately owned

zoning resolution itself did not specify what, if any, limitations owners

public spaces at about 350 buildings located principally in New York

could place on public conduct in their privately owned public spaces.

City’s borough of Manhattan, all of which are required by law to be open

If asked, officials at the Department of City Planning would respond

to the public. Lest one think this obligation was coercively imposed on

that any rules promulgated by owners governing public conduct in

owners by government, think again. Developers of office and residential

their spaces would have to be “reasonable,” whatever that means.

buildings voluntarily agreed to develop and operate these public spaces

In 2011, Zuccotti Park was more or less physically taken over by

in exchange, through the land use regulatory mechanism of incentive

hundreds of people constituting Occupy Wall Street. Their object of

zoning, for permission to construct larger or different buildings than

critique, however, was not Zuccotti Park itself, but the symbol and

otherwise allowed by the underlying zoning. The fact that a majority

reality of nearby Wall Street, the top 1 percent, the neoliberal state, and

of large tower developers in Manhattan happily participated in the

capitalism. The physical logics of the occupation were compelling.

program suggests that the financial trade of public space for rentable

To begin with, through serendipity or strategic brilliance, Occupy Wall

or sellable floor area bonuses was close to irresistible. Similar privately

Street chose to occupy privately owned property, whose legal status

owned public space programs exist worldwide, in Seoul, Hong Kong,

afforded the movement more staying power than publicly owned property

Tokyo, Vancouver, Toronto, and Seattle, to name several cities.

would have done. The applicable law was clear: unlike city-owned parks, this space had to be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

A three-quarter acre outdoor plaza with seating, tables, artwork, trees, landscaping, and lighting, Zuccotti Park is required by the applicable

Occupy Wall Street’s use of and physical layout for the space matched

zoning provisions to be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

its equality-driven, no-leaders, horizontal politics. There were the protest

Completed in 1972, the office building adjacent to Zuccotti Park contains

signs of a traditional movement—“We are the 99 percent,” “Corporations

a floor area bonus of over 300,000 square feet granted in return for

aren’t people,” “Stop robbing from the middle class to pay the rich,”

Zuccotti Park and additional plaza space. Immediately prior to the

and “Notice that it’s pronounced capitalism not humanism”—but the

occupation, the sign posted by the owner prohibited skateboarding,

occupiers went further, rolling out their occupation in the form of an

rollerboarding, and bicycling. The sign did not say “no political

aspirational community. There was the chamber of commerce, an

Panel #4

information table run by two women who declined to give their names

Does the story have a satisfying ending? That of course depends on

when asked. There was a daily posting of the weather forecast and news.

one’s point of view. Weeks after the occupation commenced, the owner

Occupy Wall Street had its own newspaper, “The Occupied Wall Street

of Zuccotti Park posted new rules for public conduct in the space.

Journal.” Its union hall morphed into a gathering site for workers. A library

Specificity replaced under-inclusivity. The new rules barred tents, sleeping

had books. Food was available. A barber cut hair. Artists performed and

bags, and lying on the ground. Unreasonable lying on benches and

drew. People talked, did yoga, and played chess. They also slept during

storage of personal property would be similarly prohibited. Armed with

the day and night. The atmosphere was festive, welcoming, and serious,

its new rules and general concerns about health and safety, the owner

but the Sword of Damocles hung over the occupiers, with the sense

approached city government and, asserting that Occupy Wall Street was

that the occupation could be brought to an end by outside forces.

now occupying the space in violation of the owner-imposed rules, asked the police to remove them. In the early morning hours of November 15,

On the publicly owned sidewalks and streets surrounding the public

2011, the police did just that. Occupy Wall Street subsequently went to

space, a different picture emerged. A highly visible and extensive police

court but a judge concluded that the new rules governing the space

force patrolled, making sure that people moved along and did not

were reasonable.

congregate. For those who wanted to gawk or linger, the only place to do so was in Zuccotti Park itself. The right foot in Zuccotti Park had

To what extent does the Occupy Wall Street case illuminate consideration

more rights than the left foot on the sidewalk. The contrast was stark in

of the question serving as the title of this essay: “Whose Public Space?”

a different way several blocks to the north, where City Hall Park enjoyed

Interestingly, one learns that ownership is not destiny. This privately

an empty, quiet, peaceful existence contemporaneously with Zuccotti

owned public space, what I have at times called “law’s oxymoronic

Park’s cacophonous display. The posted rules for City Hall Park made

invention,” proved initially more availing of Occupy Wall Street’s version of

Zuccotti Park’s anti-skateboarding, anti-rollerboarding, anti-bicycling

political activity than the publicly owned sidewalks surrounding the space

restriction seem libertine. City Hall Park barred skateboarding and

as well as nearby City Hall Park. To this day, anyone can stay in Zuccotti

similar activities, to be sure, but the biggest contrast was its nightly

Park 24 hours a day, seven days a week, a right not available in City Hall

closure and requirement that rallies secure permits in advance. In

Park. What becomes apparent is that the physical space of Zuccotti Park

short, Occupy Wall Street would have been illegally occupying City

was an empty vessel waiting to be defined by the conduct of users. Here,

Hall Park had it transplanted its activities from Zuccotti Park.

within a state of ambiguity, Occupy Wall Street was initially happy to fill

Whose Public Space? 141

the void. After a slow boil, the owner and the City ultimately collaborated

Occupy Wall Street pursued the advantages of ambiguity to find a

to enforce a set of rules that prohibited the type of 24-hour occupation

place for protest. The pushback came late, but finally came from

enjoyed by Occupy Wall Street, and a court approved this agreement.

owner and City. That pushback was unfortunately not the result of a city-wide discussion on the purpose of public space. That discussion

How could the owner retroactively apply rules, some have asked,

awaits, to be guided by principles of inclusiveness, equality, pluralism,

troubled by the very idea that new rules were quickly cooked and

creativity, and clarity. Political protest, carried out within reasonably

served? Retroactivity is a small part of a larger issue, whose core is

imposed limits regarding time, place, and manner, should be no

simply the question of what rules the owner could impose at any time.

less welcome than other public space uses. Protest that becomes

Neither Occupy Wall Street, nor the owner, nor the City could point to

civil disobedience in violation of reasonably drafted and imposed

zoning text or associated legal documents that expressly spelled out

laws will always face the consequences attached to it. Non-political

what owner rules were permissible with regard to controlling public use

uses of public space have a claim as well. Let the debates begin.

of public space. Occupation introduced its own “ownership” paradox. Occupy Wall Street effectively appropriated the entirety of Zuccotti Park for weeks. One could walk through it, but one would necessarily be enveloped in the movement’s identity and political project with little or no room for other political or non-political activity. Is passive recreation axiomatically inferior to political expression? No matter how noble the motive, should Occupy Wall Street or any group be able to dominate a public space forever, or is there a principle of emerging spatial pluralism that, over time, diminishes anyone’s right to exclusive or primary possession? This is not to argue that public space needs to be plural within every square foot, but pluralism throughout a city’s complete inventory of public space may be a value worth considering. Occupy Boston in the Rose Kennedy Greenway Park

Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park, London

Panel #4

Whose Public Space? 143

Panel #4

Sahar Attia: [Translated from Arabic]

“To whom does the city belong? Is it the city of the street vendors? Or is it the city of the shop owners, located at the ground level and whose display windows are no longer visible? Or is it the residents’ city, the poor elderly tenants who can barely access the building entrance? Each of them has a different interest in the space. So I have to raise some questions: where is the public interest? What is the right thing to do? Whose right am I going to take away here? Or, who is the victim of this situation? Who should do what in downtown Cairo especially, and Egypt generally? Who puts forth the strategies, the regulations and legislation? Who exerts control? Who is financing the projects? Who is implementing the projects? Who is responsible for the monitoring, which does not even exist? Who is managing all of that? Who is providing security to the residents? The only answer to all of these questions is that we should have “good governance” which will lead to another question: Who will select that good governance?

... I do not think that the solutions are only in the government’s hands, nor

Amr Abdelrahman: [Translated from Arabic]

only in the hands of the consultants,

“The issue of limiting and securitizing

researchers, or citizens. The solutions

public spaces, which practically

should be collective, and should aim at

turns any event between people

one common goal: the public interest,

into a security issue, in addition to

which we lost somehow. Sometimes I

restricted access to for entire groups

feel like we do not think about where

to public space, needs to be more

the public interest lies. I believe that

complicated in our minds. We need

when we start to think about it, then we

to add different layers to it, different

will be able to solve the problem.”

levels of understanding. The two things that come to mind when talking about enclosing public space are: firstly, the simple issue of the current ruling group that is originally a security and military group, which is trying to control gatherings in the public realm through legal structures or security practices. These include laws governing demonstrations, or the various laws that limit the right to peaceful gatherings. Older laws such as the law of congregation are also still applied to this day, or even those related to civil associations, laws of local governance, and other laws. The other thing that comes to mind is that this is the result of adopting specific economic liberation policies, which leads to evicting original residents or certain social groups, such

Dialogues 145

as street vendors, from specific areas,

Actually, the separation between the

as an attempt towards gentrification,

boundaries of what is private and what

and so on.

is public is an artificial one for many people of this country. It is illogical in

I invite you to rethink the public sphere

their view. Different forms of expression

itself; the concept of public space. This

of their identity are what they bring

is always, especially in the Egyptian

from their private life to the public life.

context, used in correlation with civil

For instance, we have talked about the

society, or the idea of civil life, or the

issue of religious identity and we cannot

idea of a social, communal life ...

ask a Shi‘i citizen to stay at home. (By the way, he is not safe at home either;

It is closely related in Western political

he can be arrested from his home on

theory to the ideal civility. The idea

the claim that he converts his home to

of civil life states that rational people

Husaynis. It is the same thing that was

who go out from the private sphere to

done with Christians, when they were

the public sphere leave behind all that

accused of converting their homes into

is related to affection, feelings and

churches in the 1990s). What I mean

passion, that can be sub-categorized to

here is that the expression of religious

include religion, sexual identity, etc. The

identity is the clearest example of what

citizen goes out to the public sphere to

is brought over from a private life to

communicate as a rational free person at the café and other places. This idea really needs to be to be somewhat refined if we are going to talk about “publics” not “a public.” It is not actually one public or one public space, but they are “publics” or different forms of “public-ness.”

public life.”

2. Proceedings

A- Plenary Sessions 1- Downtown in Context: Is Gentrification Inevitable? 2- Artists as Urban Catalysts 3- Cultural Policies and Urban Governance 4- Whose Public Space? Security and Access 5- Heritage and Urban Culture 6- Re-framing Downtown: Alternative Approaches


Panel #5

Session five was moderated by May Al-Ibrashy from Megawra, who

Heritage and Urban Culture

facing the preservation of urban heritage in city centers such as

opened the discussion with a brief overview of the various complications Downtown, in particular as relates to the preservation of living heritage. She spoke of the problematics of both moral and legal ownership, noting the conflicts that arise as a result of multiple constituencies’ stakes in Downtown. She gave the example of Downtown representing the cultural façade of the government at the same time as it is viewed as representing the spirit of the 2011 revolution. She also asked who inherits Downtown, given the gap between previous upper middle class residents


May Al-Ibrashy Megawra


Soheir Hawas

Ministry of Culture/Department of Architecture, Faculty of Engineering, Cairo University

George Arbid Arab Center for Architecture, Beirut

Choucri Asmar

Heliopolis Heritage Initiative

Kareem Ibrahim

Takween Integrated Community Development/ TADAMUN: The Cairo Urban Solidarity Initiative

and the current residents. Finally she emphasized the need to preserve not only the tangible elements of Downtown, but also the intangible elements, including its political and social histories. The first presentation was given by Soheir Hawas from the Ministry of Culture. Cairo’s heritage is unique, Hawas argued, because its evolution can be seen from district to district, unlike many cities where periods of development are buried layer by layer in the ground. Hawas described how she spent six years surveying and documenting the façades of Downtown for her book Khedival Cairo. She noted that while Downtown was a symbol of Modernity when it was founded, evincing architectural comparisons with Paris, later often illegal additions led to a deterioration of its heritage. Hawas emphasized

the need for a system of heritage management with clear values. She

the maintenance of buildings from the inside. She encouraged

reported that recent laws protecting heritage represent a step forward,

young architects to come together to undertake this much needed

enabling the preservation of buildings as heritage structures as well

maintenance of Downtown building infrastructure.

as the registration of entire districts as historic, such as Islamic Cairo, Zamalek, Garden City, Ma‘adi, and Heliopolis.

George Arbid of the Arab Center for Architecture (ACA) in Beirut spoke of “Modern heritage” in Lebanon being regarded as a contradiction or an

The first law issued to protect heritage was Law 144 of 2006, which has

oxymoron; an assumption he considered to be connected to a certain

been responsible for the preservation of multiple buildings, however

lack of recognition for Arab modern architecture. He argued that in order

she noted the law has been vulnerable to circumvention, resulting in the

to comprehend the importance of modernist architectural heritage,

demolition of some of its protected buildings.

identity must be perceived as something dynamic. In line with this, it must be acknowledged that the Arab world has produced Modernism

Making use of the existing legal framework and with investment from

and continues to do so. He presented the modernist design of the Dar

the government, donations, private companies, and banks, Hawas and

Assayad publishing house, a work by the Polish architect Karol Schayer,

her team have undertaken restoration work Downtown. She noted how

Lebanese architect Wassek Adib, and Lebanese structural engineer

renovating a space can change the tone of its use, as in al-Alfi Bey

Bahij Makdisi as an important example of local heritage, rather than an

Street, which has been transformed from an undesirable alleyway into a

imperialist infraction on identity. He noted that this and other examples

pleasant pedestrian area.

of Modern building in Lebanon were produced through local building regulations, and in relation to local needs and requirements

Hawas spoke of the challenges that Downtown preservation projects have faced, including the lack of historical references for buildings’

From this perspective, Arbid argued that original Modernism in the

original incarnations, as well as legal obstacles to restoration

Middle East deserves the status of heritage, and gave an illustrated

efforts. She noted that the Cairo Government is currently prohibited

narration of its development. He described state-sponsored public

from undertaking interior renovations, which is leading to a state

buildings, factories, and utilities, such as the electricity company

of decay in many buildings Downtown, and emphasized the need

building in Beirut, whose original design featured an accessible

for the reactivation of the Occupants Federation Law to promote

public space.

Heritage and Urban Culture 149

Arbid went on to speak of the building design of certain reconstruction

Choucri Asmar from the Heliopolis Heritage Initiative recounted his

efforts that followed the cessation of hostilities in the 1990s, and were,

experience organizing local community members into a grassroots

in Arbid’s opinion, catastrophic for Lebanese architecture. “The buildings

initiative to preserve the architectural nature of the district, which

that were reconstructed after the war have usually followed one of two

was founded in 1905 and is built mostly in the Baroque-Islamic

directions: first are the glass boxes, as if Modernism could be reduced to

style on Cairo’s desert fringe. Heliopolis was constructed as both

that form. Second is the pastiche replication of heritage.” Furthermore,

a residential and industrial neighborhood by the Khedive ‘Abbas

pro forma public spaces were created that were made inaccessible due to

Hilmi II, who worked together with the investors Baron Empain and

excessive securitization.

Boghos Nubar Pasha. A tramway from both ‘Abbassiyya and ‘Ataba connecting the neighborhood to the rest of the city were established,

Arbid pointed his finger particularly at real estate company SOLIDERE

along with a local tram, and recreational spaces such as the

for encroaching on the public space of downtown Beirut in the name of

Heliopolis Sports Club, Heliopolis Palace Hotel and Merryland were

restoration. He showed how many historic buildings have been replaced

built to attract residents and investors to the area.

by exaggerated replicas or disappeared altogether. “The war ruined a lot of the country, but the reconstruction ruined more,” he said.

The Heliopolis Heritage Initiative began in the months following the revolution, in part as a response to the increased pace of demolition

Arbid ended his talk by describing the NGO he founded, the ACA, which

and neglect as a result of lax government enforcement in protecting

aims at preserving modern heritage and maintaining an online archive.

heritage during that tumultuous period. For example, six villas from

The ACA focuses on architecture as “a cultural product and not only

the wide Zifti Street were replaced with a concrete building, and

a technical one,” and tries to “develop the contemporary image of

a garden was demolished to make space for a 12-story building.

architecture, and to provide a platform for meetings and discussions.”

Objecting to these and other demolitions, a group of Heliopolitans

They are looking forward to collaborating with CLUSTER in sharing and

realized they did not have any legislative tools or knowledge to do

connecting the contents of their archive with other like-minded, regional

so effectively. This led to the creation of the Heliopolis Heritage

organizations. The ACA is also addressing ongoing issues of heritage in

Initiative, guided by the idea that “there shouldn’t be a complete

Beirut, including the proposed plan to develop Dalieh, which is a historic

disconnection between policymaking and quality of life,” in Egypt,

public area on Beirut’s coast.

said Asmar.

The Initiative was granted legal status in October 2015, and works on

Asmar said they are working on a project to develop the tram lines,

several fronts, including heritage sites, public green spaces, public

parts of which have already been removed by the government due to

transportation, awareness raising, and public cleanliness. They raise

their dilapidation. The government has received pledges of EU 750

awareness through photography competitions, organize meetings

million from the International Monetary Fund, he said, but there is no

with stakeholders, and defend against the destruction of unlisted, but

clear plan or dialogue about it with the government as yet.

historically relevant buildings, as well as organize walking tours “to introduce residents to the living heritage that surrounds them.”

Asmar was followed by Takween’s Kareem Ibrahim, who broadened the discussion of heritage, arguing that its preservation is often

The Initiative is now running the project “Heliopolis Eyes” which aims to

treated in isolation from the city as a whole. This began in the

register all buildings built in Heliopolis from 1910 to the present. They

nineteenth century, with the introduction of a mechanism to define

are also in discussion with the Federation of Banks to reactivate the real

certain buildings as having heritage value, which led to policies that

estate funding law, which would allow investment in rehabilitating the

separated the buildings from their contexts, such as the buffer zones

interior of historic buildings. While the Initiative is concerned with the

that were introduced to protect monuments. Moreover, he argued that

preservation of historic buildings, it also has activities in other realms

the process of selecting what qualifies as heritage is political, often

including waste management, public space, and transportation; the

based on institutional or individual conceptions of what elements

governorate has been removing stretches of old tramway in Heliopolis,

in the city are valuable and what are not. One of the driving forces

which the Initiative argues should be renovated and saved.

for preservation Downtown has been nostalgia, with a view towards

Having started out as a non-political group, they soon realized that

heritage should also consider the importance of modern as well as

political connections would be necessary to make change. As such, they

contemporary heritage. He said that public space and public memory

managed to meet with the governor and the head of Heliopolis district

are especially important Downtown given the deep contestation of

to make progress on the legislative front. They have worked with other

these notions during and after the revolution.

reviving the Belle Époque aspects of Khedival Cairo. Yet he argued that

groups to lobby for Article 50 in the constitution, which explicitly protects heritage, since current laws regulating heritage protection (Laws 144 and

Ibrahim addressed the issue through two Downtown examples of the

119) are ineffective and filled with loopholes, according to Asmar.

battle for contemporary memorialization: the governorate’s erasure

Heritage and Urban Culture 151

of the graffiti-covered wall on Muhammad Mahmud Street; compared

Ibrahim ended his discussion by asking, “What is the vision for

to the official monument erected in honor of the revolution in Tahrir

Downtown?” He argued this vision should not be limited to the

Square. While the graffiti wall can be read as an informal monument to

preservation of façades and their documentation, though this may be

the revolution, it was later partly demolished by the AUC in early 2016;

a valuable effort. He argued in favor of a political project to deal with

while the Tahrir Square monument only bore the names of government

Downtown. He defined “political,” not as a state project, but as a cultural

officials, and was vandalized by outraged youth within hours of its

project, which is put forth by the people, and which the people may


debate. He stated, “I think one important aspect of our conference is to bring these issues up for discussion. I don’t think that we can make any

In another example, Ibrahim described the eviction of the popular El

real progress unless this type of discourse is brought to the table and

Fan Medan festival from ‘Abdin Square. He spoke of the demand for

broader segments of society are invited to the table.”

public space for cultural activities, and questioned whether these needs were being taken into account in the current plans for ‘Abdin Square, which have not been open for public discussion. Ibrahim also discussed the influence of ownership on the preservation of the urban fabric, namely the purchase, development, and subsequent abandonment of some large buildings, which has hurt the city as a whole, most notable the quality of life of its residents. The importance residents place on quality of life within the general framework of heritage preservation and public self-realization has given birth to a number of heritage movements such as the Save Alex group (Alexandria) and Athar Lina (Cairo), which aim at preserving heritage defined as both physical structures, public space, and general quality of life.

Panel #3 #5


Heliopolis Heritage Initiative

Heliopolis Heritage is a grassroots initiative founded in 2011, in response to the speedy deterioration of heritage and quality of life in the Heliopolis neighborhood. The initiative is concerned with the protection of Heliopolis’ architectural and cultural heritage, along with the enhancement of the neighborhood’s built environment. Heliopolis Heritage strives to build alliances and coalitions with all concerned stakeholders, and to promote a better quality of life for its residents. Heliopolis Heritage targets five main areas: the preservation and documentation of Heliopolis’ architectural and urban heritage; the enhancement of its green zones and parks; promotion of its cultural heritage and the protection of collective memories; support for traffic and transportation solutions; and the resolution of waste management challenges. It is currently working on engaging a tripartite cooperation linking governmental authorities with the private sector and civil society to achieve these aims. Heliopolis Heritage believes that the engagement of community and the participation of residents is the major catalyst in promoting heritage and ensuring its protection. Heliopolitans have a strong feeling of community belonging and attachment to their neighborhood. The contribution of Heliopolis residents, experts and concerned citizens is encouraged, with the aim of

Choucri Asmar Ahmed Mansour

promoting a best practice model in community activism, which eventually could be extended to other districts in Cairo and throughout Egypt. During the past three years, Heliopolis Heritage has successfully mobilized the

Panel #3 #5

local community by engaging a number of experts and stakeholders

latter was represented by Boghos Nubar Pasha, a property owner residing

and developing means of cooperation between the Cairo governorate,

in Cairo, and Baron Édouard Louis Joseph Empain, an investor and mega-

the Ministry of Antiquities (MoA), the National Organization for Urban

financier residing at 33 Rue du Congrès, Brussels, Belgium.

Harmony (NOUH), and the initiative. The idea of the new project was to establish a railroad and two electric In 2015 Heliopolis Heritage Foundation was established to become

tramways by the Société Anonyme, named the Cairo Electric Railways

the official arm for governmental communication and project funding

and Heliopolis Oases Company. Through this, the government of Egypt

and management, giving the initiative a more powerful and structured

would sell, yield and transfer rights to property of 25 km2, 10 km from


Cairo, to the company, in order to invest it in real estate.1 The Heliopolis Company was officially established eight months later on January 23 1906.2 Baron Empain graduated as an engineer from the Metallurgic Society in Brussels. Considered one of the pioneers in finance and technology during the age of steam and electricity, his projects prior to 1890 were entirely in public transportation. He built some of the railways in Belgium and soon became involved in the railway business in France, participating in the construction of the Paris Metro. Baron Empain specialized in

Heliopolis Heritage Initiative logo

urban electric tramways, and his projects were realized in Lille, Brussels, Tervuren, Ghent, Naples, Turin, Madrid, Warsaw and Cairo.3 The Empain

Historical Background

group in Egypt was very active and mainly invested in transportation; in 1894, the Société Anonyme Tramways du Caire was established. The

On May 23 1905, a concession was signed between the Egyptian

Société Anonyme de chemins de fer à voie étroite de la basse-Égypte was

government, represented by Khedive ‘Abbas Hilmi II (who reigned 1892–

another company owned by the Empain group in Egypt. With the project

1914) and Prime Minister Mustafa Fahmy; and the Société Anonyme. The

in Heliopolis, Empain entered into the real estate development business.

Heliopolis Heritage Initiative

According to André Raymond’s Le Caire, the tramway public transport network in the greater Cairo area was designed between 1894– 1917.4 In December 1894, Baron Empain was granted the contract to build a transport network for Cairo. During the first phase of this contract, eight tramlines were laid, of which six passed through al-‘Ataba al-Khadra. The network consisted of 19.5 km, and operated from sunrise to one a.m. Another 12.5 km were added in 1897, extending to Giza. With the exception of a line running through Muhammad ‘Ali Street, the old city was excluded from the network. The system was then extended in 1917 to include 22 new lines with a total of 66.5 km of tracks. From the beginning of its development, Heliopolis was known for its entertainment and leisure areas, and was an attraction to the middle

Map showing the concession of 2500 hectares and the train and tram to Downtown and al-’Abbassiya.


Panel #3 #5

class of that period. The only way to reach Heliopolis at that time was via the tramlines, and in 1908 the first tramway to connect Heliopolis with

Current Activities:

Downtown was built. A year later, another tramway connected Heliopolis

Heliopolis Heritage initiative recently launched the Save Heliopolis

to al-‘Abbassiya. One line terminated within the Mosque Square, while

Metro campaign against the destruction of the metro‬‬‬ infrastructure.

the other linked al-Qubba to Almaza, where the depot and a maintenance

This campaign calls for the renovation of the current network as

workshop were erected.

a reliable means of transportation, using clean energy. Traffic and transportation are major issues affecting quality of life in Cairo and specifically in Heliopolis. An inner transportation network for Heliopolis is needed, as well as a larger one to connect it to the rest of Cairo. Suggesting solutions for the traffic congestion and the improvement of the public transportation system is a means to improve the quality of life of Heliopolis inhabitants. This can be achieved through addressing transportation and traffic as part of a mobility scheme for the whole district. Our main aim is to protect and improve the public transportation network: to include the Heliopolis tramlines, the underground metro lines and the bus networks in the service of Heliopolitans. Furthermore, finding traffic solutions, including the parking issue, and engaging the authorities to adopt these solutions, are all essential for improving local quality of life. In order to achieve the above objectives, we envision a public awareness campaign concerning traffic regulations as well as the benefits of the Heliopolis tramlines, as part of the Save Heliopolis Metro campaign.

Picture taken during the Save Heliopolis Metro campaign

Heliopolis Heritage Initiative


Further Heliopolis Heritage projects concern the preservation and

Heliopolis Heritage is also engaged in the re-use of buildings, mainly of

documentation of Heliopolis’ architectural and urban heritage. Projects

the Baron Palace in collaboration with the MoA, and of the Sultana Malak

include a mapping project in development, to address Heliopolis’ urban

Palace in collaboration with Heliopolis Housing Company.5, 6

fabric. Following the first phase of mapping, a second phase to create signage for the heritage buildings and streets in Heliopolis is being

Concerning the enhancement of green zones and parks, Heliopolis

discussed with the NOUH. The mapping project is also linked to the

Heritage is working on the revitalization of the Merryland, in collaboration

Heliopolis Eyes initiative, which engages Heliopolitans to document

with the Ministry of Environment, the Heliopolis Housing company and

and report violations against neighborhood heritage to the municipality.

the Tree Lovers’ Association, a prominent NGO based in al-Ma’adi working

Heliopolis Eyes also envisions a program of capacity building for

on urban greening and environmental issues.7 Recently, Heliopolis

members of the municipality.

Heritage was approached by the municipality and the NOUH to initiate

Sultana Malak Palace

Merryland, prior to the removal of trees

Panel #3 #5

a program concerning the beautification of the main squares and gardens in Heliopolis. As for the promotion of cultural heritage and the protection of collective memory, Heliopolis Heritage has created and maintained the Heliopolis photography competition for three consecutive years, with an open-air exhibition in Kurba. The competition was organized in collaboration with the MoA, Cairo governorate and Art of Seeing, an initiative based in Heliopolis working on visual arts. Currently, a project concerning under-utilized buildings in Heliopolis is being prepared, focusing on the synagogue and two cinemas. These buildings will be used for cultural events. Heliopolis Heritage believes in cooperation; linking governmental authorities with the private sector and civil society to achieve results. The engagement of the community and participation of Heliopolis residents ensure the promotion of our heritage as well as its protection.

Heliopolis Heritage Initiative


1 25 km² = 2500 hectares. The cost was BEF 60 per hectare. When it was resold for construction or rent, a square meter cost BEF 18. See Anne Van Loo, “Ernest Jaspar à Heliopolis” in Le Caire–Alexandrie Architectures européennes, 1850–1950, eds. Mercedes Volait et al (Cairo: Centre D´études et de Documentation Economique, Juridique et Sociale and Institut Français d´Archéologie Orientale, 2001), 121-137. 2 Agnieszka Dobrowolska and Jarosław Dobrowolski, Heliopolis: Rebirth of the City of the Sun (Cairo: AUC Press, 2006). 3 Robert Ilbert, Heliopolis: le Caire 1905-1922, Genèse d´un ville (Marseille: Centre régional de publications de Marseille, 1981). 4 André Raymond, Le Caire (Paris: Fayard, 1993). 5 Designed by French architect Alexandre Marcel in 1907 for Baron Empain. The construction took almost five years. 6 Designed by Marcel in 1908 for Prince Husayn Kamil, (later Sultan of Egypt and Sudan, reigned 1914– 1917). The palace is named after his wife, Sultana Malak, the last Sultana of Egypt. 7 Merryland is a park in Heliopolis inaugurated in 1961, replacing the Heliopolis race track. In recent years, the park suffered neglect and the removal of some trees as part of a plan to make way for a parking lot.

Heliopolis Heritage photography exhibition in Heliopolis.

Heliopolis Heritage Initiative managed to stop the project through the Ministry of Environment and Cairo governorate.


Khedival Cairo: What is Going on There?

Cairo’s unique urban fabric is indebted to the fact that its historical layers have developed alongside one another, as opposed to on top of one another. In this way, one can still visit every period in Cairo’s history, from Fustat to Fustat-Misr, to the winding alleys of Historic Cairo, to the Haussman-inspired Khedival Cairo and its radial arteries, to more modern urban manifestations in the desert, all in the span of a single day. Khedival Cairo is what we now call Downtown, and has an eclectic mix of European architectural styles. During the construction of Khedival Cairo by Khedive Isma‘il and his son Khedive Tawfiq, Downtown developed along the lines of European urbanism, thanks to a striving towards what was seen as “Modern,” as well as the professional influence and vision of European-trained Egyptians such as ‘Ali Mubarak. By the 1930s, a fixed image of downtown Cairo had been attained despite its continued growth and change. In 2002 I published my book, Khedival Cairo, which presented a survey of the architectural heritage of Downtown. Many who read the book were surprised by the richness and variety of the buildings presented, not because they did not know of their existence, but rather because their façades have been covered up by storefront decorations, damaged by neglect, and physically abused. The book was a result of six years of surveying during which my team measured façades by hand in order to create a highly accurate inventory of some of Downtown’s most

Soheir Zaki Hawas

distinguished architectural pieces.

Panel #3 #5

The richness of Downtown’s architectural heritage as well as its

responsibility for restoration in certain cases. The projects presented

neglect and disrepair begs the question: what framework should exist

here were financed from a fund that collects money from different

for maintaining this heritage? The recent focus on the restoration of

stakeholders. However, there are limits to current funding mechanisms

Downtown, in particular the upgrading of streets, squares, and pedestrian

and today’s legal framework. For instance, the Cairo Governorate cannot

paths, has come about through coordination between the Cairo

go inside a historic building and restore its infrastructure, because the

Governorate, the National Organization for Urban Harmony (NOUH), the

law only provides for external interventions. This means that internal

General Organization for Physical Planning (GOPP), the Egyptian Holding

infrastructure will remain dilapidated until the Occupants Board Law is

Company for Management of Real-estate Assets, and private sector


actors such as Al Ismaelia for Real Estate Investment. But heritage maintenance is not predicated on partnerships alone. The idea of heritage management as being enshrined in the legal framework underlies heritage maintenance in general, though this principle was only introduced recently in Egypt. For instance, Law 144 of 2006 allowed many buildings to be protected and restored. Moreover, Law 119 of 2008 allowed entire urban districts to be declared “Heritage Zones.” Khedival Cairo, Historic Cairo, Zamalek, Garden City, al-Ma’adi, and Heliopolis are registered by the power of Law 119. In addition to partnerships and a facilitating legal framework, urban heritage cannot be protected without proper financing. Funding for the restoration of Downtown has come either from donations, bank financing, or through investment from private companies such as Al Ismaelia, which purchased historic buildings in Downtown for restoration and reuse. The public sector has also taken on some financial One of the two “Gatineau“ buildings in ‘Imad al-Din Street after restoration

Khedival Cairo 163

The richness of Downtown’s architectural heritage as well as its neglect and disrepair begs the question: what framework should exist for maintaining this heritage?

was redesigned to look like a pattern of landscaped greenery and to offer a better view of the Egyptian Museum. Financial support for the project was provided by the Union of the Egyptian banks including the National Bank of Egypt, Commercial International Bank (CIB), Banque du Caire, and Banque Misr. ‘Abdin Square project was proposed by the GOPP and was implemented by Cairo Governorate. Under my supervision as the Cairo Governerate’s

Despite its imperfections, this legal and financing framework allowed us

consultant, the buildings around ‘Abdin Square were restored to their

to remove uncoordinated façade additions from historical buildings and

original appearance. The Cairo Governorate building, which historically

undertake several key upgrading projects in Downtown. For instance,

served as the Royal Guards’ barracks, was also restored, along with

in regard to buildings that have fallen into disrepair or been damaged

nearby residential buildings. Detailing that had been destroyed was

by fires, we are applying the newly introduced practice of “façadism” to

recreated, and all banners and signs were removed from historic

save these structures. We also have removed street vendors from the


streets in front of shops located in buildings, for their presence violated the rights of the shop owners who pay taxes.

Al-Alfi Street was redesigned for pedestrians after having deteriorated to a center of drug trafficking. The street’s livability improved after the

Mujamma‘ al-Tahrir (the Tahrir complex) was particularly deformed

upgrading process, and a part of it was allocated for restaurants and

due to informal, ugly extensions on its façade. We received funding

coffee shops. Informal extensions and gaudy decorations were also

from the National Bank of Egypt to restore the Mujamma‘, which

removed from façades. Rainwater drainage networks were installed,

included restoring the stone façade with a sandblaster. The buildings

and destroyed detailing on historic façades was recreated. Each of

overlooking Tahrir Square were restored and beautified. While some

the buildings along the street was fitted with a plate that includes the

protested over the painting of the façades, they were originally painted,

building’s registration number, name, address, and the original architect’s

so we argue that the restoration process brought them back to their

name. Significant upgrading works were also undertaken in ‘Urabi Square,

original appearance. The surface of the underground Tahrir garage

which was partly pedestrianized, and around al-Falaki Square.

Panel #3 #5

Given the high cost of restoration, we must also review the laws concerning rents and fair compensation to these structures’ original inhabitants or owners. A new law is awaiting approval, which would dictate how building owners should be compensated and how the state can cooperate with them to provide adequate building maintenance. The historic “stones� of Downtown are under our guardianship. They need our protection. By protecting Downtown, we can preserve our history for future generations. However, many obstacles stand in our path. As citizens, we must seek to restore our architectural and urban heritage not only from the outside, but also from the inside. This can be achieved by amending the legal framework, finding more sources of funding, and increasing cooperation between all interested parties.

1 Qanun Itihad al-Shaghilin (Occupants Board Law No. 200 of 2009) was legislated to complement Qanun Itihad al-Mullak (Owners Board Law No. 109 of 1977) in order to address the stagnation of finance and upkeep of residential buildings subject to ijar qadim (an old rent control system), generating little revenue and no interest for the building owner to invest in its maintenance and upkeep.

Khedival Cairo 165

One of the four Khedivial buildings in ‘Imad al-Din Street after restoration. Built in 1911 designed by Italian architect Antonio Laciac.

Panel #3 #5

Kareem Ibrahim:

This leads us in different directions, one

Over time, this wall has documented

Downtown provides a very contested

of which is nostalgia. People talk about

very important moments of the

ground for conflicts between the state

the Belle Époque of Khedival Cairo, and

Egyptian revolution where many

and other groups that keep trying to

it its value, is the person who decides

how can we bring it back to its past

changes have happened. It consists of

change the name of the city, and how it

what is heritage and what is not. At the

incarnation. Others like to maintain

many phases and layers that illustrate


end of the nineteenth century, Egypt

an aesthetic perception of the city ...

the history of the revolution and its

was introduced to the mechanism

However, there are other issues related


of defining certain buildings as

to … the modern history of Downtown,

monumental buildings or heritage ...

and its very contemporary history, and

In return, the state or the governorate

once we define what is heritage, we get

This required in the following years a

I am referring to what happened during

usually tried to remove and clean this

to decide how can we preserve it as

long list of policies to separate these

the past two or three years.

graffiti wall; then the people would

well as what should and should not be

[Translated from Arabic]

“The key to heritage, or what grants

what is heritage relevant, because

come again and draw something new;

buildings from their context in different ways, like the buffer zones to protect the

One of the examples I’ll give relates

then the governorate would remove

monumental buildings. These practices

to the events of Muhammad Mahmud

the new drawings. Recently, there

were translated into policies, which you

Street [in November 2012]. You know

was a debate about demolishing the

will find in the laws of monuments and

that this is the street through which you

wall itself as part of the development

[those] protecting historical buildings.

entered the American University in Cairo

project taking place at the AUC here.

(AUC), where we are gathering now. [In The problem with these laws is that

this street were] very known incidents

The wall kept developing until it

they deal with the building, or the

of clashes that lasted for a few weeks,

reached its current state and finally

neighborhood in the case of Downtown

and which resulted in 61 fatalities.

the AUC started to consider the wall as belonging solely to them, so

or Heliopolis, without looking into their We can agree or disagree with the

they consequently have the right to

whole thing, but at the end of the day it

demolish it. The AUC claimed that

This selection process … is a political

is a fact that some people have decided

it has documented the wall and the

process. The institution or the person

to document this memory [as graffiti]

graffiti and that gives it the right to

who makes this selection has a certain

on the walls of the AUC. They have

demolish it.

way of understanding the city through

decided that this street and this wall

which they view what is valuable and

belongs to them.

relation to the rest of the city.

what is not.

This makes the question of who decides

This is an ongoing issue, because the modern heritage of Cairo and of


Dialogues 167

Dalia Nabil:

façades and urban space in general.

the community, and signing petitions,

We could consider the façades and

on social media and on Facebook

the outer walls as a space that many

...The best thing is to approach the

of Region Architecture Collection

people have claimed as theirs after the

decision maker directly, and you plead

at AUC. I wish to thank Kareem for

revolution. But, what we see in reality

and propose what you want, you ask

his presentation and for the very

is that at the end of the day, we have a

for a grace period through which you

important questions that he posed

top down decision-making process, and

can submit all your reasons behind

through this presentation.

everything (the graffiti or the memories)

refusing the demolition of that building.


Otherwise, it’ll be completely lost.

[Translated from Arabic]

“My name is Dalia Nabil, Curator

Frankly speaking, I see that it is very ironic that we are here in the AUC,

George Arbid:

and we are having all these great

[Translated from Arabic]

discussions, while meters away inside the premises of the AUC, they are demolishing the Science Building without any regard or consideration for the collective memory of the place or the AUC community. No dialogue has taken place to discuss or debate if we should keep this building or demolish it. Everything is happening at the top level and then directly executed. Thank you for posing the idea of the graffiti that is on the wall outside, and this makes me ask about the conflict between ownership and community rights. Especially in this case of the

“Regarding the issue of the [AUC] Science Building, we had a similar problem at the American University in Beirut (AUB). There were two buildings that the AUB bought and then decided to demolish. Both the faculty and the students objected to this, and we proposed a project during the academic year to recycle the buildings and change their functions. However, we failed to preserve them; this was four years ago. I am not really aware how fast are they demolishing the [AUC] Science Building, but I believe the pressure must be exercised upon the decision maker. Don’t waste your time mobilizing

If we are talking recycling and rehabilitating buildings, then one of the best arguments is sustainability. Sustainability is not only about designing high tech façades. Sustainability is recycling the building stock that already exists, so this could be a good argument. If the university administration is claiming that they are adopting concepts of sustainability, you can show them that demolishing the Science Building is in contradiction to their claims. Talk with the decision makers, don’t talk with one another, this is useless.”

Panel #3 #5

Kareem Ibrahim: [Translated from Arabic]

it, and then let’s see what can be done about it. Of course, the plan will not be offered for wider societal discussion.

“What you proposed, Dalia, is very important because in fact it is not only

And this is our role, to demand, to at

related to the Science Building. The

least practice our right to be informed

dialogue that is taking place today

about these plans.

between experts and specialists who are uncertain about the future of the

The social function of ownership offers

Continental Hotel, or the public space

a solution to this problem … Does [a site]

above the Tahrir garage, or the Science

really belong to the owner of this private

Building, represents a real catastrophe.

property, or does it belong to the public

If we, as specialists, are not informed

space? And this could be debated.

about the plans for the future of Downtown, then what about the public?

In fact, I have never seen a person paint graffiti on his own house. For instance,

The issue is all about how the citizens

if you have a house, would you paint

are involved in the decision making

graffiti on its doors? In its essence,

process. This is: Do we today, as

the graffiti art is a form of protest, that

citizens, as stakeholders, have a right

is practiced in public space, and that

to be informed about the plans that the

works on expropriating the ownership

state is developing for the areas that we

of the public space for the sake of

use and in which we live?

the public.

Recently, we’ve heard of a statement


by one public official, talking about the National Democratic Party building,

We have to demand and seek our right

saying that they don’t have a plan

to access information on the future

for its future after they are done with

plans of this area, and to have a clear

demolishing it. The plan is to demolish

role in defining what should the public

benefit of these buildings look like, and how would it be useful to the city as a whole.”

Dialogues 169

2. Proceedings

A- Plenary Sessions 1- Downtown in Context: Is Gentrification iInevitable? 2- Artists as Urban Catalysts 3- Cultural Policies and Urban Governance 4- Whose Public Space? Security and Access 5- Heritage and Urban Culture 6- Re-framing Downtown: Alternative Approaches


Panel #6

Tarek Atia, publisher of Mantiqti Wasat al-Balad newspaper, chaired

Re-framing Downtown:

academics, entrepreneurs, and preservationists, exploring alternative

the final panel consisting of local stakeholders, including urbanists,

Alternative Approaches

approaches to the redevelopment of Downtown. Atia began the panel by relaying his own experience as the founder of Mantiqti (“My Neighborhood”), a hyper-local newspaper on Downtown. Atia spoke of how one morning, almost two years ago, he and his partner arrived at their office in the small pedestrian ‘Ulwi Street, to find white boxes painted to indicate the spaces into which the government intended to move the street vendors, who at that time had overtaken the main streets of Downtown. The local residents and businesses, like Atia, were frustrated not to have been informed of the decision or


even to know who was responsible for it. Recognizing people’s desire

Tarek Atia

to play a role in the decisions that impact their neighborhood, Atia and

Publisher, Mantiqti Wasat al-Balad newspaper

his partner were inspired to establish a newspaper under the name of Mantiqti al-Bursa, providing locals with news about al-Bursa as well as maps, infographics and practical information. Later their coverage was


Omar Nagati and Beth Stryker CLUSTER

Tariq Zulficar and Emad Farid Environment Quality International

Nadia Dropkin and Dina Abouelsoud Dina’s Hostel / Eish + Malh / Kafein

Heba Raouf Ezzat Faculty of Economy and Political Science, Cairo University

expanded to the entire Downtown area and the newspaper became Mantiqti Wasat al-Balad. They print 10,000 copies of the paper, and use a distribution strategy that allows several people to share one copy, further promoting a sense of community. Reflecting on this experience, Atia noted the common goal of the conference and of Mantiqti: to address a lack of information about Downtown, and to provide a platform for discussion.

Panel #3 #6

The session continued with Omar Nagati and Beth Stryker, co-founders

phase of the project CLUSTER undertook the refurbishment of the Kodak

of CLUSTER and conference co-organizers, who spoke about CLUSTER’s

passageway’s storefronts to accommodate a solo exhibition of Egyptian

Cairo Downtown Passageways project, which focuses on Downtown’s

artist Hassan Khan, his first in Egypt in ten years, curated by Stryker as

passageways and back alleys “as a framework for reimagining and

part of the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF).

re-envisioning Downtown.” Nagati spoke of CLUSTER’s approach to passageways not only as an interesting urban typology, but also

In a second phase of development CLUSTER, in cooperation with the

as an in-between space that offers the potential for intervention.

Danish-Egyptian Dialogue Institute (DEDI) and the Centre for Culture and Development in Copenhagen (CKU), undertook a workshop with Danish

“[The passageway] is a space of mediation and negotiation between …

and Egyptian designers and artists to explore the redevelopment of the

the public realm and the private realm,” said Nagati. “[It exists] between

public spaces of the “Kodak” and “Philips” passageways. The outcome

formal capital architectural design, vernacular architecture, street

of the workshop was two concepts for the two passageways, a “Green

vendors, and what is happening on the street … More metaphorically,

Oasis” and a “Light Oasis” respectively. The design development and

the passageway is truly a transitional space or a liminal space

implementation of the two passageways were then undertaken by

between two different orders.” Nagati noted that at a time when Cairo

CLUSTER in dialogue with local stakeholders. This was an important

is undergoing a process of transition politically and on an urban

aspect of the process, involving decision-making around design elements

level, CLUSTER seeks to use this metaphor to test “how can we as

such as trees, flowers, tiles, benches and lighting. Nagati presented these

citizens of the city engage in a small scale exercise, to see how can

pilot cases as experiments in urban diplomacy, that offer alternative ways

we renegotiate our position vis-à-vis different stakeholders ... the

both to experience, but also to develop Downtown.

owners, the shop keepers, the vendors, the residents and so on.” At the end of their presentation Nagati and Stryker announced the launch Nagati and Stryker discussed CLUSTER’s working model of taking a

of CLUSTER’s new website (,

hypothesis that is later tested on a small-scale urban project. In this

which aims to map Cairo’s downtown passageways, exploring cultural

case, their aim was to explore the role that art and culture may play as

and entertainment highlights, spaces of memory and heritage sites

a catalyst for revitalization in the “Kodak” and “Philips” passageways,

alongside downtown’s back alleys. The website provides a database

neighboring but different types of passageways Downtown. In the first

on Downtown passageways and in-between spaces that CLUSTER

Re-framing Downtown 173

has mapped over three years: including activities, patterns of use,

Dropkin acknowledged that the question of gentrification is a challenging

typology and genealogy, materiality and texture, circulation and

one for them as entrepreneurs, but noted that as residents of Downtown,

access, roofing and proportion, in addition to territoriality and tools

their businesses are personal investments in their own neighborhood, not

of demarcation, and other spatial and visual documentation and

only of money but of time, energy and creativity. She further noted that

analysis. The website also features interviews with local community

they did not force people out of the places where they have established

members and stakeholders, and seeks to offer the opportunity to

their businesses. She said that they are cautious to do business in a

re-envision Downtown through its back alleys, as an alternative

way that avoids replicating class structures in relation to consumption.

framework for the development and revitalization of Downtown.

Additionally, questions of cosmopolitanism come into the reading of these enterprises, run by Dropkin, an American, and Abouelsoud, an

The session proceeded to speakers Nadia Dropkin and Dina

Egyptian. Dropkin recalled a review of Kafein characterizing the café as a

Abouelsoud, who are the entrepreneurs behind Dina’s Hostel, the café

“Berlin-like hipster place.” In this way, she posed the question of whether

Kafein and the restaurant Eish + Malh. Central to their discussion was

the global/local dichotomy is the only framework within which we can

the emphasis on their personal contribution to the neighborhood, and

understand Downtown.

the creation of alternative spaces. Dina’s Hostel, which was started by Abouelsoud as a clean and safe alternative for tourists, developed into

Next, Tariq Zulficar and Emad Farid of the private company Environment

a space that local residents also visited for film screenings, exhibitions

Quality International (EQI) described their project, begun in 2012, to

and workshops.

restore the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, (commonly known as the Egyptian Museum). With funding from the German Foreign Office

Dropkin described the community efforts that helped her and

Zulficar and his colleagues undertook a study of the building, a national

Abouelsoud renovate the space for Kafein. Relying on a combination

monument in the Beaux-Arts style. They compared the present-day

of loans, savings, and support from friends, the café opened its

museum with illustrations of when it was newly finished in 1902, and

doors in 2014, and hosts regular art exhibitions in the K Project

spoke of an ambition to return the museum to its original state.

Space which emphasizes interdisciplinary artworks. Similarly, the restaurant Eish + Malh also hosts music evenings, food

EQI’s pilot projects were the architectural restoration of the Tutankhamun

markets, and film screenings, organized with local makers.

Gallery and other halls, as well as a bomb shelter on the gallery’s roof.

Panel #3 #6

Reflecting the wishes of donors and supporting companies, they also

EQI was also surprised to discover the connection between the

attempted to cultivate a relationship between the museum and the

museum and the river Nile that had existed in the museum’s early

community surrounding it, particularly schoolchildren. Their initial

years. Many of the artifacts had been transported to the museum

research found that most stakeholders in the area had a rather negative

on the Nile, and the land stretching down to the Corniche

perception of the museum, which was connected to the fact that the

historically belonged to the museum. Based on this knowledge

museum staff did not have strong experience in dealing with visitors.

the company designed a plan to re-establish this connection

Farid said: “Those [members of the public] outside don’t enter, and those

by proposing an extension of the museum and an expanded

inside don’t know how to deal with the public.” So the company initiated

botanical garden on the land linking the museum to the Nile.

several programs to engage the local community and schools, showing them the customs and traditions of the ancient Egyptians. These were

The last speaker was political scientist Heba Raouf Ezzat,

well received.

from the Faculty of Political Science and Economics at Cairo University, who gave a personal testimony as a long-time resident of Tahrir Square, describing her relationship to the neighborhood, and the “different layers of culture and memories” it comprises. Raouf Ezzat explained how the area around the square was difficult to perceive as an actual neighborhood because nonresidents claim ownership of it, which was most evident in the uprisings of 2011. She recalled coming home one day to find that protesters had mounted a massive banner covering the entire windowed façade of her building in the name of the revolution. Asking “Who owns Downtown?” Raouf Ezzat used this example to stress that when one occupies an area, even in claiming it for the people, there is the potential to take away rights from other citizens.

Re-framing Downtown 175

Expanding on these tensions, she discussed how certain cultural boundaries used to divide the area when she was a child. She also spoke about how what she perceives as the spiritual aspect of Downtown, is being neglected in favor of a secular Modernist vision. Raouf Ezzat warned that we are “moving from the iron and glass vision of Walter Banjamin to be more like Paris, to the iron and glass vision of Dubai.� Thus, the public has been fragmented into several publics and the question is how they can be united. Raouf Ezzat finished with the question: how can one reconcile these two visions, the traditional and the Modernist, the religious and the civic, when imagining the future of downtown Cairo? The question and answer session emphasized the ways in which there need to be more opportunities for the public to engage and have a say in the development of their neighborhoods. Tarek Atia reflected that perhaps Downtown could offer a test case for a different form of constituency building, as well as a demand for the representatives of Downtown, both on the local councils as well as on governorate level, to be by election.

Panel #3 #6

Insert photo from passageways

Kodak inauguration: January 2015 inauguration of the Kodak Passage redesign and redevelopment by CLUSTER.


Cairo Downtown Passageways: A Framework for Urban Regeneration

Context: Downtown Passageways Downtown Cairo was partially modeled after European cities in the late nineteenth century, including Paris and Vienna. The commercial arcade was one of the key urban typologies inserted within, or between many buildings Downtown. Having undergone periods of prosperity, deterioration, and decay over the past decades, many Downtown passageways serve today as sites for rich and diverse uses and activities. These activities extend to the gaps between buildings, setbacks, courtyards, and a number of side streets that were either officially or de facto pedestrianized. Uses of these spaces range from food places and coffee shops, to sites for trade and retail, including stationery stores and bookstores, bars and restaurants, galleries and art spaces. Being off the main channels of traffic, they operate as hubs for competing interests and claims to space. Furthermore, compared to main streets and squares, passageways and back alleys are less conspicuous, thus less exposed to public scrutiny, so are often spaces of coexistence of seemingly irreconcilable activities. In Downtown passageways it is possible to find mosques, coffeeshops, bars and cabarets side by side. Passageways offer a

Omar Nagati Beth Stryker

framework for diversity, accommodation and inclusion absent from the increasingly polarized society and exclusionary public spaces of downtown Cairo.

Panel #3 #6

The Condition of In-between-ness

spaces of diversity and inclusion. Secondly, they provide an alternative

As an urban typology, the passageway is not a mere gap, or physical

commerce and entertainment inclusive of all walks of life, in contrast

container between two buildings. Rather it is an in-between space,

to the current beautification trend that focuses on façade painting

signifying a dynamic process of meditation and negotiation between

and cosmetic improvement, editing out “undesirable” activities and

various socioeconomic and cultural conditions: public versus private

“inauthentic” additions. Thirdly, passageways and in-between spaces

spheres, formal versus informal economies, professionally-designed

offer an arena for a whole array of artistic, cultural and environmentally-

versus vernacular architecture, in addition to being a space of liminality

friendly practices. As a counter-point to the traffic and restrictions

and transition (passage) between two temporal modes or conditions.

encountered on the main street grid, passageways may serve as a stage

Figuratively speaking, the passageway may exemplify the experience

for periodic artistic and cultural programs such as book fairs, children’s

of the past few years in downtown Cairo as a transition between two

festivals, flea markets, and even bike lanes and greenways.

framework for development and regeneration that comprises a mix of

political and urban orders: one that has already collapsed and another in a state of becoming. For architects and urbanists working in Downtown,

Cairo Downtown Passageways Project

the passageway also signifies the potential for a new model of practice. Recognizing the potential and timeliness of this urban typology,


over the past few years CLUSTER has been engaged in investigating passageways as sites for urban regeneration, through extensive mapping,

As a network including over 100 back streets, alleyways and in-between

implementation of redevelopment pilots, publications and websites. In so

spaces, Cairo’s downtown passageways offer a number of opportunities.

doing, CLUSTER has engaged a whole range of Downtown stakeholders,

First, they offer the possibility to experience and reimagine Downtown

from street vendors and shop owners, to residents and real estate

“from the inside out”—a counter-point to the official narrative of nostalgia

developers, to local authorities and civil society organizations.

and lamentation towards Khedival Cairo. Rather than viewing Downtown as a space of threatened architectural heritage, of disappearing Belle


Époque and bygone cosmopolitanism, passageways demonstrate a clear

The Cairo Downtown Passageways Project began with a design studio for

example of living heritage, of a complex and layered urban fabric, and of

senior architecture students at October University for Modern Sciences

Cairo Downtown Passageways 179

and Arts (MSA) in spring 2011, which undertook preliminary mapping of

approach, a schematic set of drawings (plans, sections, sketches) and

historic passages, setbacks, pedestrianized streets, and other leftover

implementation tools.

spaces. The course emphasized a context-based urban design approach, addressing the desires and aspirations of local communities. Utilizing a

From 2012-2015 the CLUSTER team undertook more systematic mapping

student-built site model, several design review sessions were organized

exercises, documenting not only activities, physical features, genealogy

in select Downtown in-between spaces, engaging local users and owners

and typology of these passages, but also conducting interviews with and

of these spaces.

collecting oral histories from stakeholders living, working and/or using these spaces. The outcome of this documentation is now published on a

A second phase of research between 2012–2013 involved the

website: Launched in October

identification of typical situations/conditions and the development of

2015, this website explores cultural and entertainment highlights, spaces

generic solutions. CLUSTER sought to address not only the chronic

of memory and heritage sites alongside Downtown’s back alleys. It

challenges facing public space in downtown Cairo, but also the complex

offers a glimpse into the larger database on Downtown passageways

layers of informal developments that had been accumulating over

and in-between spaces that CLUSTER mapped between 2012-2015:

the past decades. This research was undertaken with a view towards

including activities, patterns of use, typology and genealogy, materiality

developing a set of guidelines and tools for implementation. It hinged on

and texture, circulation and access, roofing and proportion, in addition

drawing a critical balance between organizing the needs and aspirations

to territoriality and tools of demarcation, and other spatial and visual

of the multiple users and stakeholders of Downtown’s public space, while

documentation and analysis. In 2015 CLUSTER published the guidebook:

at the same time building upon and safeguarding the diverse uses and

Cairo Downtown Passageways: Walking Tour, available in Arabic and in

cultural and social mixes that are a fundamental asset of the city center.

English editions. This booklet, which is organized around superblocks and walking tours through their passageways, is a companion guide to

This phase of research also entailed schematic proposals for specific

the Cairo Downtown Passageways website.

passages. Taking cues from the political and urban transformations under way during this time, each design scheme aimed at providing a


more inclusive—and, thus, more sustainable—development framework in

In 2014, CLUSTER’s team decided to embark on a number of pilots in

terms of both activities and users. Each package comprised a concept

specific passageways to test and validate two initial hypotheses: first,

and had become derelict. The architectural design and renovation were undertaken by CLUSTER to create temporary exhibition spaces, including two galleries for sculpture, video, photography and text-based works, one installation space custom-built for the music, light and sound work DOM TAK TAK DOM TAK (2005), and a space Hassan Khan’s music light and sound work DOM TAK TAK DOM TAK (2005), installed in a space custom-built by CLUSTER to interface directly with the Kodak Alley, as part of D-CAF 2014.

for the video installation Jewel (2010), constructed inside an

can passageways offer a more diverse and inclusive public space? And,

old storefront. The Hassan Khan exhibition was conceived by CLUSTER

secondly, what is the role of art and culture as an urban catalyst?

to present a procession of exhibition spaces, interjecting the artist’s ouevre amidst the public and pedestrian activities of the arcade. The

Hassan Khan Exhibition in Kodak Alley

exhibition lasted for one month, during which the CLUSTER team was able to document the impact of this new use on both the spaces and

In the spring of 2014, CLUSTER collaborated with the Downtown

the passageway. Although conceived as temporary exhibition spaces,

Contemporary Art Festival (D-CAF) to install the first major survey

these exhibition halls have gone on to be used by cultural organizations

exhibition in Cairo of Hassan Khan, an internationally renowned, mid-

and individuals in subsequent years, including D-CAF’s 2016 exhibition

career Egyptian artist.

Sounds As If, curated by Aleya Hamza, as well as by Mashrabiya Gallery of Contemporary Art for their exhibition highlighting up-cycling practices

CLUSTER curated and designed the exhibition in four spaces overlooking

From Rags to Riches, and most recently for the British Museum’s Modern

the Kodak passageway, spaces that had been closed for over a decade

Egypt Project installation curated by Mohamed Elshahed.

Cairo Downtown Passageways 181

Kodak and Philip Passageways Redevelopment: Design Elements as Tools for Negotiation Following the success of the Hassan Khan exhibition, CLUSTER embarked on a more ambitious pilot: the redesign of two passageways; the Kodak passageway and the neighboring Phillips passageway. This redevelopment project emerged from a design workshop held in April 2014, organized collaboratively by CLUSTER with the Danish Egyptian Dialogue Institute (DEDI) and the Center for Culture and Development (CKU), exploring art and design interventions in the two passageways. CLUSTER’s design brief for the workshop aimed at promoting a safer and more accessible, diverse and inclusive public space. More importantly, it sought to develop an alternative approach to street design by engaging local stakeholders, in the absence since 2011 of local councils and functioning participatory urban governance. Kodak Passage is a linear space that connects ‘Adli Street to ‘Abd al-Khaliq Tharwat Street. It is flanked by a U-shaped building and is mostly empty, as many of the surrounding shops are either vacant or have low street traffic. The indoor spaces flanking Kodak offer an opportunity for pilot art and cultural programs that may potentially spill over the passage, integrating all premises and engaging these programs with the wider public.

Philips Passage is an L-shaped space connecting Sharif and ‘Adli Streets. It offers an opportunity to engage diverse activities: with its mix of retail, food, entertainment and service uses. It suffered from the chronic, but typical, encroachment into the public domain by shops and street vendors. It also occupies a unique setting between privately owned and public access, pedestrian traffic amenities, and infrastructure. Having worked on mapping, interviews and outreach as part of the larger passageways project, CLUSTER’s team developed a matrix of the multiple positions, interests and aspirations of stakeholders around each passage. This list of “dos and don’ts” was then translated into a design brief, which was given to the design teams, consisting of four Egyptian artists and architects paired with four Danish artists, who were in turn asked to develop design schemes that would negotiate these competing, and often conflicting interests. The outcome of the four-day design workshop selected by a juried review was two concepts: the “Green Oasis” project for the Kodak Passage, and the “Light Oasis” for the Philips Passage. CLUSTER undertook the design development and implementation of the concepts, further adapting them to the needs of the local community and various stakeholders. CLUSTER’s designs emphasize a more diverse, safer, and environmentally enhanced experience in the passageways. The “Green Oasis” transforms Kodak into a pedestrian park, while the “Light Oasis” in Philips brings marquee lighting and the possibility for film screenings to a previously dark and decaying space. The implementation was completed and the

Panel #3 #6

Permits and approvals Despite principal approval of the concept by the Deputy Governor and his team, CLUSTER’s team spent an entire summer acquiring the necessary permits by the relevant local and municipal authorities, including those for water, electricity, natural gas, telecommunication, heritage preservation, traffic and security—seven in total. It became clear that different authorities, and different stakeholders in general, require a different approach, including tailored language and presentation materials. Some initial objections to public benches, for example for reasons of security, were later approved once presented as “raised lighting elements.” Negotiating designs and materials Planting process during construction: Planting of pedestrian park as part of the Kodak Passage redesign and redevelopment by CLUSTER, January 2015.

While the concept design and later development had been presented

newly designed passages were inaugurated on January 17, 2015.

smallest details faced objections and threatened to sabotage the

A number of challenges faced the implementation of these two

project. One example was the choice of tiles, while another conflict

pilots, of which we will summarize a few. It had to be strategically

surrounded the construction of public benches, which some viewed as

determined how to manage and address stakeholders’ needs through

potentially soliciting “undesirable activities,” such as smoking shisha. An

negotiations, without compromising design integrity. By engaging

intensive process of negotiation was necessary to gain stakeholders’

each party on its own terms, listening to their needs and concerns,

acquiescence through trade-offs and compromises. It became clear

and also identifying their potential concessions, the project offered

through this process of “urban diplomacy” that design elements are

an opportunity to further test CLUSTER’s approach of “urban

themselves sites for contestation and negotiation. Rather then seeing

diplomacy”; reaching a common ground between the minimal and

them as obstacles, they hold the key to developing a common ground, if

maximal demands and concerns of the various stakeholders.

not consensus between the local stakeholders.

to the various stakeholders, as the construction proceeded some of

Cairo Downtown Passageways 183

Engaging the wider public Unlike projects for private clients and in private properties, the

Revisiting our Hypothesis and Broader Vision

construction process in public space is exposed to a whole range of

As we update this essay in October 2016, almost two years since

“interested citizens,” whose curiosity about the design, timing, details

the inauguration of the two pilots, we are now in a better position

and funding often extended to advice on “how to make it better.” This

to assess the successes and lessons learned for future projects, as

seemingly benign interference often posed a serious delay in the

our team regularly documents the ways in which the redeveloped

construction. More importantly, if not handled delicately, this issue

passageways are used and maintained, as well as the various

risked alienating some of the neighboring community if they did not

modifications introduced by stakeholders to take into consideration

feel their views were being taken seriously.

in the next pilot. More importantly, the implementation of pilots on the ground enabled CLUSTER’s team to revisit the initial hypothesis about

Maintenance and upkeep

the role of art and culture as urban catalysts, and to project future

Towards the end of the construction process, CLUSTER’s team

steps within the broader vision of passageways as an alternative,

helped set up a board for the passageway to oversee its maintenance

and parallel, framework for the revitalization and regeneration of

and upkeep. While each building has a Board of Tenants, officially


recognized and responsible for its maintenance, the streets and public space are no-man’s land. In the absence of efficient municipal

For example, the Creative Cities: Re-framing Downtown Cairo

services, the latter often fall into disrepair. In the Kodak Passageway,

conference was viewed as an opportunity to experiment with the

CLUSTER’s team developed a plan for gardening, garbage collection,

idea of passageways as sites for cultural programs. Six different

electricity and water, and general maintenance, and presented it

thematic tours were thus organized, capitalizing on the network

to a board we helped form, which includes representatives from

of passageways and back streets to introduce Downtown to the

the tenants, shop owners, businesses and landlords. Since its

uninitiated, and reveal new dimensions and potentials to those

inauguration, the passageway remains in rather good condition, with

familiar with its history and urban landscape. These themes included

a positive sense of ownership and upkeep.

a cinematic tour, a literary tour, a Modernist architecture tour, a bicycle tour, and a tour of the last remaining and lost photography studios (see Downtown Walking Tour section of this publication).

Panel #3 #6

Further, since the conference, CLUSTER’s team has also organized a

This second phase of the project is anchored in the broader hypothesis

number of other programs in passageways, the most important around

that an injection of creative content and revitalization of real estate are

a culinary theme highlighting the role slow food, urban gardens, and

key to the economic development of Downtown. We refer to creative

culinary experiences can play as a revitalizing factor in the city. A

content beyond the traditional understanding of cultural expressions

Cairo Downtown Passages iftar was organized last Ramadan in the now

in public space to extend to an emerging culinary culture, including the

refurbished Kodak Passageway, in collaboration with local restaurant

slow food movement, urban gardening, and alternative culinary and

Eish + Malh, working with Slow Food Cairo through its network to

café cultures. As part of this second phase of development CLUSTER

source organic ingredients from local farms. This iftar brought the local

organized a knowledge exchange with urban farming experts Østergro

community, as well as representatives from the municipal authorities

from Copenhagen and local Slow Food partners the 10,000 Gardens

and civil society organizations, together to celebrate a communal meal

Project. The iftar further sought to offer a pilot for a wider food festival

in this public space. It was an opportunity as well to inaugurate the

in Downtown passages. Currently, CLUSTER’s team is the process of

second phase of CLUSTER’s Cairo Downtown Passageways project, which

engaging Downtown bookstores and publishing houses to explore the

aims to implement a new pilot as a model for art and cultural projects in

idea of a one-day book fair in some of the passages.

additional select passageways. Together, these tours, programs and events also offer an opportunity to engage local authorities and develop platforms for positive collaboration and partnership. CLUSTER aims to continue our emphasis on passageways and back alleyways as more sheltered semi-public spaces that mediate the interface between private premises and shop-extensions, on the one hand, and public realm and general usage, on the other. In inhabiting “cracks between buildings,” the proposed interventions not only pose less threat to authorities,

Cairo Downtown Passageways 185

but also capitalize on a culture of coexistence and accommodation

Together rooftops as an elevated network pose questions of

already active in these passageways.

accessibility and control that may also help unlock, and potentially remedy, some of the main challenges facing Downtown buildings:

Next Stage: Passageways and Rooftops

namely their deteriorating infrastructures, air shafts and stairways. Once stakeholders find it to their own interests, the redevelopment of

In the next stage of this project, CLUSTER aims at extending

a rooftop may indirectly contribute to the upgrading and regeneration

the definition of in-between spaces from passageways and

of the whole building. Yet again, we hope that this next pilot may help

back alleyways to rooftops, as semi-public spaces of common

validate our hypothesis.

use. Downtown rooftops, already vivid examples of social and entertainment spaces, have the advantage of being elevated from

Conclusion and Lessons Learned

street level noise and pollution. In addition, rooftops are subject to fewer security permits and municipal approvals as they are private

The key lesson to be learned from the Cairo Downtown Passageways

properties. Similar to passageways, rooftops offer sites that are

project is the emphasis on the process rather than the design

ridden with infrastructural problems, but rich in their social complexity

aesthetic. The ways in which decisions were made held greater

and potential to act as a network of public spaces.

importance than the design outcome itself. In the absence of functioning local forms of governance, one could wake up one day

CLUSTER has begun to explore the potential of rooftops in a number

in a neighborhood in Cairo to find one’s street being transformed for

of buildings in Downtown. Away from street traffic, noise and

one-way traffic, to have no parking, or even to be closed off to traffic

security concerns, rooftops may offer a shelter for public activities

completely, without knowing why, who made these decisions, and

with relative accessibility to different groups of users. CLUSTER has

the process whereby such decisions were made. The stakeholders

also begun mapping some of the existing and potential activities

approach adopted in the passageways project stipulated engaging

in rooftops as “spaces of the commons.” They range from eco

the different positions, before and during the design and construction,

gardening, restaurants and bars, to experiments with renewable

taking their interests seriously, while trying to mediate and negotiate

energy, and include an array of and cultural spaces, both indoors

these interests. Obviously one cannot satisfy all interests, but rather

and outdoors.

than a zero-sum approach—as for example with the approach to street

Panel #3 #6

Our “urban diplomacy” approach utilizes the basic elements of urban landscape and street-scape (tile, bench, tree, lamp), to develop agreed upon compromises. Rather than consensus, through adaptations of the original design and through tradeoffs between different stakeholders, concessions may be made in return for rewards. It worked. Space and form matter, but are in themselves sites of negotiation and mediation rather than a neutral stage for these interests to be played out.

develop agreed upon compromises. Rather than consensus, through adaptations of the original design and through tradeoffs between different stakeholders, concessions may be made in return for rewards. It worked. Space and form matter, but are in themselves sites of negotiation and mediation rather than a neutral stage for these interests to be played out. The project may thus offer a practical demonstration of the necessity to critically engage all stakeholders, from the immediate residents and shop owners, to civil society organizations, real estate developers and the private sector, as well as municipal authorities and other governmental institutions. Rather than boycott and demonization, there is always room for the development of a common ground between competing interests, maintaining an equal distance while being true to one’s principles and project goals. This necessitates being smart and tactical, keeping the broader vision and long-term strategy in perspective. The Cairo Downtown Passageways Project may also be viewed as

vendors, either leaving the status quo or undertaking a complete

framework for practice, having a broader vision for Downtown

eviction, neither of which is tenable—this approach aims at developing

through its inside alleyways and capitalizing on the role of art

a common ground, whereby each party gets some percentage of their

and culture. The vision or framework is tested through small

desires and concerns addressed, but no one leaves empty handed.

implementation of pilots, the scale of which is manageable in terms

Our “urban diplomacy” approach utilizes the basic elements of

of CLUSTER’s capacities, resources and budgets.

urban landscape and street-scape (tile, bench, tree, lamp), to

Cairo Downtown Passageways 187

Finally, as the revolutionary moment has passed with no chance of a system overhaul in the near future, one is left with a rather reformist strategy and more pragmatic approach to working with state institutions, identifying possibilities within them, and developing common ground. Viewed as such, the network of passageways offer a rich framework for practice, working literally in the gaps and fissures of the city and its institutions, from a place of engagement rather than confrontation.

Cairo Downtown Passages iftar June 2016

Bird’s eye view of the Museum, with the proposed western extension


The Revival of the Egyptian Museum Initiative

For more than 100 years, the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities (commonly known as the Egyptian Museum) has been a landmark in the center of downtown Cairo, renowned for housing the world’s largest and most important collection of Pharaonic art. Equally significant is the Museum’s nineteenth century Beaux-Arts architecture. For decades both the architecture and the collection have been a source of fascination for visitors from all over the world. As such, it has been and still remains, alongside the Great Pyramids of Giza, the most visited cultural heritage site in Egypt. Despite its position among a coterie of world-acclaimed museums, including the National Gallery in London (inaugurated in 1838) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (inaugurated in 1870); the Egyptian Museum, inaugurated in 1902, has deteriorated significantly over the last 60 years. Several factors have contributed to this. These include the continued neglect of management, operations, and maintenance standards; as well as the steady encroachment on the Museum’s ground and buffer zones from the mid-1950s onwards. Inside the building, the exhibition galleries have been crammed with artifacts to accommodate an ever-growing number of new discoveries, resulting in a severe shortage of display space. Many of the objects are now in urgent need of conservation, a problem compounded by

Tariq Zulficar Emad Farid

the total lack of consideration of the impact of environmental factors and prevailing management practices on the artifacts. As for the building, it has suffered many invasive modifications to its original

Panel #3 #6

interior and exterior architectural design. Furthermore, many of the

conservators, architects, engineers, botanists, sociologists, and

amenities and the infrastructure are in a state of disrepair.

economists, to work in close cooperation with both the MA and the Egyptian Museum’s management staff. The overall aim of the

The Ministry of Antiquities (MA) and its Supreme Council of

initiative is to return the Egyptian Museum from its current state of

Antiquities (SCA) have endeavored to address some of the critical

degradation to its former years of glory, and to transform it into a

challenges of conservation. Firstly, they have developed plans and

sustainable center for sociocultural and economic development.

programs for the renovation and rehabilitation of their existing museums, notably the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, and the Greco-

The first phase (2012–2013) of the initiative, funded by the German

Roman Museum in Alexandria. Secondly, they have launched

Foreign Office, focused on the preparation of a comprehensive

an ambitious program for the construction of new museums in

rehabilitation concept. It included research studies, management and

compliance with the International Council on Museums (ICOM)’s

operational considerations, as well as an assessment of architectural

standards, notably the Grand Egyptian Museum and National

rehabilitation and artifact conservation requirements. Selected pilot

Museum of Egyptian Civilization. To date, no definitive plan or list for

physical interventions were carried out to verify research results, and

the distribution of artifacts among these museums, old and new, has

to provide direction for the rehabilitation process. As the Museum

been finalized. It is in this context that the Revival of the Egyptian

building’s structure and environs have undergone significant

Museum Initiative was born.

modification over the past decades, the team investigated available information, such as historic archives, maps, drawings, photographs,

The Revival of the Egyptian Museum Initiative was launched in May

articles, and reports, which provided insight on the initial state of the

2012 by a public-private partnership between the MA; the Foreign

Museum. The team also examined and undertook physical surveys

Office of the Federal Republic of Germany; and Environmental Quality

of the general conditions of onsite infrastructure networks, both

International (EQI), an investment and consulting firm specialized in

outdoors and indoors. The team successfully undertook wall color

natural/cultural heritage conservation and sustainable development.

tests and original flooring investigations. The partial restoration of a

The initiative lies at the heart of an overall national policy and trend

prototype skylight was also undertaken. A detailed work program and

to uphold the value of Egypt’s rich and diverse cultural heritage. EQI’s

action plan consisting of architectural, conservation, and operational

principal role was to field an international team of Egyptologists,

measures for museum-wide rehabilitation was prepared.

The Revival CairoofDowntown the Egyptian Passageways Museum Initiative


The second phase (2013–2015) focused on testing the implementation

to reinforce the relationship between the Museum, its surrounding

of the action plan in some of the halls housing some of the world’s

community, and visitors. Gender equality messages will be given

most valued treasures, the Tutankhamun collection. The team carried

attention and consideration, by highlighting the role of women in

out full restoration of the original walls, floors and skylights in these

Pharaonic times, and showing their relevance to contemporary lifestyles.

halls. Electric networks and lighting fixtures were also renovated and

Public awareness and education activities will be designed to accompany

rehabilitated, while the wooden parts of the display showcases were

the entire life cycle of the initiative.

cleaned and restored, and their glass panes and furnishings replaced. Altogether, these efforts served to validate the model for museum-wide

The selected activity package was carefully assembled with the aim of

restoration. The East Wing of the Tutankhamun Gallery was, in effect, the

enhancing the visitor experience, stimulating public and media interest,

pilot testing zone for revival works.

and invigorating the surrounding businesses in the Tahrir Square zone. The Museum will be physically upgraded and reconfigured to become a

Since its inception, the initiative has been participatory, not only on the

living manifestation of Renaissance Egypt, and a constant reminder of its

operational level, but also in its envisioning and its decision-making

hospitable and inclusive national identity.

process. The capacity installation exercise will be administered through on-the-job training with the relevant women and men at different levels

New Facilities Extending Westward to the Nile

of the managerial and operational structure. Public awareness and educational activities will engage the project team, the Museum’s staff

The Revival of the Egyptian Museum Initiative not only proposes the

and the general public alike. Gender equality will be mainstreamed

revival of the historical Museum building and the upscaling of its

throughout the proposed activities, from capacity development to public

curators, but also presents a comprehensive plan for the adjacent land

awareness activities.

on which stand the Arab Social Union and National Democratic Party buildings. The latter building, which was built on land annexed from the

To help develop the community of both Museum professionals and the

Museum in the 1950s, was burned during the January 2011 revolution,

general public, a series of programs and events will be implemented.

and is currently being dismantled. The reintegration of this 23,200 m² plot

Museum tours, lectures, art/craft/educational workshops, and public

of land into the Museum grounds would reconnect the historic building

meetings will periodically be organized in the Museum grounds,

to the Nile, and would prove highly beneficial from a social, cultural and

Panel #3 #6

economic standpoint. This idea is rooted in the fact that the Nile is as

• The design of a Pharaonic botanical garden that extends to the Nile, as

important to Egypt today as it was in ancient times, when its banks

far as the westernmost boundary of the Museum, as an example of and

witnessed the founding of a great ancient civilization. This connection

reference to the gardens and flora of Ancient Egypt.

is further validated by the presence of the ancient masterpieces that are displayed in the Museum today.

• The creation of a harmonious mix of open, shaded and semi-shaded areas.

We therefore propose to construct a new complex of interspersed low-rise structures to house various facilities and services, all connected by linear,

• The creation of gardens and courts in the planning protocol, in a manner

shaded/pergola pathways. This new complex would be a highly visible

that is consonant with the needs of visitors, and with green architectural

landmark in the center of the capital, and a hub for cultural education and

norms; beginning with the planning, and ending with the architectural



Technical and Conceptual Considerations for the Plan of the Western Zone

• Diversity and flexibility in the use of buildings to achieve the desired level of adaptability to diverse visitation needs. Architectural concept

Technical considerations

The layout is divided into several pavilions, with open inner courts,

The development of an integrated plan including the existing Museum

shaded promenades, colonnades and terraces, all rectangular in shape, in

building, and areas surrounding it, needs to address:

a style reminiscent of Pharaonic architecture. The entire new facility will

• The connection of the Museum grounds with the River Nile, which the

be designed in a way that respects the tenets of Pharaonic architecture,

founders of the Museum and its designer had specifically sought to

including the various gardens and green spaces. The architectural style


will refer to the beautiful designs of Egyptian temples: the strength of rectangular courtyards, the beauty of the colonnades and porticos

• A consideration of the proportions in Ancient Egyptian architecture, as

surrounding them, the simplicity of the stone masonry, the nobility of the

well as the materials used and building methods.

volumetric proportions, and the exquisite quality of the stonework.

The Revival CairoofDowntown the Egyptian Passageways Museum Initiative

The buildings will be relatively low-rise, single-story constructions,


• A small cafeteria.

so as to allow the existing historic Museum building to remain as the main edifice of the site. Furthermore, the planned courtyards and

• A high-end restaurant, overlooking the banks of the Nile. This restaurant

gardens have intentionally been left open and free from buildings on

will have an extensive basement comprising an underground kitchen and

their eastern and western sides, creating an unbroken view of the Nile

other infrastructure utilities.

River from the historic building and across the new complex. • A succession of several pavilions, including galleries and showrooms. Description of new facilities The main elements of the facilities’ composition are:

• An events facility with a separate entrance. This facility, laid out around an inner court and fronted to the north by an expansive terrace, will be

• The Museum’s official shop, accessible from the exit of the Museum, on its north-western corner. • Two new dedicated display halls of 1,240 m² and 800 m², to host various exhibitions of Egyptian fine art, which would be changed every six months, and which would be promoted and advertised internationally. A permanent agricultural exhibit could be an interesting complement to these temporary exhibition halls. • A sculpture court with four shaded pergolas, offering a view on the Nile, across the other new surrounding features. • A public lecture hall/amphitheater. • Commercial boutiques.

Panel #3 #6

available for cultural, social and commercial/private events, such as

dysfunctional shops; and renovating the buildings currently used by

art openings, banquets, parties, concerts, and so on.

the police and Museum security staff on the site’s northern boundary. In addition, a docking facility allowing visitors to access the new

• A striking botanical Pharaonic garden, featuring Egypt’s endemic

facility from the banks of the River Nile will be added, together with a

plant species and historical plants that are known to have been grown

connecting pedestrian tunnel beneath the Corniche thoroughfare.

in Egypt in ancient times, or that have been traditionally cultivated by Egyptian farmers throughout its long history. The existing Museum

Overall, the new facility should not only serve to enhance the cultural

garden, which currently hardly features any endemic plants, will

experience of the visitors, but should also generate revenue to ensure

likewise be redesigned into a botanical Pharaonic garden.

that the Museum’s management always has funds to carry out its maintenance operations adequately. These commercial spaces are

• A shaded Nile promenade on the westernmost side of the complex,

bound to bring a significant return to both the Museum and the tenants

extending from the restaurant to the new exhibition halls and their

of these spaces. The new building will be about 4,000m².

storage area. The Revival of the Egyptian Museum Initiative aims at bringing Cairo • New buildings north of the historic Museum, for the exclusive use of

and the Egyptian Museum on par with other world cities and museums

the various Museum management, staff and security departments.

of today. A parallel should be drawn between Cairo, with its Egyptian

There are currently existing buildings at this location that were built

Museum, and Paris, with the Louvre. In 2014, France hosted 83.7

specifically for this purpose, however they will be redesigned to more

million tourists; of the 32.3 who visited Paris, 8.8 million visited the

closely fit the overall proposed layout and concept. Various visitor

Louvre. In the same year, 9.5 million tourists visited Egypt, and only 1

and staff restrooms will be suitably scattered around the entire new

million visited the Egyptian Museum. There is nothing, in spite of the


obstacles, preventing Cairo from being able to attract investments and tourists as Paris does. The Revitalization of Khedival Cairo project

Implementing this new complex will entail demolishing the

and the Revival of the Egyptian Museum Initiative are the first steps to

new buildings (built in the 1990s) adjoining the Museum at

overcoming barriers to the upgrading of Cairo’s service economy and its

its northwestern corner, which currently house a caféteria and

hosting capacity, so that it can match Paris, and the Egyptian Museum

The Revival CairoofDowntown the Egyptian Passageways Museum Initiative

can match the Louvre.1 The Revival of the Egyptian Museum Initiative represents a solid example of how these obstacles may be removed under the current circumstances. From a cultural standpoint, the Initiative will allow foreign and domestic visitors to acquaint themselves and learn about artifacts, previously kept in storage, that will be seen for the first time, with new exhibition concepts. From an economic standpoint, the initiative will be a major force of attraction for a wide range of visitors, which will increase the occupancy rate in hotels, from its low of 50 percent in 2014. The initiative will increase the consumption of goods and services, improving Cairo’s urban economy and Egypt’s tourist economy at large.

1 The Revitalization of Khedival Cairo project is spearheaded by The National Organization for Urban Harmony (NOUH) and Cairo Governorate, to renovate some of the buildings Tal‘at Harb and ‘Urabi Square (i.e., Qasr al-Nil and al-Alfi Streets), in accordance with Law 144 of 2006. The signboards and façades of shops on the ground floor of some of the buildings in these areas will be removed, to restore the original beauty of the neighbourhood. There are also plans to convert al-Alfi Street into a pedestrian zone. The project is described in detail by Soheir Hawas on p. 160 of this volume.


Advertising imagery on a building owned by Al Ismaelia for Real Estate Investment.


I Am Downtown

This is a picture of my home, of our home. For five of the six years that I’ve lived in Egypt, this is where I resided with my business partner and friend, Dina Abouelsoud. We grew flowers—roses, jasmine, lilies—on the rooftop of our penthouse terrace. We had a small urban garden where we grew chili peppers, peaches, clementines, grapefruits, kumquats, figs, olives on a tree that was brought from Gaza, and lavender that was a gift from a professor from France. I even raised pigeons there. Now the building where we lived is adorned with this advertisement [pictured opposite]. This massive sketch of the same building that it covers is accompanied by the slogan Ana Wasat al-Balad. “I am Downtown.” The logo of Al Ismaelia for Real Estate Investment—the company that made the advertisement and that owns the building—is pictured off to the right. Ana Wasat al-Balad. I am Downtown. I distinctly remember the first day of a class that historian Kalid Fahmy taught on cities at the American University in Cairo (AUC). He asked us to introduce ourselves and state what part of the city we lived in. When it was my turn, he scoffed when I said “Wasat al-Balad.” What is Wasat al-Balad? Downtown? downtown? Centre ville? Where is Downtown? What is the physicality of this identifier that Fahmy called

Nadia Dropkin Dina Abouelsoud

into question? Who is Downtown? Who is Downtown for? How do projects like mine and Dina’s (a hostel, café, and restaurant) make and shape Downtown? How do our personal politics, which inform how we

Panel #3 #6

run our businesses, allow for alternative spaces in this neighborhood

Over the years Dina expanded the hostel by renting the neighboring

in which we work, live, eat, drink, and play?

spaces that tenants vacated due to their high rents. When the hostel closed last year, there were 18 rooms and the place could

As business owners and residents of Downtown, we are deeply

accommodate over 50 guests. Many groups from the art, film, and

invested in and thus are stakeholders—on multiple levels—of this

cultural spaces in Downtown as well as “alternative tourism” groups

space. All three of our businesses to date (Dina’s Hostel, Kafein, and

stayed there.

Eish + Malh) are located within a two-block radius of each other. Here we reflect on what exactly we have been doing these past six years in

The hostel was unique not only in that it was woman-owned and

Downtown: some of our struggles, our successes, our questions, and

run, and that it was clean, but also in how Dina used the common

where we, as two young, female, entrepreneurs, stand and operate

spaces of the hostel. Over the years the space held weekly film

within this space.

screenings, exhibitions, workshops, and she even had partnerships with refugee organizations to provide emergency shelter for women.

In 2002, 13 years ago, Dina moved to Cairo, from Alexandria, on her own. She came to Downtown in search of cheap accommodation,

After the revolutionary uprisings, and after the revolution-related

and ended up working in a number of hostels in the area. Taking a

tourism died down, Dina struggled to pay her high rent; the rental rates

basic salary of EGP 250 (US $28) per month, supplemented by modest

of the hostel’s apartments were established when tourism in Downtown

commissions from her tour sales, her opportunities were bleak.

was booming. During this last period Dina felt she was working for her landlords Al Ismaelia, as all of her income went towards trying to cover

Yet she had a vision of a place where tourists would not be hustled or

the rent. Instead of working with her, to renegotiate the rental rate on

sexually harassed, a place with clean bathrooms and good hospitality.

the basis of the more recent market rates—to preserve this space that

Borrowing money from friends and family she managed to open her

functioned both as a hostel and a community space—the company that

own hostel in 2009. Dina’s Hostel opened its doors with just four

owned the building forced her out by, in large part, turning off the water.

rooms and 10 beds. Needless to say, the hostel was quickly very

This unwillingness to accommodate a business such as Dina’s Hostel, a

successful and grew to be a hub not only for international travelers,

business with an alternative approach, forced its closure. We are

but Egyptians and foreigners living in Egypt as well.

currently looking for a new space.

I Am Downtown 199

Between 2011–2013, I was a graduate student at AUC. I would often

coming to Downtown for many decades to have their morning

complain with my colleagues about how there were no good cafés at

cappuccino or espresso.

which to work and study. This was the seed of Kafein. Kafein was funded independently from a student loan I took, and Dina’s savings.

Since opening, Kafein has hosted bi-monthly art exhibitions. This past spring, with the assistance of curator Alexandra Stock, we worked to re-

But we also had help from our community: our brilliant logo was a gift

conceptualize this aspect of the café and initiated the K Project Space,

from the designer Valerie Arif; we had architectural advice from

which seeks to addresses the in-between, both in terms of physical

CLUSTER’s Omar Nagati as he would pass by on his way home; a

space and disciplines.

drinks manual and recipes were made by our talented friend and foodie Angela Smith. And there were others. The support we received

The idea for this started with the exhibition Cairo Past Futures by urbanist

was immense. People were invested in the concept and potential of

and editor of Cairobserver, Mohamed Elshahed. His exhibition was

the space long before we even opened. We wanted to create the café

different from previous shows with respect to who was producing the

that we, as residents of Downtown, wanted to be in, that we needed

project, the ways in which the works could be discussed, and where the

desperately; that we felt was missing from our neighborhood.

profit from the sale of pieces went, in this case to help fund a print issue of Cairobserver. At K Project Space we thus seek to host works made

The space that we renovated for Kafein had previously been a clothing

from interdisciplinary practices that involve art, as well as to create a

shop, and at one point had served beverages. With Kafein we tried to

bond between innovative projects that require support, and a public that

create a space where global coffee and tea culture blends with the

wishes to actively contribute to these undertakings.

spirit of Cairo: eclectic and familiar, cozy and sometimes surprising, but always charming and personal. We are proud to offer a wide

Our latest project, the restaurant Eish + Malh, is in a space we had our

selection of artisanal coffees and premium loose-leaf teas, seasonal

eye on for many years. Its spaciousness had such potential and

juices, grilled cheese sandwiches and other café fare. Kafein is a

demanded that something special be made of it. To be honest, Dina is the

business run by young entrepreneurs and as such we try to bring a

one with the courageous entrepreneurial spirit. I was terrified. I thought

youthful character to it. Yet if you go to Kafein at seven a.m., you will

the space was too big, the rent too high, but she insisted that it could not

see it is packed with an older generation of people who have been

be left. With this leap, we envisioned a new food establishment that

Panel #3 #6

would offer a distinct taste and menu that was missing from the

October City, and even Alexandria, who come to downtown Cairo

cuisines of Downtown, and arguably Cairo at large.

specifically to eat at Eish + Malh.

The building dates back to the beginning of the twentieth century and

Just last week, we had a guest who said that she had not been to

the space was initially two spaces, a patisserie and a mattress store.

Downtown for almost a decade, but made the visit to come for brunch.

Some time in the middle of the century it was joined into one larger

We also have Downtown residents who have made Eish + Malh their

space and has been a food and drink establishment since. Eish + Malh,

daily spot. A regular guest called me one night to thank us for

the newest incarnation of this space, is a restaurant and cafĂŠ that

improving the quality of her life in Downtown with the establishment of

features new Italian cuisine. We serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily,

Kafein and Eish + Malh. We have succeeded in bringing people to

and specialize in thin-crust pizza, house-made pasta, meats and fish,

Downtown, and we have done it in our own way.

decadent breakfasts, and house-baked desserts, as well as a wide selection of artisanal teas, coffees and other beverages. Since opening almost a year ago, we have held supper clubs and now have live music on various days of the week. We have organized catering for the Townhouse Gallery, CLUSTER, Cimatheque, and others, which are, for us, really important collaborations. Our clientele at Eish + Malh, like at Kafein, is varied. We hope that people of different age groups and social backgrounds, who are looking for a good atmosphere, good food and service, will find such things at Eish + Malh. The artists, activists, and literary folk are there, businessmen and women who work or have meetings in Downtown come as well, people who shop in Downtown also pop in. More recently, as the reputation of the restaurant has become more established, we have started to attract people from as far as New Cairo, Sixth of

I Am Downtown 201

Making our places of business inclusive and accessible to a wide

not force people out of the places that we have rented. Kafein, Eish +

public is very important for us. One of the ways we negotiate this is

Malh, and even Dina’s Hostel were all empty for long periods of time

through our critical engagement with food and drink culture, which is a

before we took over the leases. And yes, maybe we are part of a certain

central aspect of our projects. We wanted to offer everything from El

type of gentrification. And so are others. But what we don’t want to be

Arosa tea to a really nice variety of imported loose-leaf teas, to different

part of is the replication of enclavic class structures, or the production of

types of coffees. It was important to us to offer a spectrum of products

a “class bubble” in relationship to the consumption of food and drink. Our

especially when so many food and drink establishments in Cairo are

engagement with food and drink is more critical than that.

really pitched around class and do not have much diversity on their menus. Our menus are carefully crafted—from the names of dishes,

So while we need to address questions of gentrification, it’s also

what descriptive language we use, how we translate plates, to how we

important to add a certain complexity to this conversation by thinking

price the various dishes that we choose to include.

about internationalism or cosmopolitanism. One of the first reviews of Kafein refered to it as a Berlin-like hipster café. But we have local artists,

Before concluding, I cannot leave the big “G” question unaddressed. As

local staff, and a mixture of local and imported products. There is a local

Elshahed noted in a question he posed to us for a forthcoming piece on

reading of this space. How can we go beyond reading spaces like Kafein

Eish + Malh, small businesses like ours have been primary engines for

or Eish + Malh as wholly imported things? Is this the only lens that we

both the flourishing of vibrant urban culture but also for gentrification

have to understand what is going on in Downtown?

and displacement. He asked us: Will the impact of a place like Eish + Malh take a different trajectory?

And of course we must ask ourselves, what does it mean that a series of successful businesses in Downtown are jointly Egyptian-American owned

This is a difficult question and yet it is with us all the time. As I have

and run. Does it matter that I’m American? There is a long history of

tried to suggest through this anecdotal tracing of our projects, we live

cosmopolitanism in Downtown, and these things and processes are

and work in Downtown, our businesses and investments are in our own

dialectic. Reducing a place like Kafein to saying that this is a version of a

neighborhood. We also do business in a very personal way, not only

Western café in Cairo, by calling it a hipster space, is limiting. And yes, at

through our physical presence in the spaces but also by connecting

Eish + Malh I serve our iced coffee in mason jars, which I schlepped from

with the people and communities who frequent them. Further, we did

the US, but I like having a little piece of New York here.

Panel #3 #6

Downtown is such an interesting place, and not just because I’m from

over 30 people, but we are also creating jobs, training new chefs,

New York and I have romanticized it. A big part of what makes

female baristas, pizzaiola (female pizza chefs) and waitresses.

Downtown interesting is the personal investments in it. There is so much potential here, especially when people don’t simply funnel

We, as residents of Downtown, want a place to have good coffee, a

financial investment into the area, but when they invest themselves into

small tasty snack, a hearty meal, brunch, a shisha, a bowl of house-made

the space. Our time, energy, and creativity is here in Downtown.

artisan ice cream or a fresh tiramisu. This, we hope, is our contribution: offering these services to you, here in Downtown, in these spaces that

I think the strength and success of our businesses stems both from

have become hubs for people to gather, socialize, and be creative.

the fact that we created spaces that we felt were missing from our own

While it’s hard and exhausting, it’s also rewarding and worth it when we

neighborhood, which we know very intimately, and into which we made

see these places buzzing, when we receive positive feedback. Dina’s

a personal investment. This is an alternative approach, one which is

Hostel, Kafein, and Eish + Malh are our small, personalized interventions

not about these large-scale, anonymous visions that see people only as

in Downtown, which we hope make it a more interesting place.

consumers, rather than doers; but rather an approach that encourages independent and personal projects. That is not to say that such projects are without challenges, quite the contrary. The presumably simple job of providing consistently good food, coffee, and service takes a great deal of labor and constant supervision. It is far from easy. Furthermore, neither Dina nor I had any experience in the restaurant business prior to starting our businesses Downtown. It has been a huge learning curve. Then there are the bureaucratic nightmares of licensing, permits, constant inspections, and the inaccessibility of information. For sure, being women doesn’t make it easier. Neither does a lack of capital investment. We also have the huge responsibility of employing

I Am Downtown 203

How do our personal politics, which inform how we run our businesses, allow for alternative spaces in this neighborhood in which we work, live, eat, drink, and play?


Downtown, the City and Citizenship:

The Overlapping Publics and the Struggle for a Republic

Downtown: The Search for Meaning Downtown is an idea that emerged to reflect two dimensions of social life: the space of economic exchange, and the political and public sphere of engagement and expression of citizenship. History has witnessed different examples of the downtown of a city unfolding, but also shifting ground in the process of its growth towards becoming a metropolis or a cosmopolis. Downtown Cairo is a modern project: the Khedive Isma‘il, with a European city in mind, wanted to create a modern image of Cairo that was distinct in spirit and architecture from the older Islamic Cairo. Yet downtown Cairo has witnessed changes in role and centrality with the transformations of the modern project led by the state: from the image of Paris; to the urbanization project of the British occupation; to the socialist Nasserist era; then the al-Sadat “open door” policy, where Downtown as a space lost its attraction in favor of new high streets in other parts of the city (like Muhandisin and Nasr City) in the late 1980s, and big malls in the 1990s. Lately we have seen new “downtowns” emerge in the new suburbs. While these changes reflect the economic and commercial dimensions of Downtown, the streets of old downtown Cairo, stretching from Qasr al-Nil to al-‘Ataba Square, remained a site for political activism: protests, demonstrations, mass events in syndicates and failing

Heba Raouf Ezzat

occupation attempts in Tahrir Square took place in Downtown

Panel #3 #6

between 2003–2011 and after. One cannot define specific

new elitist mega stores, the bars, cafés and night clubs—where many

contours for Downtown. ‘Abdin can be seen as an extension, as

layers of space and meaning and multiple publics have been ignored or

can Rud al-Faraj and Bulaq Abu al-‘Ila. But what marks the heart of


Downtown, in the area between Tahrir Square and Opera Square (formerly named Ibrahim Pasha), with its boundaries stretching

Walter Benjamin (1892–1940) who was a German philosopher and

from Ramsis Street to Muhammad Mahmud Street, and ‘Abdin

cultural critic, associated with the philosophers and social theorists of

Square to ‘Abd al-Mun‘im Riad Square, is the lack of a notion of

Frankfurt School, can be invited to this discussion.

neighborhood. With many inhabitants moving from this center, and clinics and offices increasingly replacing tenants, there has

The Passagenwerk (The Arcades Project, 1927–1940), was Walter

emerged a serious problem of lack of “ownership” of Downtown.

Benjamin’s final, incomplete book about Parisian city life in the nineteenth

This lack of ownership became obvious during the January 25

century. An enormous collection of writings, it was especially concerned

uprising in 2011, when Downtown became the locus of revolutionary

with Paris’ iron-and-glass covered passages couverts (arcades). It includes

actions, clashes and demonstrations, as well as occupation by

descriptions of a flâneur culture: strolling and watching showrooms as

street vendors. After the 2013 ousting of Muhammad Mursi as

well as other people.1

elected president, and the rising control of the army, Downtown witnessed a sweeping securitization and militarization. Unlike other

The Arcades Project is Benjamin’s effort to represent and to critique

areas like al-Matariya or Hilwan for example, there was no social

the bourgeois experience of nineteenth-century history, and, in so

texture to resist or at least negotiate the presence of all types of

doing, to liberate the suppressed “true history” that underlay the

official armed forces.

ideological mask. In the bustling, cluttered arcades, street and interior merge and historical time is broken up and made kaleidoscopic.

The Different Publics of Downtown

At a distance from what is normally meant by “progress,” Benjamin finds the lost time(s) embedded in the spaces of things. The

While Downtown has remained in the imaginary of urbanists as a

arcades were early centers of consumerism. Benjamin’s central

Modernist/liberal space, seen through the lens of the liberal age of

preoccupation is what he calls the “commodification of things”—a

the first half of the twentieth century, with its bourgeois background,

process in which he locates the decisive shift to the Modern age.

Downtown, Cairo Downtown the CityPassageways and Citizenship


It is important to compare his notions with the moment of

Muhandisin. In Downtown and other central Cairo areas many bars and

establishment of modern downtown Cairo by Khedive Isma’il,

places offering alcohol either went out of business, or kept a curtained

but also with the 2011 uprising in transforming the early- to mid-

window in order to go unnoticed. The shops began to display clothes

twentieth century bourgeois culture that was attached to Cairo’s

for veiled women in their showrooms, even though other types of

downtown to become a space of contestation, not progress, and

clothes remained available.

to be opened to new consumers of that space like revolutionary groups, Islamist demonstrators, street vendors and street children.

Needless to say, the presence of places of worship continued to attract many people to Downtown, from the mosques, such

An embedded notion of multiple times overlapping and conflicting in

as al-Rahma, next to an Anglican church in Sabri Abu ‘Alam

the streets, alleys and squares of Downtown, with all its symbolism

Street, to the Kikhia mosque at the end of Qasr al-Nil Street, to

and fragmentations, has emerged during the past few years, and has

the old mosque attached to the monumental traditional-style

rarely been mapped or reflected upon. In this context we should also

building of al-Awqaf (Ministry of Endowments) in Sharif Street.

be aware of the significance of the moment of state intervention in

The landmark of the synagogue in ‘Adli Street should also be

the space by tanks and soldiers to “clear and clean” and “restore

mentioned here, in addition to tens of small Muslim prayer spaces

order” Downtown by chasing all street vendors out of these streets

scattered throughout many alleys and corners of Downtown.

by force. This was propagated as “restoring” the civilized image of Downtown for the sake of the gentrification process that has been

The 1990s witnessed demonstrations and small protest marches

going on for almost 10 years now, interrupted by the events

which continued throughout the following decades, reaching their

of 2011–2013.

peak in 2011. Many events were instigated by youth coalitions who were leftist in affiliation; yet Downtown was also a site for Islamic

In the 1970s, and during the Islamic resurgence, Downtown also

protest events at the Lawyers’ Syndicate (bar association) and

witnessed Islamic events, such as the major ‘id al-Adha prayer in

the Syndicate of Journalists. In 2005 and 2006, with the rise of

‘Abdin Square. People gathered from all over Cairo for the ceremony,

the Kefaya (“Enough”) protest movements, Downtown witnessed

which, following the assassination of President Anwar al-Sadat,

continuous gatherings of families of prisoners (mainly accused

was moved to the new High Street of Jami‘at al-Diwal al-‘Arabiya in

of being Salafi jihadis), calling for the release of their imprisoned

Panel #3 #6

relatives. The outcry over reported sexual harassment of female

traffic jam, but street children and some strange groupings of thugs

journalists encouraged more people to join demonstrations from all

(assumed to be agents of the Ministry of Interior as they also used to

backgrounds—including the Muslim Brotherhood—and this mixed

show up in confrontations between police forces and the activists)

composition of protests in Downtown continued between 2006–

also began to inhabit Downtown streets. These groups occupied Tahrir

2011. Later, after 2011, the ideological divisions surfaced again.

Square on different occasions, and ran the violent clashes in front of the Embassy of the United States of America, known as the “Semiramis”

The Revolution and the Republic

clashes, between 2012–2013.

Though many publics gathered on Tahrir Square in the 2011

It is not possible to present a clear identity for Downtown, which

revolutionary uprising, they managed successfully to negotiate space

has been instead a place of contestation. Downtown has seen the

and roles during the 18 days of protest. After the ousting of Mubarak,

manifestation of multiple demands sometimes representing competing

Downtown became the scene of rising competition between different

ideologies and interests. These have included religious interests, as

publics. The common space became divided, and the different

when Islamists mobilized millions in calls for application of Shari‘a law.

parties tried many times to hijack the symbolic space of Downtown

And, if we include the Maspero area in our sketch as a space of dissent,

in their favor. The different areas witnessed clashes, especially after

these religious interests have included the Christian community’s call

the Muslim Brotherhood won the elections, and the November 2011

for more rights in 2011, which ended with a massacre as army tanks

protest events in Muhammad Mahmud Street were condemned by

rolled over protesters, leaving at least 24 people dead in one night.

some leaders of the organization as “riots,” in spite of the fact that many young Muslim Brotherhood members who joined the revolution

During and after the 2011 uprising, many ideas surfaced advocating

had been participants.

the transformation of Tahrir Square into a “Speakers’ Corner,” where civil and civilized deliberation on citizenship rights would be

Marginal groups that had previously been shunned from the

pursued and secured. This never took place. Further, a consensus

Downtown area—with few exceptions—found in the uprising and the

never took place in the nearby Shura Council during the drafting of

security vacuum the room to occupy many parts of the area. Not only

the 2012 constitution, even if the Islamists managed to lobby, and

did street vendors overrun Tal‘at Harb Street, leading to a continuous

even though the constitution passed by a majority of voices in the

Downtown, Cairo Downtown the CityPassageways and Citizenship

referendum. Thus, legal results were achieved, but the common

and genocide took place.3 The army closed the Downtown area,

political and social contract was far from being reached.

especially after the fatal clashes at the Mosque of al-Fath, when


many young people gathered in Ramsis Street for Friday prayer

Two Spaces, Many Clashes, and Different Notions of Citizenship

to protest the Rab‘a massacre, and faced armed suppression by the police. Backed by live shooting from helicopters, the assault resulted in numerous casualties, arrests, and the burning of the main hall of the mosque.4 Following these events the militarization, as

During 2012–2013, Downtown was defined in terms of politics

well as the securitization, of Downtown became clear and blunt.

as a counter-space to al-Itihadiya Palace, the area where the elected president’s office was located. At a certain point, after

Soon enough the street vendors were brutally kicked out

the presidential elections, supporters of President Muhammad

of Downtown. With the completion of a large parking lot

Mursi located themselves in front of al-Itihadiya, and Downtown

adjacent to Tahrir Square, the finalization of the Ritz Hotel’s

spaces were occupied by forces of opposition. Yet this rule

refurbishment on the square itself, and the revival of the

was reversed when in November 2012 the president issued a

Downtown gentrification plans, Downtown seemed to be primed

constitutional decree that was not welcomed by the opposition.

as a site for new interest groups. More neoliberal interests replaced the potential manifestations of protest. Not only is the

Demonstrators occupied the al-Itihadiya area for days, until clashes

old campus of the American University in Cairo now witnessing

erupted between Muslim Brotherhood members and the protestors.

landscape changes, but the main Mujamma‘ building has been

By the end of the night of December 2, the clashes left eight people

sold to investors and will probably be turned into a hotel.

dead and tens of casualties.


Protest itself was soon prohibited by a harsh law that brought This was before the June 30 demonstrations of 2013, and by

tens of political figures to prison, only to join tens of thousands

July 3 that year the armed forces moved to seize power and

of detained and imprisoned activists accused of joining the

arrest Mursi, the elected president. Army supporters filled Tahrir

Muslim Brotherhood, which was declared a terrorist group.

Square round the clock, until August 14 when the Rab‘a ideocide

Panel #3 #6

Though we tend to place Downtown at the heart of the urban scene, it is amazing to see on the other side the rise of rural protests, which faced direct intervention by the armed forces in Fayum, Kirdasa, Damyatta and even Upper Egyptian villages. The actions of dissent moved to more popular and highly populated areas, the obvious example being al-Matariya and Hilwan. The last decades witnessed the rise and fall of many notions of Downtown, and though different publics have called for recognition, the ultimate goal of the republic was not embraced by many. The history of Downtown as a public space is still unfolding.

1 Walter Benjamin,The Arcades Project, trans. Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2002) 2 Fady Salah. “Differing reactions to Itihadiya violence” Daily News Egypt February 2, 2013, http://www. 3 Ideocide, genocide and urbicide are three faces of what happened in Rab‘a Square when a sit-in that lasted for six weeks was attacked by the state forces and a “battle” took place, which amounted to a massacre leaving at least 800 people dead in the square, and hundreds who died later in hospitals. For more on the notion of ideocide, see Arjun Appadurai, Fear of Small Numbers: An Essay on the Geography of Anger (London: Duke University Press, 2006) 4 ‘Umar Shakir, Arthur R. and Barbara D. Finberg, “All According to Plan, The Rab’a Massacre and Mass Killings of Protesters in Egypt” Human Rights Watch, last accessed 18/08/2016 report/2014/08/12/all-according-plan/raba-massacre-and-mass-killings-protesters-egypt

Dialogues 211

Tarek Atia: “I want to focus on the concept that

Heba Raouf Ezzat: “I think [the solution] is democracy, a

was brought up in the EQI [Environment

genuine understanding that the state is

Quality International] presentation,

not there ... to control. It is regulated and

which is the garden above Tahrir garage

it provides services. You said that the

… Cairo Governorate has actually put out

offer was in the newspapers calling for

a call for proposals in the newspaper,

[proposals from] planners or architects,

calling for companies to bring them

but you are also calling for investors to

ideas regarding how the space above

come and adopt it. Here, money talks; C

the garage should be used. The question

stands for capital and it also stands for

I want to ask is not what is better;

capitalism. The fact that the Nile Hilton

whether it be a café area or a built-up

became the Ritz and the whole of [that

area or a garden; but rather how can

area] changed, and the bringing down of

we make that decision-making process

the National Democratic Party building

more transparent, more inclusive and

indicates that you are talking about

more consensual for everybody who is

an obvious plan to completely change

going to experience life there, whether it

the face of Tahrir and to wipe out this

be residents, visitors or businesses? …

revolutionary space—this revolution was

How can that process be more inclusive

only four years ago. And the people are

and perhaps more like a conference like

not engaged.

this, a platform for debate? How can we make that more effective?”

I live on Tahrir Square but nobody asked me what I want to do here, not even during the time before 2013 … My suggestion in the middle of the January 25 revolutionary uprising was to make a Hyde Park; we want to turn it into a really public space when this revolution finds its way to becoming

more established. What you mentioned about al-Bursa [whose street traders were evicted without notice] is very indicative. You might find, at the end of the day, that someone in the Ministry of Interior has decided that this area is a headache and that nobody cares about heritage. Then we start negotiating. Furthermore, there is the surveillance that is taking place now. All the streets in Downtown have surveillance cameras … So I think it is a question of who the stakeholders are.”

Panel #3 #6

Emad Farid: [Translated from Arabic]

“The very detailed study undertaken about the museum required a lot of time for discussion even inside the government between those who are for and against the idea. But at the end of the discussion, the dominant opinion was that the relation between the museum and the Nile has been an intimate one from the very beginning. You may also be surprised to know that most of the museum items were carried on the Nile to the museum. The other surprise was that the tunnel connecting the museum to the Nile still exists. It is not only registered in the Ministry of Irrigation’s database but it is also well known to the old boatmen working on the Nile. The second surprise was the fact that the museum garden has become a very poor garden. This is the result of losing a character in Egypt, Dr. Lutfi Polis, who was the most significant botanist in the world. It was our pleasure at EQI to work with him and he did a great job at the Siwa Oasis. When he studied the trees

at the museum, he found them in very

which was their dream. But the Nile

poor condition, and he found there was

flooding harmed the museum at Bulaq,

no relationship between the garden and

and forced them to take steps away

the spirit of the museum. In this way, he

from the river. If you look at the images

was sad to see that even the papyrus

of Cairo in the 1930s and 1940s, you will

located in the rectangular pond in front

notice a small building located between

of the museum is fake. He dreamt of

the museum and the Nile. This was

adding an extension to the existing

the storage building that received the

garden, which would be designed as

antiques before exhibiting them. Then,

a botanical garden, connecting the

it was used in the periods of the First

museum to the Egyptian land and to the

World War and the Second World War as

Egyptian Nile.

a field hospital for the English camps.

The area located on the top of the

We are trying to accurately track the

garage wasn’t studied thoroughly,

area’s history and it has always been

but the main idea was to create an

related to the museum ... So this was

extension around the museum that

the dominant point of view in the

reflects Egyptian culture. At EQI ... our

government and we are just trying to

role was to do a study that would help

help them to keep the situation as it

the authority responsible for antiquities

is, so that this land can be used to

to prevent any real estate investments in the area. The history of the Egyptian Museum in Egypt began in Bulaq, and then they moved it to Giza temporarily. And its concept has always been to connect it to the Nile. However, it was constructed somehow far from the Nile even though they could have built it next to the river,

reconnect the museum to the Nile.”

Dialogues 213

Omar Nagati: “I think in general that this is what

police, your neighbor, your uncle or your friend because it is not clear what would

Heba Raouf Ezzat: “I noticed in the conference five notions

the conference aims to do; to develop

be the reference point that would resolve

that start with an “i”. There is “information”;

a platform as a consultancy or a

the conflict.

we have to a great extent a lack of information and the issue of who takes

participatory platform that works with the authorities. But, I think this

Thus, the idea of multiple publics

the decisions regarding Downtown, and

issue of “the public” is a bit confusing,

should also assume that there is a

then about what happens when the

because the very notion implies a

meta-public, it could be a parliament, it

decisions are taken democratically and

certain reference or a normative order

could be a constitution but without that

then everything evaporates. The second

that everybody turns to in a conflict.

we are basically fragmenting society

notion is “informality”; there is a degree of

But you have multiple publics and you

into communal strife. To me this is the

informality in Downtown though we do not

have multiple frames of reference, in the

larger issue. To be more specific; in a

see it. The issue of what happened to the

absence of a framework for democracy

project like The Egyptian Museum or in

shops for example; informality in the sense

or negotiation. Like we have seen in

the passageways, I think there should

of good and bad. Informality can be good

New York in this very clear example [of

be a mechanism in the absence of a

but it can be bad as well. Then “intimacy”;

Zuccotti Park]; there are rules, and then

functioning local council or a local

Nadia [Dropkin] and Dina [Abouelsoud]

somebody changed them, and then it

democracy where people can really

were talking about intimacy, about creating

went to court, and then the court ruled

voice their concerns or suggest ideas

spaces that are intimate, that are warm,

and that was it. So at least there was

in a public hearing. This should be a

that are hospitable etc. So when we think

a reference point, so that when things

civil society mechanism, like what we

about Downtown we should also think

happen in this conflict you knew how to

are doing here, that is a bit formalized,

about intimacy, creating memories and

deal with it. Here you will have multiple

that would channel the interest and the

spaces that accommodate a sense of

publics and as we have seen after 2011,

concerns of multiple positions. We have

passion and belonging. Not necessarily

2012 and 2013, when the state was

to be a bit more careful in choosing

falling into nostalgia or anything, like I do all

relatively weak and security was almost

these positions, and at least be more

the time. Then there is “impersonalization”

absent, the streets were not fun. They

representative, so that the ideas of the

meaning that everybody is taking the space

were ruled in many ways by thugs, not

people could be channeled to authority.

according to their own gaze and their own

all of them, but there were multiple rule

Then they can take it or not—that is

rationale. The last word is “imprisonment.”

systems. To this day, if there is a fight

something beyond us. But at least there

We do not want to gentrify Downtown ... to

you do not know if you should call the

should be a mechanism to channel this.”

turn it into a nice, cozy prison.”

2. Proceedings B- Downtown Walking Tours

Photo from Modern Architecture tour

Tour #1

Literary Tour Tour Leader

Samia Mehrez

This tour focused on the Cairo of the literati, as represented in their literary works. The sites visited are integral to the writers’ personal histories and their literary production. From the American University in Cairo’s historic Ewart Hall and the neighboring French Lycée, to Tahrir Square and Cairo’s downtown bars, cafés, cultural venues, and clubs, the tour mapped the various impacts of these iconic places on Cairo’s authors, as well as the extent to which the places have been transformed over time, for both the city and the works’ authors. The tour culminated in a discussion at the Automobile Club with the tour leader.1 1 This tour was developed in collaboration with Samia Mehrez with reference to her books: The Literary Atlas of Cairo: one hundred years in the life of the city. Cairo; New York: The American University in Cairo Press, 2010 and The Literary Life of Cairo: one hundred years in the heart of the city. Cairo; New York: The American University in Cairo Press, 2011.



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Locations 01. AUC Tahrir 113 Al-Qasr al-’Aini St.

09. The Greek Club 21 Mahmud Basyuni

01. The Map of Love (1999) Ahdaf Soueif

07. Out of Place (1999) Edward Said

02. French Lycée Muhammad Mahmoud

10. Groppi Tearoom and Rotunda 21 Mahmud Basyuni

02. Ya‘ish Ahl Baladi (Long Live the People of My Country) (1972) Ahmad Fuʼad Najm

08. Ushaq Kha’ibun (Failed Lovers) (2007) Ihab ‘Abd al-Hamid

03. Friendly Fire (2011) Alaa Al Aswany

09. The Heron (2005) Ibrahim Aslan

04. The Yacoubian Building (2002) Alaa Al Aswany

10. Ana Hurra (I am Free) (1952) Ihsan ‘Abd al-Qaddus

15. Revolution is My Name (2014) Mona Prince

11. The Hashish Waiter (2011) Khairi Shalabi

16. Checkpoints Mourid Barghouti

12. The Open Door (1960) Latifa al-Zayyat

17. Middaq Alley (1947) Naguib Mahfouz

03. Tahrir Square 04. ElHorriya Café/Bar 2 Mazlum Pasha 05. Zahrit al-Bustan 29 Huda Sha‘rawi . 06. Café Riche 17 Tal‘at Harb 07. Odeon Hotel Rooftop/Bar 4 ‘Abd al-Hamid Sa’id 08. Cairo Atelier Karim al-Dawla

11. Le Grillon Restaurant 8 Qasr al-Nil 12. Merit Publishing House 6 Qasr al-Nil 13. Automobile Club 10 Qasr al-Nil

05. The Automobile Club (2013) Alaa Al Aswany 06. Cairo Stories (2007) Ann-Marie Drosso

13. Miq‘ad Akhir fi Qa’at Ewart (The Last Seat in Ewart Hall) (2005) Mai Khalid

19. A Piece of Europe (2003) Radwa Ashour

14. Cairo Swan Song (2006) Mekkawi Said

21. Cairo from Edge to Edge (1998) Sonallah Ibrahim

18. The Day the Leader Was Killed (1983) Naguib Mahfouz

20. Sharaf (1997) Sonallah Ibrahim

22. The Law of Inheritance (2005) Yasser Abdelatif

Panel#1 Tour #3

Samia Mehrez: “Let’s not forget that this institution [the American University in Cairo] was at the very heart of Tahrir Square during the uprising and you obviously have seen the famous Muhammad Mahmud wall that is a memorial for the martyrs of the revolution … But, as we understand from the administration, the wall will go. And this is a living artistic literary document chronicling Egypt’s uprising. People who have taken images of it, over the past four or five years, have the whole story of the revolution to tell simply by reading the walls.”

Literary Tour 219

Tour Panel#1 #3

Literary Tour 221

Tour #2

Biking Tour Tour Leaders:

Dirk Wanrooij Nancy Naser Al Deen

This tour aimed to encourage biking through downtown Cairo, and exploration of the city at a different pace. Cairo, being the flat city that it is, has great potential for being a bike-friendly space with a reduced carbon footprint. The participants of this tour got to enjoy a journey through downtown Cairo, discovering historical sites, in-between spaces, and modern-day cultural hubs; all by bicycle. The tour embarked in Tahrir Square and culminated in the courtyard of Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art and Tak‘iba Café.1 1 Tour was developed in collaboration with Ain Bicycles. Photos © CLUSTER



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Heritage Sites


01. Al-Nadwa al-Thaqafiya Café

01. Cimatheque

01. Cosmopolitan Hotel

01. ‘Abdin Palace

A6. Al-Sharifayn Passageway

02. Groppi Tearoom and Rotunda

02. Zawya

02. Windsor Hotel

02. Opera Square

E4. Al-Shawarbi Passageway

03. Kunst Café

03. Townhouse Gallery

03. Grand Hotel

03. Immeubles Khèdiviaux

F1. Kodak Passageway

04. Kafein

of Contemporary Art

04. Carlton Hotel

04. Ramsis Station

M7. Al-Alfi Bey Passageway

05. Odeon Palace Hotel

05. Al-Azbakiya Garden

L8. Al-Tawfiqiya Market Passageway

06. High Court

Panel Tour #2 #3

Biking Tour 225

Tour #3

Cinematic City Tour Tour Leaders:

Aida El-Kashef Mohammed Gawad Using films shot on location in downtown Cairo, this tour explored how filmmakers used the iconic landscapes of Downtown to tell different stories over the past five decades. Whether in posing as a spectacular backdrop in classical black-and-white movies, or by reflecting more turbulent moods via its alleyways and rooftops in contemporary setups, this multi-layered zone has always lured the cinematic eye to use and abuse it in its own way. As it harbored the most glamorous cinema theaters in the city, Downtown was at once the medium and the message of these movies, creating a double mirror effect that reveals the ever-entangled relation between the city and its Egyptian cinematic representation. These movies raise questions about changes in public space and the urban experience: from mobility and restriction, to diversity and demographic change, to mainstream and underground cultures. The tour culminated with a screening of short scenes from films shot in Downtown followed by a critical discussion with the tour guides.1 1 Tour was developed in collaboration with Tamer Said, Aida El Kashef, and Mohamed A. Gawad.

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Set Location


01. Al-Tahrir Zone

01. Haya aw Mawt (Life or Death), 1954 Director: Kamal al-Shaykh

05. Darbat Shams (Hyperthermia), 1980 Director: Muhammad Khan

09. Al-Harrif (The Professional), 1983 Director: Muhammad Khan

02. Al-’Ataba al-Khadra ‘Ataba Square, 1959 Director: Fatin Abd al-Wahhab

06. ‘Uyun la Tanam (Sleepless Eyes), 1981 Director: Ra’fat al-Mihi

03. Ma’budat al-Jamahir (Fans’ Goddess), 1967 Director: Hilmi Rafla

07. Al-Tha’r (The Revenge), 1982 Director: Muhammad Khan

10. Al-Hubb fawq Hadabat al-Haram (Love above the Pyramids Plateau), 1986 Director: ‘Atif al-Tayyib

04. Hammam al-Malatili, 1973 Director: Salah Abu Sayf

08. Arzaq ya Dunya, 1982 Director: Nadir Jalal

02. Al-Falaki Zone 03. Al-Bursa Zone 04. Tal‘at Harb Square Zone 05. Shawarbi + Tal‘at Harb St Zone 06. Qasr al-Nil Zone 07. 26 July Zone 08. ‘Abd al-Mon’im Riad Zone 09. Al-Alfi Zone 10. Opera Square Zone 11. Ramsis Station/Square Zone

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11. Malaff fi-al-Adab, 1986 Director: ‘Atif al-Tayyib 12. Al-Irhab wa-al-Kabab (Terrorism and Kabab), 1992 Director: Sharif ‘Arafa

13. Rumantika, 1996 Director: Zaki Fatin ‘Abd al-Wahhab 14. Banat Wasat al-Balad (Downtown Girls) Director: Muhammad Khan 15. ‘Imarat Ya‘qubiyan (The Yacoubian Building), 2006 Director: Marwan Hamid

Panel Tour #3 #3

Cinematic City Tour 229

Tour #4

Last and Lost Photography Tour Tour Leader:

Paul Geday This photography-themed tour of Downtown was based on the research done for the “Studio Viennoise” exhibition held in 2012, which focused on the great portrait studios of the 1950s and 1960s. Most have disappeared; one of the last of them, Nubar Keropian of Studio Kerop, closed just one month before the tour. Geday’s photographic series Last and Lost also tracks these haunting traces. The tour followed the tracks and hunted for the remaining artifacts of these lost temples of glamour. It started with one of Downtown’s last operating studios, which now specializes in passport photos, but still maintains an impressive collection of hand-painted portraits in a very mysterious setting. The tour also stopped at “Bella,” a studio that has been active for more than a century. It concluded at the legendary Lehnert and Landrock.1 1 Tour was developed in collaboration with Paul Geday. Tour itinerary and data based on “Last and Lost” studios of Cairo (P. Geday), a work in progress that was part of “On photography, at Studio Viennoise” exhibition, © Paul Geday 2012-2015 All rights reserved including electronic publishing, databases, social media or otherwise. Photographs © Paul Geday, All rights reserved. Captions by Paul Geday, as part of the “Last and Lost” series.

Last and Lost Photography Tour Map


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Last Studios

Lost Studios


01. Al-’Arise Studio

01. Actina Photo Store

08. Armand First Studio

15. Van Leo

01. Antar Photo stores

08. Reader’s Corner Bookstore

02. Al-Shimi Photo Stores

02. Armand

09. Weinberg

16. Aftro

02. CIC

03. Lehnert & Landrock

03. Alban

10. Studio Kerop

17. Livres de France Bookstore

03. Kamal Mitry Lab

09. Labib Camera Repair Shop (off map)

04. Antro

04. Studio Bella

11. Kodak Building

04. El Houthy

05. Venise (off map)

05. Studio Venus

12. Selim Youssef Studio

05. Camera Shop

06. Garo

13. Studio Nassef

06. Lucky Photostores

07. Hanselman

14. Studio Vart

07. L’Orientaliste Bookstore

** “Studio Viennoise” temporary studio set up in November 2012 for the eponymous exhibition.

Tour Panel#4 #3

Last and Lost Photography Tour

Paul Geday: “Probably the last working studio in downtown Cairo. Beautiful, specializes in passport photos...�


Tour #5

Modernist Architecture Tour Tour Leader:

Mohamed Elshahed

This tour, with reference to Discovering Dtowntown Cairo, surveyed striking buildings with clear lines and modern shapes.1 Downtown was a laboratory for Egyptian Modernist architects, who emerged in the early 1930s, to build grand buildings using styles that stand in contrast with the architectural aesthetics of the Downtown buildings erected during earlier decades and largely designed by Europeans. The rise of Modernist architecture in Downtown was linked to nationalist politics and the rapid Egyptianization of the profession. This tour ended with a discussion at the Carlton Hotel rooftop with the tour leader. 1 This tour was developed in reference to Vittoria Capresi and Barbara Pampe, eds., Discovering Downtown Cairo: Architecture and Stories, (Berlin: Jovis, 2014), courtesy of baladilab. With additional input from Mohamed Elshahed. Photos: Š Maria Hänichen, Sandra Mrowet.

Modern Architecture Tour Map CLUSTER Mapping Initiative

Midan/Square Walking Trail Start Point End Point

Modernist Buildings 01. ‘Aziz Bahri Building 02. Soussa Building (AKA Air India Building) 03. Ahmad Kamal Building 04. Khuri Building 05. Goodluck Building 06. Avedissian Building 07. Immobilia Building 08. New Assicuranzi Generali Trieste Building 09. Ades Building 10. George and Helal Shama’a Building 11. Ouzonian Building

Tour #5

Mohamed Elshahed: “The first examples of Modernist architecture in Cairo were actually villas. Individual small houses in Zamalek, in Heliopolis in Ma‘adi and a little bit in al-Duqqi and ‘Aguza. So we started to see actual Modernist architecture as an expression of Egyptian Modernity … It is only by the mid- and late 1930s that you start to see the style coming to Downtown and being built at a quite large scale. So at the eve of the Second World War, politics were in a really dark place in Egypt but the economy was quite strong as far as realestate investment goes. A lot of these buildings were commissioned by mostly Egyptian owners and given to Egyptian architects. So there is a very nationalist undertone to the legacy of Modernist Egyptian architecture in Cairo.”

Modernist Architecture Tour 237

Tour #5

Modernist Architecture Tour 239

Tour #6

Cairo Downtown Passageways Tour Tour Leader:

Omar Nagati

Based on CLUSTER’s extensive research on downtown Cairo’s passageways, this tour explored Downtown’s network of passages, back alleys, side streets and in-between spaces, which house an array of commercial and entertainment activities. These activities extend to the gaps between buildings, setbacks, courtyards, and a number of side streets that were either officially or de facto pedestrianized. Uses of these spaces range from food places and coffee shops, to sites for trade and retail, including stationery stores and bookstores, bars and restaurants, galleries and art spaces. Being off the main channels of traffic, they operate as hubs for competing interests and claims to space. Viewed together, they offer an opportunity to re-envision Downtown as a network of pathways housing commerce and entertainment.1 1 This tour was developed in reference to CLUSTER’s publication Cairo Downtown Passageways: Walking Tour and accompanying website: Photos © CLUSTER

Cairo Downtown Passageways Tour Map

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Art & Culture



01. Townhouse Gallery of

01. Cinema Radio

01. ElHorriya Café/Bar

07. Le Grillon Restaurant

01. Cosmopolitan Hotel

Contemporary Art

02. Cinema Odeon

02. Al-Nadwa al-Thaqafiya Café

08. Kafein

02. Grand Hotel

02. Rawabet Theater

03. Cinema Metro

03. Fasahet Sumayya Restaurant

09. Kunst Café

03. Carlton Hotel

03. Zawya

04. Cinema Cairo Palace

04. Stella Bar

10. Simonds Bakery & Café

04. Windsor Palace Hotel

05. Café Riche

11. Cap D’or Bar

05. Continental Hotel

04. Cimatheque

06. Estoril Restaurant

Vintage Hotels

Panel#6 Tour #3

Omar Nagati: “We’ll try to walk through Downtown passages, or Mamarat Wasat al-Balad. Many things that you don’t see on the streets are happening in these back alleyways; coffee shops, bars, gallery spaces, bookstores. And it is also an opportunity to conceive of Downtown through this network of passageways, off the main streets with their traffic and noise and pollution. As we walk today, you’ll see a lot of this informal layer, and the contrast between informal/vernacular on the one hand, and the original or the formal architecture on the other hand. I think it is also important to look at the relationship between the two layers as something that reflects the encounter between different groups of society, in terms of culture and class.”

Cairo Downtown Passageways Tour 243

3. Mada Masr On Creative Cities: Re-framing Downtown Cairo

Downtown as Laboratory: Q&A on Cairo’s Creative Cities conference CLUSTER and AUC hold conference on alternative visions for downtown Cairo

Both government and private sector plans for historical downtown Cairo came to a pause with the January 25 uprising in 2011, but four years later they’re back in gear. Against this backdrop of a return to order, downtown hosts a multidisciplinary conference exploring alternative visions for the area. The international Creative Cities conference, organized by urban design and research platform CLUSTER and the American University in Cairo (AUC), seeks to bring together stakeholders who often don’t speak to one another and give information to the public. Like the conference CLUSTER organized with AUC in 2013, Learning from Cairo, the two days will consist of talks, discussions and critical urban walking tours. Among its several projects, CLUSTER boasts an open library on architecture and urban planning and a unique interactive map of events and initiatives around Cairo. Mada Masr sat with CLUSTER cofounders Omar Nagati and Beth Stryker to talk about their work, downtown Cairo and the conference. Mada Masr: What was the idea behind establishing CLUSTER? Omar Nagati: We started, like many other initiatives, after the revolution. We were interested in the mass changes on the ground, interested to see these changes involving public space. The idea was to establish or loop together architects, artists and urbanists who are interested in

Passant Rabie

urban research and design. We started to develop different programs.


MM: What are some of the programs that you have developed?

of order. That’s why we were taking the time to document changes on the ground, and now what we’re seeing is a return to order. All along,

ON: We have four sets of activities: One is the design projects, such

one of our themes has been the role of art and culture as a catalyst

as Cimatheque (, and

for urban development in downtown Cairo. One of the things we’re

Kodak (

hoping to accomplish with the Creative Cities: Re-framing Downtown

show-cairo-qahassan-Khan) and Philips (

conference is to revisit some of the questions we’ve been posing over


the past few years on the role that arts and culture play in downtown in

dialogue) passageways. The second module is research, including

particular. Now we’re hoping to bring in actors from different positions:

Archiving the City in Flux, looking at the transformation of the city,

from the government, the private sector, the arts scene, and to use this

Downtown Passageways, and Street Vendors Initiative. The third module

as a forum to understand what the plans are for downtown, and try

is programs, conferences, workshops and public sessions as well as

to be a part of the conversation, and bring alternatives to the table.

developing mapping websites, we also have a library project. Finally we have a training and internship program, including collaborations

ON: The city is changing on two levels. There are changes on the ground

and partnerships with local and international universities.

governing practice in public space, including stronger enforcement of law in addition to more permits and approvals for public activities.

MM: It’s probably safe to say that the city has changed over

There also new laws creating more limitation and restriction on

the past few years. How has that affected your work?

organization in the art and culture spheres. Change on both the ground and legal structures are defnitely affecting what we can and can’t do.

Beth Stryker: When Omar and I started working together, a lot of what we were looking at were questions related to the city in flux: we were

MM: Tell us more about the conference.

looking at this being a moment when things were possible, and asking, as architects and planners, how can we take advantage of what’s happening

ON: The idea of the conference is an extension and

on the ground. I think in particular with downtown Cairo, you see a lot

culmination of a theme that we started three years ago,

of transformations. At the time when we were undertaking research on

basically looking at the role of arts and culture in the

the city in flux, we knew that at some point there would be a restoration

regeneration of downtown. Is there a role that they play?

Panel Mada #3 Masr on Creative Cities

BS: We were interested in bringing in people who have

information, that there are no public hearings. It’s an opportunity to

assets and infrastructure in downtown, and who are

have an open discussion. It’s an opportunity for people to air their

already in some way engaged in arts and culture.

alternative visions for downtown, and I think particularly for the cultural sector, which has already had an impact on downtown, but

ON: We have already started this dialogue through earlier convening

it’s also a question of how do you have a voice in that discussion.

by inviting some of these actors, and creating a platform to make

ON: At the very least, the conference aims to create a forum for

information available and enable the public to react. To bring the

dialogue and to generate ongoing discussion. A more ambitious

stakeholders of downtown and try to make sure that the arts and culture

goal is establishing a framework whereby different stakeholders

scene, which has gone through rapid changes, will have a say in what’s

can have a say in what happens in downtown. In other words, to

happening. It is interesting that many of the current plans for downtown

broaden the constituency of downtown development plans.

are taking place without the public knowing why and how these decisions are being made. So, on the one hand, the conference will continue this

MM: Do you see all these different players potentially co-existing

process of bringing in arts and social actors, but it also aims to broaden

in downtown?

the scope of the debate by inviting planners, advisors to the governor, consultants with the Ministry of Culture, large developers and small

BS: Why not? Another question we’re hoping to raise is regarding

businesses, but also to invite international experience, case studies, so

gentrification. There’s a lot of fear and speculation over what’s going

that we can address a larger question of gentrification, issues of heritage

to happen in downtown with respect to gentrification, and yet Cairo

preservation, questions of public space, questions of policy. The idea

really is different in a lot of ways from cities like New York and Berlin

of reframing downtown is to explore alternative visions for downtown.

in terms of rent control laws, etc. So we want to ask the question: Is gentrification inevitable? And how can we imagine a different future?

MM: What are you hoping will come out of this sort of interaction? ON: We need to engage the triangle of private sector to promote BS: It’s a combination of things. We want to create a forum where

business, the government as regulatory authority, and civil society

this information can be shared. One of the things that did strike

with critical vision and social diversity. The question of urban

us in the past was that the general public are not aware of this

governance and regulations is very important. Four years ago, the

Downtown as Laboratory 249

government was relatively absent and some streets were ruled by

complexity. In Europe, it takes five years to restore a historic building.

thugs. We definitely need the government but we need one that is

We’re completing major national projects in a year, so when it comes to

accountable, representing the will of the constituencies. We don’t have

downtown, there is the expectation that changes should take place within

local councils, therefore residents of downtown don’t have a way to

six months. It’s important to find a common ground, to figure out how can

complain or express their interests. We think the government has a

we push it forward in a more critical way. They have resources that we

role, and the private sector also has a role in creating jobs and income

don’t have, and the money comes from the private sector. This is how we

generation, and then there’s the role of the arts and civil society. The

did the passageway [project], the money came from the private sector.

three positions are necessary, and none of them should be excluded.

We have to pay close attention to their needs. We have to negotiate a common ground. It is good that the government is paying attention to

BS: What is gentrification? I think that is the question.

downtown. I’m against demonizing; it’s not a war. It’s healthy to have different positions — that’s democracy. I’m against having one monolithic

ON: There’s this fear of change. If change is happening too fast then

vision; we have to debate. At the end of the day, we’re in a public space.

you’re also excluding generations and societal debate. It’s good to have a process of change in increments, and allow a process of review. The

MM: Could you tell me about the walking tours part of the conference?

point is not to stop the process but make it more inclusive. One of the major challenges in Cairo is lack of information. We don’t know. We

BS: We partnered with different artists and academics, as part of our

need critical analysis. If we say, don’t touch anything so you don’t have

CLUSTER mapping initiative. We’re designing some of the tour itineraries

gentrification, then things will start to crumble. There should be room

ourselves. Some of the tours focus on what’s happening now, some of

to be critically active in public spaces. I fear that Cairo is going through

them examine historically what happened in downtown. One of the tours

a moment of stagnation. Downtown is becoming more and more dull.

is a literary tour led by Samia Mehrez, she’s looking at where the literati used to hang out, and some of these places are still operating. She’s

MM: Is there concern that some of the changes are only cosmetic?

also looking at where certain novels have been set, and how those sites may have been perceived differently across different authors and eras.

ON: Once you start to go beyond the surface, the building façade, there’s

ON: There is a cinematic city tour, looking at where the Egyptian movies

a host of issues of infrastructure and ownership pattern, posing legal

were filmed. We have one on the Cairo Downtown Passageways, our own

Panel Mada #3 Masr on Creative Cities

project that we’ve been working on. The idea of tours is to ground the discussion, so that people would know what they’re talking about and it’s not abstract. MM: Where do you see the future of downtown? BS: Downtown is a great laboratory. When we have undertaken pilot projects, the initiative of the local community has been really very impressive. Once we started to act, people came on board, the energy is there and there’s a lot of possibility in downtown. ON: These issues are not exclusive to downtown, which should be seen as a microcosm for broader questions facing the city and the country at large.

Published on: Wednesday, October 28, 2015 - 13:06 - Mada Masr laboratory-qa-cairos-creativecities-conference

Downtown as Laboratory 251

Downtown Lost or Reclaimed?

Downtown is not just another Cairo neighborhood. A hub for social, cultural and political activity for decades, many have a deep sense of belonging to the area. Since becoming the center of nation-wide protests in 2011 that led to the toppling of 30-year dictator Husni Mubarak, development plans for the district came to a halt and are now being picked up again (http:// With revolutionary zeal and scaled-back security in those early months, downtown saw both a vibrancy and a jumble of chaotic practices. In the past 18 months, however, the state has applied measures that seek to reinstate order in the area including eliminating street vendors, prohibiting parking in most downtown streets and renovating some of its buildings. Users and residents of downtown have mixed feelings about these changes. Some hail the state measures as positive steps towards reclaiming the area’s lost glory, while others see them as stripping it of everything that made it unique.

Restoring Order

Heba Afify

Many of the area’s residents stand behind the state’s attempts to undo the chaos that has prevailed since 2011. Some say that the measures


have been taken too far and are becoming a nuisance in and of

vendors on the street, he’s constantly on the lookout for security.

themselves, while others think that the required solutions have yet to

A couple of young men come running, yelling “Arabic, Arabic,” their

be enacted.

code word for municipality patrol, and Samuel swiftly pushes his chair into a corridor to hide his few items of merchandise.

During the summer of 2014, security forces carried out several campaigns forcing street vendors out of downtown and relocating

The authorities have also closed several of downtowns biggest and

them to a temporary marketplace in Torgoman.

most popular ahwas (traditional street cafés) (http://www.madamasr. com/news/police-forcesclose- downtown-cairo-cafés), including the

Most people with a stake in downtown approve of the removal of

famous Borsa ahwa and others.

street vendors, who had ended up taking over most of the sidewalks in Talaat Harb and other streets and often got into turf wars.

Patrick Werr, a financial reporter who’s been living in downtown since 1999, says that while the state’s recent efforts are a step in the right

Now Talaat Harb, which used to be lined with vendors on

direction, there’s still much to be done to protect the historical area

both sides, looks very different. The street has expanded in

from decay.

the absence of parked cars and vendors, and the municipality conducts regular patrols with pick-up trucks where civilians

While some of the biggest ahwas have been closed down, many

collaborating with the forces can be seen in the back along with

remain, with the same downsides: noise and visual intrusion. He’s not

confiscated items such as tea stands and merchandise.

personally a fan, but Werr understands the need for cafés in a historical

On a recent stroll down Talaat Harb, I ran into 74-year-old

area. He suggests regulating them by removing TVs and plastic chairs.

Rasmi Samuel. He’s been selling different merchandise on Talaat Harb Street for over 40 years.

Werr also complains of other continuing infringements on public space in downtown by private enterprises. He points out a shop near his

But his long table of various products has been replaced with

house, which has recently taken over the sidewalk, presumably after

a single chair on which he keeps a few pairs of socks that he’s

its owner paid off officials. He also complains about what he calls “the

hoping to sell to make ends meet. One of the few remaining street

phenomenon of the fridge.” Across downtown, there are fridges, crates

Panel Mada #3 Masr on Creative Cities

and other objects sticking out of kiosks and blocking the sidewalk.

Tabei is bothered by how strictly the rules are applied, and by the lack of

The state has also started a renovation campaign in downtown, but

practical alternatives.

according to residents, the campaign consists only of painting the outside of buildings, while some are left to decay on the inside.

He regularly gets tickets when his driver stops to drop him off at the office. And his work associates and customers are often late due to the

Ultimately, Werr believes that a deeper change in policy is needed to

parking situation. He suggests having shuttle services that people can

save the dilapidated buildings.

use instead.

In recent years, the number of offices in downtown has dramatically

As for the change that he’s looking for, Tabei is longing for the old,

increased as old rent contracts are approaching their expiry

classy downtown. He thinks the look of shops needs to be regulated so

and tenants are giving over their properties to establishments.

that they fit in with the old look of the buildings.

Additionally, many spaces in some of downtown’s most beautiful streets, like Ahmed Abdel Aziz, are used as storage rooms.

Or Closing Down Space?

Werr suggests a high tax on commercial activity in the area in order to encourage the use of apartments as living spaces, which causes

Others see the recent security presence in downtown in

less damage to the buildings.

a different light — a suffocation of public space after a brief break of governmental order over the area.

Sherif al-Tabei has lived most of his life in his family’s house on Bostan Street, and who works in a law firm on Qasr al-Nil Street.

After 2011, the area went through a period in which it appeared as

He’s on board with the state’s attempts to return order, but feels the

if security was absent, much like the rest of country. People would

implementation is unwise.

smoke hash openly on Hoda Shaarawi Street, Falaki and other parts of downtown. Some practices of the past have recently returned in

As part of its recent plan, the state has gradually banned parking from

full force, such as police officers going around in civilian clothes in

most downtown streets, attempting to steer traffic toward the newly

microbuses with tourism plates stopping people and asking for their

inaugurated Tahrir parking garage.

IDs, and possibly taking them to the police station. The area has

Downtown Lost or Reclaimed? 255

become studded with new security checkpoints that are still increasing.

For Nayera Abdel Rahman, a 26-year-old researcher, downtown was

Karim Mounir, who has been living in downtown the past three years, has

her gateway out of her enclosed, upper middle class community and

experienced the securitization of the area and the shrinking of freedoms

into wider society. During her university years, Abdel Rahman started

first hand. But for Karim, what’s worse is the crackdown practiced by the

frequently hanging out in downtown. It’s where she got her induction into

people themselves, reflecting a general sense of paranoia that can be

society, it’s where she made her most valuable relationships and where

witnessed nationwide.

she considers her most valuable education to have taken place.

Earlier this year, Mounir got a taste of this when a friend took a picture

“I feel that I owe a lot to this place, I learned so much. I still remember

with her phone as they were walking by the Endowments Ministry.

some of the most formative conversations of my life that took place in

Citizens passing by effectively detained them and went to fetch police

downtown,” she says.

personnel, yelling that they should arrest them to avenge the blood of their fallen comrades and accusing them of being members of the

This relationship deepened with her participation in the 2011 revolution,

Muslim Brotherhood.

but now a feeling of detachment has grown inside her. The definitive moment came when a friend of hers got randomly arrested

The officer took them to the police station and before releasing them

in downtown and remained in prison for one month.

from there, telling them they would have been in danger of being attacked by civilians had he not detained them.

“When I went, I felt for the first time that I didn’t want to be there. I felt the streets closing in on me. I still go and I still love it, but not like before.

Site of Defeat

Sometimes it feels heavy,” she says.

The inconvenience of the security crackdown is coupled with a

Lawyer Ahmed Farag a supporter of the revolution, have changed his

feeling of detachment for those who relate to downtown on a

hangout spot from downtown to Sayeda Zeinab in the last year.

political level. During the revolution and following period, Tahrir

“It’s very difficult for us to see Tahrir Square, which was the front of

Square and its surrounding streets were a regular site of protests

peaceful resistance in Egypt. I consider it to be a holy land that has

— now, the constant presence of security forces prevents this.

turned into a military zone,” he says. All of Farag’s favorite hangouts have

Panel Mada #3 Masr on Creative Cities

either been cleared out or become studded with informants.The last

downtown, to sit in the cafés and visit the art spaces. It has

time that Farag and his friends hung out in downtown was in June 2013,

become a sign of being cultured and hip,” Ibiary explains.

as the zeal was starting to form for the protests that would end with a

After 2011, the audience for cultural events in downtown

military-led ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi.

expanded dramatically beyond the typical downtown crowd.

“I started to become certain that there was something wrong,

People started to realize that there’s an alternative scene and to get

and since then Tahrir has ceased to be our place (http://www.

acquainted to the activities in downtown. Instead of going to the,” he says.

movies, they became open to visiting a gallery or attending a talk.

Cultural Boom Continues with Setbacks

“Rather than a place for old people and shops, downtown became a young place, where young people move in and share flats,”

One aspect that seems to continue to thrive since 2011 is the

Ibiary says.

cultural scene, albeit with some security-related challenges. Nevine Ibiary is the director of workshop programs at downtown’s

As an example, Studio Emad Eddin has expanded since then from

Studio Emad Eddin, and has been involved in the area’s cultural

four people to a large team and several adjacent projects and

scene since 2005 . She says that the openness that came with


2011 was a serious boon to the scene, which may have now lost some of its vigor but has not completely dissipated.

Now, the euphoria subsided, but Ibiary says that it hasn’t completely died out.

Underground art was deep under the ground before 2011, according to Ibiary, when the revolution shed a light on the

Ibiary is partly with the newly returned state presence in downtown,

area. Art spaces such as the Contemporary Image Collective,

and partly against it. She supports the crackdown on street vendors

Townhouse and the Townhouse Rawabet theater started coming

and the regulation of traffic, as she says the chaos had reached a

up to the surface. Underground bands started making it.

disruptive level where the sidewalks were unusable and the streets

“As cliche as it sounds, it has become cool to hang out in

were blocked with cars double and triple parked on each side.

Downtown Lost or Reclaimed? 257

The recent security crackdown in the area has naturally confined the ability to hold events, which had been largely unlimited for a short while after 2011. Ibiary recalls holding events in the street with no permits and having the police protect the event. Now that has become impossible, even if organizers try to get the correct permissions. “Now there are no permits, and what’s worse there is no reason,” she says. Ibiary says that the regular Egyptian bureaucracy has once again taken hold of downtown. An event might be denied permission for no reason, or the process could suddenly be stopped halfway.

Published on: Friday, October 30, 2015 - 16:35- Mada Masr

The Changing Face of Downtown

Am Adel sits outside the large red building that occupies the corners of Adly, Emad Eddin and Abdel Khalek Tharwat streets, referred to as the Halawa building but officially known as the Davies Bryan building. The building’s brick walls are getting a fresh coat of red paint, while the building itself stands surrounded by massive scaffolds that occupy most of the pavement. Despite being submerged in this change as his chair sits between two metal rods extending upward, the doorman seems uninterested. He declares this all to be part of the government’s plan, but says that it has no effect on him, the infrastructure of the building itself or the residents. Even though the building is owned by the private real estate company Al-Ismaelia (, the paint job is being done by the Cairo Governorate as part of the municipality’s ongoing plan to renovate downtown Cairo. This building represents one of the rare moments where Al-Ismaelia’s and the governorate’s plans overlap, though they both have strong interests in downtown. The plan to refurbish downtown was originally initiated around the year

Passant Rabie

2008 with a government plan titled Cairo 2050 (http://www.madamasr. com/sections/culture/cultural-enlightenmentcairo%E2%80%99s-


downtown-futures), which was conceived in cooperation with the Ministry

plans and where they would fit into them. “The governorate is

of Housing, the state-owned General Organization for Physical Planning,

everything,” proclaims Central Administration of the Cairo Governorate

the World Bank, the UN Development Program and the UN Human

head Saeed al-Bahr, who supervises the downtown development plan.

Settlements Program. “It’s the entity behind the whole project.” Bahr explains that the Cairo 2050 included a plan to “evacuate Cairo’s unsafe areas, and de-

Cairo Governorate is currently working on 15 locations in the greater

densify informal areas,” and was criticized for wanting to displace a large

downtown area — places such as Talaat Harb Square, Alfy Street and

number of residents in order to build tall skyscrapers and take advantage

Borsa. Municipal officials put together a group of consultants and are

of downtown’s high property value.

supervising the refurbishing process.

However, with the outbreak of the 2011 revolution and the subsequent

One of the head consultants is Soheir Hawas, who explains that project

security vacuum, the government had to halt the plan to change the

is guided by “a highly sophisticated cultural vision vested in restoring

face of downtown, and the area was left in the public’s control. But as

the cultural front of Khedive Cairo as a historical area.”

order is steadily restored to the streets of downtown and across Egypt at large, plans to renovate downtown Cairo are in motion once again.

Hawas says that for the past two years, the governorate has been

They are already visible with fresh coats of paint on old buildings, painted

holding weekly meetings on Wednesdays at 8 am to discuss

sidewalks and a massive flag in the middle of Tahrir Square, as well as

downtown’s development plan. She lauds Cairo Governor Galal

tighter security, restriction on parking and the forced removal of street

Saeed for his efforts, particularly in clearing out downtown from


street vendors, something Hawass thought would be “impossible to accomplish.”

There are different stakeholders taking part in downtown Cairo’s facelift, from the governorate to nationalized insurance companies to the private

Hawas designed and oversaw the refurbishing of Alfy Street, the

sector. But they do not necessarily have a shared vision, nor an open

buildings on Abdeen Square and Tahrir Square, and the area atop the

dialogue as to what will become of downtown. Meanwhile, the public

Tahrir parking lot. Saeed “enabled us to apply what we were teaching at

remains on the outside with little to no information on the renovation

university,” she says.

Panel Mada #3 Masr on Creative Cities

She explains that downtown Cairo has long been regressing, with the

The company approaches the owners, who are usually a group of family

original tenants leaving their apartments, certain jobs or trades coming

members who have had the building passed down to them as inheritance.

in and depreciating the value of the area, and building owners being

If they reach an agreement, then the rent contracts are passed along to

bought out by private companies.

Al-Ismaelia, who then sorts through them and tries to identify the current occupents. Shafei says that only 7-10 percent of a given building has

Private Interests

actual residents in it, while the rest of the spaces are occupied by ofἀ渄 ces, old businesses or apartments that were locked up by the owner and

Al-Ismaelia, a consortium of Egyptian and Saudi Arabian investors,

left empty. He adds that a large number of owners are willing to sell their

is a private real estate company that currently owns 33 buildings in

apartments as they were often passed down as inheritance to a number


of family members. In which case, Al-Ismaelia buys their rent contracts.

Chairman of Al-Ismaelia Karim Shafei recalls that before the company

The company has a slightly more modern and practical vision for

was established in 2008, he and a group of his friends wanted to buy a

downtown than that of the government. Unlike the Cairo Governorate’s

building in downtown. A day later, the real estate broker came back with

nostalgic vision of returning the city’s lost heritage, Al-Ismaelia’s vision,

around 50 options out of 400 buildings, which is almost 15 percent of all

as described by Shafei, envisages downtown as reclaiming its spot

downtown properties. The idea to found the real estate group was then

among the major cities of the world.

born. Shafei believes that downtown as it stands today has excluded certain “It was obvious that the people who privately own a building in downtown

segments of society, namely those of a privileged economic background,

want to sell it,” says Shafei.

but he is hoping to change that. However, he claims that by bringing in one segment of society, he does not plan on pushing out another. Like

According to Shafei, the consortium buys properties according certain

the Cairo 2050 plan, Al-Ismaelia’s initiative was also halted in 2011 and

criteria: that the buildings have some sort of heritage to preserve, are

only began resuming in 2015. Shafei recalls that because they were

structurally sound and are relatively close to each other, so that the

located very much in the heart of the January 25 uprising, the company

developments in one building can support the other.

witnessed its effects firsthand.

The Changing Face of Downtown 261

One person was killed at one of their buildings, while another property was struck by a Molotov. On the other hand, the revolution also had a positive impact on AlIsmaelia as it became an organic marketing campaign for the area. “A lot of people from our generation didn’t know anything about downtown,” Shafei asserts. “When the revolution happened, they went down to Tahrir Square, they discovered that downtown exists, and some of them saw the charm.” Another positive impact on the company was the unprecedented attention given to downtown by the government. “Our business is related to the government. The role of the government is very important in what happens in downtown,” says Shafei. Although Shafei is not fully on board with the government’s plan for downtown, the fact that they also want to renovate the area makes his job easier. “Our paths do cross, because we also paint buildings and refurbish,” he says. “They appreciate what we’re doing, and we’re happy they’re doing what they’re doing, to some extent.” Cairo Governorate’s Bahr echoes this sentiment, saying, “The private companies have their own plans, and they coordinate with us sometimes.”

Panel Mada #3 Masr on Creative Cities

Somewhere in between is the Misr Insurance Holding Company, which

role. “Their role should have been like our role. They should have the

owns over 140 buildings out of the 421 buildings in downtown. The

same interests that we have,” he says. “They are one of the largest

company came to own this many properties when former President

stakeholders, they’re supposed to be part of the vision. I’m surprised that

Gamal Abdel Nasser began his nationalization campaign. In 2007

they haven’t tried to develop their buildings.”

the company created the Misr Real Estate Assets entity to handle its properties, which it described as the “company’s biggest challenge.”

Shafei claims that Al-Ismaelia tried to interact with the insurance company, but it never got off the ground due to the company’s massive

Once it was established, Misr Real Estate Assets began acquiring

size and age-old bureaucracy.

apartments from their owners, as well as taking legal action against those who were proven not to be the rightful owners of an apartment.

From Cairo 2050 to no Vision

The company played a role in the Cairo 2050 plan, and was planning on selling property in Attaba, Ramses and Tahrir.

Omar Nagati is an architect, urban planner and a founding partner of Cluster, a platform for urban design and research. He says that while it

Eight years later, the state-owned real estate company is still

may look like the state and the private sector have a seemingly identical

shadowing the governorate without a pronounced plan of its own.

agenda, this is not actually the case.

Akram Ismail, general director of the Historic Real Estate at Misr Real Estate Assets, refrains from delineating the company’s role in

However, each plays an important role within downtown. “We definitely

the development plans for downtown. Instead, he says that the Cairo

need the government, but we need a government that is accountable,

Governorate is responsible for everything.

representing the will of the constituencies,” says Nagati. He notes that there aren’t even local councils whereby residents of the area can voice

“We paint the buildings based on the governorate’s plan,” says Ismail.

their opinions.

Bahr reiterates Ismail’s claims, briefly saying, “We provide them with the plan, they pay the contractors.”

“The private sector also has a role in creating jobs and so on. It’s a role of income generation, injecting money,” he adds.

However, Shafei believes that the company could play a much larger

However, he believes that a major problem is the lack of information

The Changing Face of Downtown 263

regarding the plan for downtown, which prevents the possibility of

call on the building owners themselves to refurbish the building

critical analysis. “I’m not aware of any physical document that says,

from the inside, in most cases the owners lack sufficient funding

‘this is the downtown plan’,” he says.

to do so. Nagati says that in Europe, it takes close to five years to properly refurbish a historic building. In downtown Cairo, the

Shafei also criticizes the government for lacking a clear, long-term

state wants to see changes in the whole area within six months.

plan for downtown. It is a good thing the government is paying attention to “The long-term plan is critical for downtown because you can never

downtown, Nagati concedes, but “it’s important to find the

trust us, the private sector, to define the vision,” says Shafei.

common ground, how can we push it forward in a more critical way. They have resources that we don’t have, and the money

He adds that if he were to build a commercial area with shops or opt

comes from the private sector.” On the other hand, there is

to build a hotel somewhere, there would be no one to stop him.

always resistance to such changes, which inevitably raise concerns regarding gentrification.

“So far, what is happening is that no one is making a decision,” Shafei claims, adding that the company has been calling for a meeting

“Gentrification means the urban space is changing functionally

between the different stakeholders in order for them to decide on a

and changing its inhabitants. It’s not necessarily always a bad

unified vision.

thing,” says Shafei.

“[There should be] coordination between the public sector, the private

Shafei argues that downtown Cairo had already been gentrified

sector and the community,” he says. “You should never trust any one

throughout its history three or four times, and therefore there is

of the three to work independently.”

no “original” downtown to restore.

But the state seems to be primarily concerned with cosmetic fixes that

“Every time there was gentrification, there was a migration of

fit in with its agenda to promote tourism. Bahr says the governorate

some people, while some stayed, some came and adapted while

hopes to do more than just refurbish the building fronts, but when they

others came and changed [their surroundings],” he adds.

Panel Mada #3 Masr on Creative Cities

Nagati is also not against the idea of change, arguing that the opposite

“The majority of the decay is the decay of general facilities and roads,

would be decay.

which falls under the responsibility of the municipality,” he adds. “Therefore, the municipality should be doing repairs in the area

“If change is happening too fast, then you’re also excluding

either way.”

generations,” he says. Shawkat believes that this idea of refurbishing and repair is what the “It’s good to have a process of change in increments, and allow a

government and private companies are trying to sell to the public, when

process of review. The point is not to stop the process of change, but

the downtown plan is really a real estate investment project.

make it more inclusive.”

Whatever changes are taking place, little information is available to the public. With so many different points of view trying to coexist in

However, urban researcher Yahia Shawkat believes that the term

downtown, Nagati believes that it is important to have a debate.

gentrification always implies something negative, as it means the replacement of one social class with another.

“It’s healthy to have different positions, that’s democracy,” says Nagati. “I’m against having one vision as a monolithic vision. We have to debate.

Gentrification “is not required, and is against any form of social justice,”

At the end of the day, we’re in a public space.”

he argues. Shawkat argues that if the issue with downtown was the decaying state of the area, then the government should look into the reasons behind the decay and work to resolve them. Downtown rents are low due to the old rent system, he explains, so building owners do not have enough generated income for repairs. Shawkat suggests that the government should have created repair funds for each building.

Published on: Thursday, October 29, 2015 - 20:14 –Mada Masr

The Changing Face of Downtown 265

4. Participants and Contributors

Panel Participants #3 and Contributors

Mona Abaza

American University in Cairo Press,

Abdelhalim has been the director of

Cairo for more than a decade. In 2009,


the Local Development Observatory

Abouelsoud opened the top-rated Dina’s

Mona Abaza is Professor of Sociology

• The Changing Consumer Culture of

at the Local Administration Reform

Hostel. In addition to providing excellent

Modern Egypt, Cairo’s Urban Reshaping,

Unit and is now the program director.

accommodation at a reasonable price,

Brill/AUC Press, 2006.

He is currently a visiting assistant

Dina’s Hostel hosted cultural events

• Debates on Islam and Knowledge in

professor of urban policy at AUC, in

and exhibitions. It quickly became a

Malaysia and Egypt, Shifting Worlds,

the Public Policy and Administration

hub for travelers, artists, journalists,

• Routledge Curzon Press, UK. 2002.

Department at the School of Global

and activists. It was from this venture

• Islamic Education, Perceptions and

Affairs and Public Policy. He is also a

that Abouelsoud became committed

Exchanges: Indonesian Students in

founding member of the Egyptian Earth

to creating community spaces. She

Cairo, Cahier d’Archipel, 23. EHESS,

Construction Association since 1996,

is the co-owner of Kafein and Eish +

Paris. 1994.

an NGO that promotes appropriate

Malh, two relatively new food and drink

building technologies and sustainable

establishments in Downtown. Kafein

development. He is also a co-founder of

is a café that is serious about coffee.

TAKAMOL, a foundation for integrated

It also houses the K Project Space,


which mounts bi-monthly exhibitions

at the Department of Sociology, the American University in Cairo. She was a visiting professor of Islamology in the Department of Theology at Lund University (2009-2011). Visiting scholar at the Institute for South East Asian Studies, Singapore (1990-1992), Kuala Lumpur (1995-1996), l’École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris (1994), the Wissenschaftskolleg, Berlin (1996-1997), The International Institute for Asian Studies, Leiden (2002-2003),

Khaled Abdelhalim

the Netherlands Institute for Advanced

Khaled Abdelhalim graduated as

Study in the Humanities and Social

an architect and planner from Cairo

Sciences, Wassenaar (2006-2007) and

University in 1990, received a MA in

the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio

architecture: housing studies from the

Center (2005). Research Fellow at Morphomata, Cologne, 2014.

by local artists. Eish + Malh, an Italian

Amr Abdelrahman

restaurant, is Abouelsoud’s latest

University of Newcastle, UK in 1995,

Amr Abdelrahman is a researcher at

by a loyal and ever-expanding clientele

and PhD in housing policy, planning and

the Egyptian Initiative for Personal

practice from the University of Central

Rights (EIPR) and the Law and Society

Her books include:

England in Birmingham, UK in 2003.

Research Unit, American University in

• The Cotton Plantation Remembered:

He worked for more than six years for


completed her BA in Tour Guiding at

An Egyptian Family Story, The American

German Technical Cooperation (GIZ-

University in Cairo Press, 2013.

Egypt) in participatory upgrading of

Dina Adouelsoud

rights activist and an inspiration to

informal areas. He also worked as a • Twentieth Century Egyptian Art: The

consultant to UN Habitat for strategic

Dina Abouelsoud has been an important

Private Collection of Sherwet Shafei, The

planning of governorates in Egypt.

catalyst for change in Downtown

project. The restaurant is much loved for its thin-crust pizzas, house-made pasta, decadent breakfasts and bespoke desserts. Abouelsoud recently Ain Shams University. She is a women’s many. She grew up in Alexandria.


Emad Abou Ghazi

Lisa Anderson

publications. Anderson holds a BA from

Egyptian historian and archivist and

Lisa Anderson (CASA ’76) was President

law and diplomacy from the Fletcher

Professor in the faculty of Arts, Cairo

of The American University in Cairo

School at Tufts University. She earned a

University, department of libraries,

(2011-2016). A specialist on politics

PhD in political science from Columbia

archives and information science. He

in the Middle East and North Africa,

University, 1981, where she also

held the position of the Minister of

Anderson served as the University’s

received a certificate from the Middle

Culture from March to November 2011.

provost from 2008 to 2010. As the chief

East Institute. She was awarded an

Abou Ghazi was born in Cairo, January

academic officer, she was responsible

honorary doctor of laws from Monmouth

3, 1955 and he received his BA in

for shaping and implementing AUC’s

University in 2002.

History from the Faculty of Arts, Cairo

academic vision and building the size

University in 1976. Later, he received

and quality of the faculty. Prior to

a diploma in Modern History from the

joining AUC in 2008, Anderson served

Institute of Arab Research and Studies

as the James T. Shotwell Professor of

George Arbid is Associate Professor,

governorate organizational structure,

in 1980 and a diploma in Archives from

International Relations at Columbia

Department of Architecture and

and now she is responsible for

the Faculty of Arts, Cairo University

University and is the former dean

Design, AUB, and Director, Arab

coordinating and managing projects

in 1982. He received his MA degree in

of the School of International and

Center for Architecture. George Arbid

for rehabilitation and renovation

Arabic Medieval Documents from the

Public Affairs at Columbia. She also

has conducted research on modern

of “Historic Cairo”. Slowly but

Faculty of Arts, Cairo University in 1988.

served as the chair of the political

architecture in Lebanon and the Arab

surely, Arram leads a small team of

This was followed by a PhD in Arabic

science department at the University

world and has lectured widely. He

architects, archeologists and young

Medieval Documents in 1995, from the

and as the director of Columbia’s

graduated in architecture in 1988 from

motivated employees to circulate

Faculty of Arts, Cairo University. Abou

Middle East Institute. Before joining

the Académie Libanaise des Beaux-

the concept of heritage preservation

Ghazi began to research in the fields

Columbia, she was assistant professor

Arts, and in 2002 with a Doctor of

among the capital residents.

of history, archives, diplomatic, and

of government and social studies at

Design degree from Harvard University.

In 2015, and after receiving a “full

cultural policies since 1974. He has

Harvard University. Anderson is the

He holds a position at AUB, teaching

capacity building” training by UNESCO

authored more than sixty researches

author of Pursuing Truth, Exercising

design studios, regional architecture

for the “Heritage Preservation Team”,

and seven books and has been writing

Power: Social Science and Public Policy

and history of modern architecture in

the unit transformed into a general

in many newspapers and magazines

in the Twenty-first Century (Columbia

the Arab world.

administration with a large variety of

in Egypt and the Arab world since the

University Press, 2003), among other


Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in

George Arbid

Riham Arram Riham Arram is the General Manager and founder of Cairo Heritage Preservation General Administration. Arram is an Archeologist, with a Ph.D. in Ancient Egyptian civilization and a long experience in tourism field. In 2013, she created “The Cairo Heritage Preservation Unit” captivated by Egyptian history and authenticity of the old city. Arram took the initiative to establish this entity within Cairo

duties’ including heritage preservation,

Panel Participants #3 and Contributors

tourism, urban development, and international relations.

Choucri Asmar Choucri Asmar was born and raised in Heliopolis, and has background studies in Economics and Masters In Business Administration from the Sorbonne and Paris Dauphine Universities. His career has encompassed different multinationals, and he is an active member in many public service organizations and bodies. Asmar is a founding member of Heliopolis Heritage Initiative since 2011. He now serves as Head of Heliopolis Heritage Foundation, with the aim of enhancing the quality of life in Heliopolis and protecting its Urban Heritage and collective memories. Choucri played an active role in the lobbying for the details of clause 50 in the Egyptian Constitution of 2014, which sought to Protect the cultural Diversity, tangible and intangible Heritage and the cultural and contemporary built Heritage in Egypt

Tarek Atia Tarek Atia is a journalist and early online innovator in Egypt in the late 1990s, Tarek Atia founded web portals and, was

EMDP is also the publisher of Mantiqti

planning, community development,

(My Neighborhood), Egypt’s first

urban regeneration, upgrading the

hyper local print newspaper covering

informal areas, and governance.

downtown Cairo. She is, or has been, member in 15

Lina Attalah

Assistant Editor in Chief of Al-Ahram Weekly, and has had his writing published

Lina Attalah is co-founder and director

in prominent international media

of Mada Masr, Cairo based news

outlets including The Washington Post


and Neue Zuercher Zeitung. Since 2006, he has worked in media development, designing and implementing capacity

national and international committees and boards, many of them dealing with education, research, and urban planning in Egypt and the Arab States. She is chairing the steering committee of the UN Habitat Network Initiative (UNI), and recently was elected as

Sahar Attia

building programs for over 5,000 journalists, editors and managers

Sahar Attia is a Professor of

working across print, broadcast and

Architecture & Urban Design. She is

online platforms. He has also been an

currently the Head of the department

adjunct lecturer at Cairo University’s

of Architecture, Faculty of Engineering,

Faculty of Mass Communications, the

Cairo University. She has been

American University in Cairo and the

lecturing and supervising researches

Intajour International Media Academy in

and theses since 1988. She has 35

Hamburg, Germany.

years of experience in academia and

chair of the Research and Academia Constituent Group in the General Assembly of Partners for Habitat III. She is also the co-editor of Shared Mediterranean Heritage, Concept, Management and Collective Memory, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, 2009.

Alia Ayman

in practice. She coordinated several

Alia Ayman is a filmmaker, writer and

In 2011 he founded and now heads the

national projects with Egyptian

curator. She co-founded Zawya Cinema,

new media training consultancy EMDP

authorities as well as international

an initiative of Misr International Films

(Egypt Media Development Program),

partners (e.g. GIZ, UN Habitat, UNDP).

(founded by: Yusuf Shahin) in March

which offers professional development

Her specializations and fields of interest

2014. Working primarily on the cinema’s

and management consulting services to

include participatory approaches

film program, the events she has put

the Egyptian and regional media sector.

in urban development & strategic

together at Zawya as the cinema’s head


curator have so far included Shorts

Goucher College and Loyola College

hosts the K Project Space, which aims

received the Dubai Muhr Silver Award.

Revisited #1, Hybrid Reels, retrospectives

in Maryland before joining AUC’s

to create a bond between innovative

The films also received several other

for Yusuf Shahin, Daoud AbdelSayed

Department of Philosophy in September

artistic projects and members of the

international awards. She has since

and Mohamed Malas in addition to

of 2006.

community. Most recently, Dropkin

then directed and produced A Tin Tale,

opened Eish + Malh with her partner

a short fiction based on a true story of

Bowditch’s research focuses on

Dina Abouelsoud. The restaurant serves

a young Egyptian sex worker that was

three areas: ethics and the history of

new Italian cuisine and hosts supper

premiered in the Dubai Film Festival in

Alia is currently pursuing her PhD in

ethics, moral psychology and history

clubs, live music, and other events.

2011. She has also worked on several

Visual and Media Anthropology at New

of philosophy. He is currently working

Dropkin is committed to contributing to

other productions for different directors

York University. Her research focuses

on a study of Hume’s account of the

the café, dining, and cultural landscapes

as “Journalism Passage” by Basel

on alternative film distribution and

psychology of religious belief and its

of downtown Cairo by creating vibrant,

Ramsis. El-Kashef has been active in

exhibition in Egypt from the 1960s until

moral implications. He is an active

relaxing, and inspirational spaces. She

several political campaigns during the

the present.

member of the American Philosophical

is the holder of an MA in Near Eastern

Egyptian revolution, including Operation

Association and the Hume Society. In

Studies from New York University. While

Anti-Sexual Harassment/Assault and

2009 he was elected to the American

working on an MA in Anthropology at

No Military Trials of Civilians. She is

Philosophical Association’s Committee

AUC, Dropkin researched masculinity

also a co-founder of the Cairo-based,

Nathaniel Bowditch is an Associate

on International Cooperation. In 2009

and pigeon-fanciers in Abdeen. Dropkin

independent media collective Mosireen.

Professor of Philosophy and Dean of

he received the AUC Excellence in

is originally from New York.

the School of Humanities and Social

Undergraduate Teaching Award.

other special events, Sunday screenings and workshops.

Nathaniel Bowditch

Sciences at The American University in Cairo. He received his BA from the University of California at Berkeley,

Nadia Dropkin

Mohamed Elshahed Aida El-Kashef Aida El-Kashef is an independent film

graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1994, his MA from Johns Hopkins University in

Restaurateur Nadia Dropkin has lived in

director and producer based in Cairo.

2001, and his PhD from Johns Hopkins

Cairo for most of the past eight years.

She is the co-founder and Executive

University in 2005. At Johns Hopkins

Her entrepreneurial projects focus on

Director of Ganoub Film for production

he received a David Sachs Fellowship

Downtown, where she lives and works.

and distribution. As a director, her first

as well as the William Miller Essay Prize

She is the co-owner of Kafein, a popular

short film, Rhapsody in Autumn, her

in 2001. Professor Bowditch taught at

café in Downtown that serves artisan

graduation project from her alma mater

coffee, tea, and food. Kafein also

the High Cinema Institute in Cairo,

Mohamed Elshahed is a Cairo-based architect, independent researcher and writer. In 2014-2015 he was an Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices post-doctoral fellow at the Berlin-based Forum Transregionale Studien. He obtained his doctoral degree from the Middle East Studies Department at New York University. His dissertation,

Panel Participants #3 and Contributors

Revolutionary Modernism? Architecture

Initiative. These include an acclaimed

Viennoise exhibition which focused

began working together in 2010

and the Politics of Transition in Egypt,

ecotourism resort in Siwa that has

on the great Downtown studios of

and are comprised of 18 members.

1936-1967, focuses on architecture

revived centuries-old traditional building

the 1950s and 1960s and which

Assemble’s working practice seeks

and urban planning in Egypt during the

systems and techniques, and other

featured a temporary photographic

to address the typical disconnection

period of political transition around

heritage preservation, planning, and

studio manned everyday by a different

between the public and the process

the 1952 coup d’état. Elshahed has a

beautification projects in the oasis. He

photographer. He produced for that

by which places are made. Assemble

Bachelor of Architecture from the New

was awarded the State Encouragement

show the Last and Lost series of photos

champion a working practice that

Jersey Institute of Technology and a

Prize for Architecture (2004) by the

and documentation as well as more

is interdependent and collaborative,

Master in Architecture Studies from MIT.

Egyptian Ministry of Culture, and the

than a dozen videos. As a curator, he

seeking to actively involve the public

Elshahed is the founder and editor of

Hassan Fathy Prize for the Restoration

has also been digging the works and

as both participant and collaborator in

and Re-use of the Babenshal Hotel in

shedding the light on forgotten artists

the ongoing realization of the work.

Siwa (2010) by Bibliotheca Alexandrina.

like Moshen Sharara and photographer

Emad Farid

Selim Youssef. His personal interest is

Mohamed A. Gawad

Emad Farid is an architect with more

Soheir Hawas

in abstract landscapes, cityscapes and documenting urban and social change.

Soheir Hawas, Professor of

His work has been widely published

Architecture and Urban Design, Faculty

than 25 years of experience in planning,

Mohamed A. Gawad is a filmmaker and

and exhibited locally and abroad and

of Engineering, Cairo University.

designing, preparing working drawings,

editor based in Cairo, he holds an MFA

his films screened at the Berlinale

She is also the founder and former

landscaping, hardscaping, softscaping,

in editing and scriptwriting. His work

among others. His professional interest

Chair of the Research, Studies and

contracting works, and construction

participated in several film festivals

is encyclopedic both as a cultural

Policies Department at the National

supervision. Under the Revival of the

and art exhibitions, and he is also a

producer and as a magazine and map

Organization of Urban Harmony

Egyptian Museum Initiative, he has been

co-founder of Cimatheque - Alternative

publisher. He is also the publisher of the

(NOUH) 2004-2013, Ministry of Culture

instrumental in coordinating with the

Film Center.

Egypt Almanac, instructor of “intelligent

in Egypt. She was the consultant

design” and consultant.

expert and coordinator of Ministry

various departments of the Ministry of Antiquities and Cairo Governorate,

Paul Geday

and overseeing the physical works.

of Housing and New Communities

Jane Hall

for the national project of upgrading identity of built environment in the

He participated in numerous projects

Visual artist, filmmaker, curator of

in the Moqattam garbage collectors’

the “futuropolis” series of actions

Assemble are a collective based in

settlements; and in various components

concerned with the future of our

London who work across the fields

of the Siwa Sustainable Development

environment. He co-curated the Studio

of art, architecture and design. They

and preserving of architectural Greater Cairo region (2000-2003).


Prof Soheir is a leading heritage

he co-founded Takween Integrated

hub and workspace Megawra. She is

member of the international UNESCO

researcher as she documented Cairo’s

Community Development and has been

also adjunct lecturer of architecture

experts on the conservation of the

nineteenth and early twentieth century

working on a range of issues including

at the American University in Cairo

urban and architectural heritage of

architecture in the encyclopedia

sustainable architecture, participatory

and Ain Shams University.

modernities in the Arab World, and

of: Khedival Cairo Identification and

planning, affordable housing, public

Documentation of Urban-Architecture

infrastructure, and urban revitalization

in Downtown Cairo (2002). In addition,

throughout Egypt with a number of

she wrote her book Urban Conservation-

local and international organizations.

Regeneration of Heritage Areas in Egypt Aga Khan Darb Al-Ahmar Project Model (2013). She is also responsible for listing and documenting valuable buildings in Cairo according to law 144, 2006. Since 2013, she started working as the consultant expert of Cairo Governorate for the regeneration

May Al-Ibrashy May Al-Ibrashy is an architect with 23 years of field experience in implementation of conservation projects in Islamic Cairo. She was

project of Khedival Cairo.

previously a founding partner in

Kareem Ibrahim

conservation architecture firm with

Hampikian-Ibrashy, a Cairo-based a five-year portfolio in conservation,

Kareem Ibrahim is an architect, planner,

documentation, consultation, training

and graduated from Cairo University in

and research. Al-Ibrashy, holds post-

1995. In 1997, he worked on the UNDP’s

graduate and doctoral degrees in

Historic Cairo Rehabilitation Project.

architectural history, archaeology

He also worked for Aga Khan Cultural

and urban history from the University

Services - Egypt between 1997 and 2010

of London. Currently she is founder

as the Built Environment Coordinator

and chair of the Built Environment

of the Darb al-Ahmar Revitalization

Collective, an Egyptian NGO working

Project, one of Cairo’s most ambitious

on issues of the built environment

urban revitalization programs. In 2009,

operating through its architectural

Akram Ismail Akram Ismail is the Board Vice Chair for Technical Affairs at Misr Real Estate Assets Company.

Galila El Kadi Architect Planner Galila El Kadi is an emeritus research director at the French “Institut de Recherche pour le Développement”, IRD as well the chief of the architecture department at the French University in Egypt. She has specialized in heritage conservation and management and has successfully obtained European funds for projects focused on the management conservation of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries’ sites and buildings in southern Mediterranean countries. She has participated actively at the dissemination of the concept of Shared Mediterranean Heritage in the Med countries. El Kadi is currently

consultant to the Cairo governorate for the ongoing rehabilitation project of Khedival Cairo. El Kadi has relevant experience in teaching in Egypt and France. Besides worldwide lecturing on the issue, she has published and coedited books and journals and written articles in scientific magazines.

Jerold S. Kayden Jerold S. Kayden is the Frank Backus Williams Professor of Urban Planning and Design at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. He writes, teaches, and consults about land use and environmental law, publicprivate real estate development, public space and cities, and climate change and the built environment. His book Privately Owned Public Space: The New York City Experience focuses, and his New York NGO, Advocates for Privately Owned Public Space ( focus on zoningcreated plazas, arcades, and other

Panel Participants #3 and Contributors

Ernesto López-Morales

Samia Mehrez

contact with the Craftsmen working

Ernesto López-Morales is Associate

Samia Mehrez is Professor of Arabic

in the restoration projects and the

Professor in the University of Chile

Literature and Director of the Center

private developers around the world,

upgrading of historic Cairo. He has

and PhD in Urban Planning from

for Translation Studies at the American

including serving as consultant to

worked on projects concerned with the

the DPU, University College London.

University in Cairo. She has published

the World Bank, the International

rehabilitation and re-use of Historical

He is principal researcher in the

widely in the fields of modern Arabic

Finance Corporation, the United

buildings and the regeneration of

CONTESTED CITIES international

literature, postcolonial studies,

States Agency for International

traditional residential areas. From July

network and the Centre for Social

translation studies, gender studies

Development, and the United Nations

2010 to December 2014, Ahmed has

Conflict and Cohesion Studies (COES)

and cultural studies. She is the author

Development Programme in, among

been the Proxy Scientific Coordinator,

where he focuses on gentrification,

of Egyptian Writers between History

other countries, China, Nepal,

a UNESCO consultant within the Urban

neoliberal urbanism and housing in

and Fiction: Essays on Naguib Mahfouz,

Armenia, Ukraine, and Russia.

Regeneration for Historic Cairo project,

Chile and Ibero-American cities. He is

Sonallah Ibrahim and Gamal al-Ghitani

aiming at developing a conservation

author of an ebook named: Urbanismo

(AUC Press 1993) and Egypt’s Culture

and management plan for the World

proempresarial y destrucción creativa

Wars: Politics and Practice (Routlege

Heritage site of Historic Cairo (www.

(Redalyc, 2013), also co-authored a

2008, AUC Press 2010). Her edited

Ahmed Mansour is an architect with As well he is a co-

book named: Global Gentrifications

anthologies A Literary Atlas of Cairo:

a bachelor degree from the Faculty of

founding member of the Heliopolis

and Comparative Urbanisms (Polity

One Hundred Years in the Life of the

Fine Arts in Cairo. He has received his

Heritage initiative, founded in 2011,

Press, 2016), and co-edited two books

City and The Literary Life of Cairo: One

M.Sc. in conservation of monuments

concerned with the safeguarding and

named: Global Gentrifications: Uneven

Hundred Years in the Heart of the City,

and historical sites at the Raymond

protection of Heliopolis neighborhood

Development and Displacement (Policy

in which she translated the works

Lemaire International Centre for

built environment as well as the

Press, 2015), and Chile Urbano hacia el

of numerous Egyptian writers, are

Conservation (RLICC) at KULeuven,

enhancement of its life conditions.

Siglo XXI (Editorial Universitaria, 2013),

published by AUC Press (2010 and

Belgium in 2009. His urban conservation

Ahmed is currently a Partner in

besides journal papers in JLAG (2010),

2011) and in Arabic by Dar Al-Shorouk,

thesis was about Heliopolis, a 20th

Mansour and Korachy Architects,

IJURR (2012), Norte Grande (2013,

Cairo. She is the translator of Mona

century development in Cairo. Ahmed

formed out of a desire for design

2014), EURE (2015), Housing Studies

Prince’s Ismi Thawra (Revolution is My

has been working in the rehabilitation

and heritage conservation, taking

(2015), Urban Geography (2016).

Name, AUC Press 2014) and is the

of Historic Cairo (Fustat) and the

into consideration community,

editor of Translating Egypt’s Revolution:

Ibn Toloun area (quataea). His first

continuity, quality and context, as

The Language of Tahrir (AUC Press

working experience was establishing

well as sustainable practices.

2011) as well as Arts and the Uprising:

outdoor and indoor public spaces …

a database for the traditional Egyptian

As urban planner and lawyer, Professor

handicrafts, which had put him in

Kayden has advised governments, non-governmental organizations, and

Ahmed Mansour


A Culture of Dissent? (forthcoming,

on urban planning and community

Researcher in April 2015 and has

member in a fact finding mission for the

AUC Press; co-editor Mona Abaza).

development. Nagati has lectured widely

been mainly working on CLUSTER’s

Libyan revolution and in 2012 he was a

on Cairo both locally and internationally.

Downtown Mapping Initiative.

member in the fact finding committee

Omar Nagati Omar Nagati is co-founder of CLUSTER (Cairo Lab for Urban Studies, Training and Environmental Research) a platform for urban research, architecture, art, and design initiatives based in downtown Cairo. Nagati is a practicing

In Cairo he has taught architecture and urban design studios at Mansoura

Ahmed Ragheb

formed by the Egyptian president to investigate different incidents committed in Egypt from the January

University the Modern Sciences and Arts University and Cairo University,

Ahmed Ragheb is a lawyer and Egyptian

25 Egyptian revolution. His writing

and is currently appointed as a Visiting

human rights defender. He is a founder

differs from transitional and revolution

Professor at the University of Sheffield.

of the National Community for Human

justice, military trials and reforming

Rights and Law from September 2012,

security sector reform in Egypt.

a group of young Egyptian activists

Heba Raouf Ezzat

Nancy Naser Al Deen

architect/urban planner with over 25 years’ experience working in

Nancy Naser Al Deen is a Cairo based

Cairo. He has been the recipient of

architect and urban researcher.

a number of honors and awards,

She graduated from the American

including representing Egypt in the 6th

University in Cairo with a degree in

Architectural Design Exhibition, Venice

Architectural Engineering and a minor

Biennale. A graduate of Cairo University,

in Visual Arts. Her thesis proposal

he studied and taught at the University

was the design of a utopia for street

of British Columbia and University of

vendors in Ramses Station vicinity, in

California, Berkeley, with a specific

an attempt to legitimize their presence

focus on informal urbanism. Nagati

and redefine their right to the city.

adopts an interdisciplinary approach

Naser Al Deen was part of the research

to questions of urban history and

team of Discovering Downtown Cairo…

design, and engages in a comparative

Architecture and Stories by baladilab,

analysis of urbanization processes in

and is currently co-designing the

developing countries. Nagati’s practice

documentation of “Malaab El Kobri”

spans projects in housing, institutional

DesignBuild Studio Project at GUC

and interior design within Egypt and

that she was part of building. Nancy

regionally, having particular emphasis

joined the CLUSTER team as an Urban

that aims to build a human rights movement in Egypt. Prior to that Mr. Ragheb was the executive director for Hisham Mubark Law Center from 2009 until 2012 and served as a lawyer in the same center from 2003. Mr. Ragheb is a founder for different human rights groups and coalitions such as the Front to Defend Egyptian Protestors, No for Military Trials and Let Us Write our Constitution. During his human rights work for more than 10 years Mr. Ragheb defended several victims of torture, accused of emergency law, virginity tests and military trials in Egypt. He also defended different victims in other Arab countries, such as Bahrain. In March 2011 he was a

Heba Raouf Ezzat has taught political theory at Cairo University since 1987 and at the American University in Cairo 2006-2013 and as a visiting Professor at the University of Maastricht 2013. She has been visiting researcher at the Centre for the Study of Democracy (CSD), University of Westminster (19951996) and Associate Researcher at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies (1998). In the recent years, Raouf Ezzat was also invited to be a visiting fellow at many universities: UC Berkeley 2010, Georgetown 2011, Oxford Center for Islamic Studies 2012, and London School of Economics 2015. She published widely in Arabic, English

Panel Participants #3 and Contributors

and German, and was awarded by the German Academic Exchange Office in Cairo 2014 for her efforts in fostering academic cooperation between Egypt and Germany. Her most recent work was co-editing the Oxford Encyclopedia on Islam and Women 2013, and the titles of her recent two books published in Arabic 2015 are: The Political Imagination of Islamists, and Towards a New Civility. Her academic interest is multi-faceted and include: notions of citizenship, multiple modernities, urban politics, sociology of the cyberspace, violence: hegemony and sovereignty, democracy and dialogue, history of Islamic political concepts, and the political implications of informality.

Lucie Ryzova

University, Prague, she received her

degenerating Downtown through

DPhil in History at the University of

the creation of economically viable

Oxford, where she held two postdoctoral

restoration and revival projects. He

positions. After joining the University

hopes and is working to see a vibrant

of Birmingham in Fall 2014, her current

and dynamic Downtown accessible

research focuses on contemporary

by all segments of Egyptian society.

topics in three main areas: the production of cultural (and especially photographic) heritage in contemporary

Youssef Shazli

Egypt and the region; the nexus of class,

Youssef Shazli was born and raised in

gender and urban space in the context

Cairo. He graduated with a bachelor’s

of revolutionary urban battles during

degree in International Development

the past few years; and an alternative

from McGill University in 2011 and

social history of Downtown Cairo

moved back to Cairo shortly after.

with particular attention to the social

Youssef worked in Research and

meanings of spatial practices such as

Development for a year before entering

hanging out, strolling, and loitering.

the cinema industry. He has been

Karim Shafei Karim Shafei is the Chairman of Al

working for Misr International Films since and currently managing two of MIF’s initiatives: The Panorama of the European Film and Zawya.

Lucie Ryzova is Lecturer in Middle

Ismaelia for Real Estate Investment and

East History, Department of History,

the idea generator of the Downtown

University of Birmingham. Ryzova

Rehabilitation Project. Mr. Shafei has

is a social and cultural historian of

successfully founded and managed

Beth Stryker is co-founder of CLUSTER

modern Egypt, with particular interest in

several companies in industry and

(Cairo Lab for Urban Studies, Training

Egyptian popular culture and vernacular

service prior to starting Al Ismaelia

and Environmental Research) a platform

modernity. Having studied Arabic and

in 2008. Mr. Shafei launched the

for urban research, architecture,

Middle Eastern history at Charles

company as a means to develop a

art, and design initiatives based in

Beth Stryker

downtown Cairo. She has been the recipient of numerous awards and grants, including from the Graham Foundation and The New York Foundation for the Arts. Stryker has curated exhibitions and programs for the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival in Cairo, Beirut Art Center, Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, the American Institute of Architects/ Center for Architecture in New York (where she held the position of Director of Programs), and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, among other venues. Her works have been exhibited widely, including shows at the Wexner Center for the Arts, the Walker Art Center, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Stryker received her B.A from Columbia University, and her M.Arch from Princeton University. She is currently a visiting Research Professor at SUNY Purchase in New York.

Dirk Wanrooij Dirk Wanrooij is the co-founder of Ain Bicycles. Ain Bicycles specialize in urban bicycles designed for Cairo.


William Wells

Advisor to the Fulbright scholarship

William Wells is co-founder and director

Foundation for Arts Initiatives (FfAI).

of one of the most innovative art spaces in the Middle East region, the nonprofit

in Egypt and sits on the board of the

Tariq Zulficar

Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art in Cairo, established in 1998. Under

Tariq Zulficar is an environmental

Wells’ guidance, Townhouse has played

manager with experience in heritage

a pivotal role in nurturing creative

conservation. Over the past three

talent in the region, supporting artists

years he has been the principal force

who have gone off to attain significant

and dedicated Manager of EQI’s Site

success and visibility abroad (including

Management Plan for the Saqqara

Wael Shawky, Hassan Khan, Iman

Archaeological Plateau, and the

Issa, Basim Magdy, Susan Hefuna and

Egyptian Museum Revival Initiative.

Lara Baladi) while also serving as an

The success of these two initiatives is

incubator and support for a number

largely attributable to his managerial

of nonprofit spaces that have opened

and technical and interpersonal skills.

in Egypt in the last decade. Over the

He has conducted and coordinated

past 17 years, and ever adapting to

environmental and social impact

changing sociopolitical circumstances,

assessments for transport, industrial,

the gallery has grown from two floors

and tourism development projects,

in a Downtown building to encompass

as well as for engineering works

a large Factory space, library, one of

at cultural heritage sites. He has

the only independent performance

contributed to several projects within

space in Cairo, artist studios and

the framework of sustainable eco-

most recently Townhouse West, a

tourism and development in the

gallery in one of Cairo’s new towns.

Oasis of Siwa, and throughout the

Wells has served on the Guggenheim

Egyptian Red Sea coastal areas.

Abu Dhabi Advisory Committee, is

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• Community Times. October (2015)–November (2016) • Mantiqti, 1–7 (2013), 8–14 (2014), 19 (2015). • Majallat al-ʻimara • Misr al-Mahrusa: Impressions of Egypt. 10 (2001), 16 (2002), 17 (2002), 18 (2002) • Lettre d’information. Observatoire Urbain du Cairo Contemporain. no.s 39 (1995),

41-42 (1995), 43 (1996), 45 (1996), 49 (1999).

• Silsilat Ayyam Miṣriya. no.s 40 (2011), 49 (2014).

Other: • Cairo Architectural Heritage: 19th and 20th Century Architectural Heritage of the

Downtown Area. 2007. CULTNAT, Bibliotheca Alexandria. CD

6. Acknowledgements

The editors wish to thank our partners at the Research Foundation of the State University of New York, especially Ed Herran and Avis Yeiser. At SUNY Purchase we wish to thank SUNY Purchase President Thomas Schwarz, Dean Ravi Rajan, and School of Art+Design Chair Steven Lam for their support and engagement, and for their collaboration on the Creative Cities: Re-framing Downtown Cairo follow-up conference on Art, Politics, and Cities in Transition, held at the AIANY/Center for Architecture in October 2016. We wish to thank our partners at the American University in Cairo (AUC), and in particular conference co-organizer Mona Abaza, for bringing this important forum on the future of downtown Cairo into being. Our thanks are further extended to the members of the Advisory Committee for the Creative Cities: Re-framing Downtown Cairo conference: Lina Attalah (Mada Masr), Nathaniel Bowditch (AUC), Heba Farid (CIC), Maria Golia, May Al-Ibrashy (Megawra), Mohamed Elshahed (Cairobserver), and Khaled Al Khamissi (Doum Cultural Foundation). This publication and its accompanying website were stewarded from beginning to end by CLUSTER urban researcher Noha Darwish, who showed tremendous perseverance in overseeing the many details and deadlines, in addition to her key research responsibilities. Our thanks to website designer Ahmed Abdel Salam for his attention to excellence. Thanks to Adham Yahia for his skillful and attentive work on the website video subtitles. Thanks to publication designer Ahmad Hammoud for the application of his dynamic talent. Thanks as ever to Mia Jankowicz for dedicating her skills and insights as copyeditor to this volume. Our thanks to Mohamed Wahdan for

contributing his talents to the Arabic copyediting. Thanks to Hanaa Gad and to Hanaa Safwat for Arabic translation. And a special thanks to Max Budovitch for editorial assistance. Our devoted thanks to the CLUSTER team, without whom this entire venture would not have been possible. Thanks to Nancy Nasser Al Deen for her dedicated development of the appendix and her design of the Creative Cities tour maps. Thanks to Program Coordinator Eman El Houfy, whose hard work and attention to detail ensured everything ran smoothly. A further thanks to all the CLUSTER team who worked on this project: Sara Aita, Lucinda Anis, Omnia Awni, Omar Bishr, Rana ElKholi, John Hanna, Maryam Kamal, Johanne Kaufmanas, Maha Kombar, Ahmed El Leithi, Michael Mitchell, Mohamed Rafik, Marwa Shykhon, Yasmina Taha, Friederike Thonke, Marina Tharwat and Mariam Zaki. Great thanks to Ann El Messiery for her meticulous work on Heritage Buildings Downtown for the Appendix to this volume. At AUC, our thanks go to Program Coordinator Maria FernandezVivancos Marquina, and to the AUC students’ Architecture Association, in particular to Salma El-Lakany. A special thanks to Dean Nathaniel Bowditch, whose support was instrumental to making this conference possible. Thanks to the Creative Cities: Re-framing Downtown Cairo tour leaders, with whom CLUSTER developed the Downtown tours on the occasion of the conference: Nancy Naser Al Deen, Mohamed Elshahed, Mohammed Gawad, Paul Geday, Aida El Kashef, Samia Mehrez, and Dirk Wanrooij.

Image Credits: 4-5: Photo: Nancy Nasser Al Deen, © CLUSTER

110: Photos: courtesy of Galila El Kadi

188: Drawing: Ali Samir, © EQI

8: Photo: Nancy Naser Al Deen, © CLUSTER

119: Photo: © CLUSTER

193: Drawing: Ramez Azmy, © EQI

10: Photo: Nancy Naser Al Deen, © CLUSTER

120: Photo: courtesy of Nourhan Elzafarany

196: Photo: Omar Nagati, © CLUSTER

15: Photo: Nancy Naser Al Deen, © CLUSTER

122: Illustration: courtesy of Associated Consultants

200: Photo: © Kafein

16-17: Photo: Alya Sorour, © CLUSTER

124: Photos: courtesy of Sahar Attia

203: Photo: © Eish + Malh

22: Photo: courtesy of Ernesto López-Morales

126: [top] Photos: courtesy of Sahar Attia

204: Photo: Omar Nagati, © CLUSTER

25: Photos: courtesy of Daniel Meza

126: [bottom] Renderings: courtesy of Associated

214-215: Photo: © CLUSTER

29: Photo: courtesy of Ernesto López-Morales


217: Map: Nancy Naser Al Deen © CLUSTER

30: Photo: courtesy of Mosa‘ab ElShamy

129: Photo: courtesy of Nourhan Elzafarany

219: Photo: © CLUSTER

34: Photos: Lucie Ryzova’s collection

130: Photo: courtesy of Mona Abaza

220-221: Photos: © CLUSTER

35: Photos: Lucie Ryzova’s collection

135: Photo: courtesy of Mona Abaza

223: Map: Nancy Naser Al Deen © CLUSTER

41: Photo: courtesy of Mosa‘ab ElShamy

136: Photo: by Jerold S. Kayden

224-225: Photos: © CLUSTER

43: Photo: Nancy Naser Al Deen, © CLUSTER

141: Photo: by Jerold S. Kayden

227: Map: Nancy Naser Al Deen © CLUSTER

48: Photo: © Assemble

143: Photo: by Jerold S. Kayden

228-229: Photos: © CLUSTER

51: Photo: © Assemble

152: Photo: courtesy of Ahmad Hammoud

231: Map: Nancy Naser Al Deen © CLUSTER

52: Photo: © Assemble

154: Design: Karim Reyad

232-233: Photos: © CLUSTER

53: Photo: © Assemble

155: Map taken from Henri de Saint Omer, Les

235: Map: Nancy Naser Al Deen © CLUSTER

54-55: Photo: © Assemble

entreprises belges en Égypte, rapport sur la situation

237: Photos: © CLUSTER

56: Photo: courtesy of Townhouse Rawabet 2015

économique des sociétés belges et belge-égyptiennes

238-239: Photos: © CLUSTER

59: Photo: courtesy of Townhouse library 2014

fonctionnant en Égypte (Brussels, 1907): 99

241: Map: Nancy Naser Al Deen © CLUSTER

61: Photo: courtesy of Townhouse 2012

156: Photo: courtesy of Amr Selim

242-243: Photos: © CLUSTER

62: Photo: Yahya El Hosafy, © Al Ismaelia For Real

157: [left] Photo: courtesy of Ahmed Hammoud

244: Photo: Nancy Naser Al Deen, © CLUSTER

Estate Investment

157: [right] Photo: courtesy of Sarah Rafea

251: Photo: Nancy Naser Al Deen, © CLUSTER

64: Photo: Yahya El Hosafy, © Al Ismaelia For Real

158: Photo: Ahmed Mansour

261: Photo: Alya Sorour, © CLUSTER

Estate Investment

160: Photo: courtesy of Sohier Hawas

265: Photo: Nancy Naser Al Deen, © CLUSTER

67: Photo: Yahya El Hosafy, © Al Ismaelia For Real

162: Photo: courtesy of Sohier Hawas

266: Photo: Alya Sorour, © CLUSTER

Estate Investment

165: Photo: courtesy of Sohier Hawas

278-279: Photo: Nancy Naser Al Deen, © CLUSTER

68: Photo: David Cordova © Zawya

169: Photo: Beth Stryker, © CLUSTER

288: Photo: Alya Sorour, © CLUSTER

71: Photo: Ziad Hassan © Zawya

174: Photo: © CLUSTER

294: Photo: Nancy Naser Al Deen, © CLUSTER

73: Photo: courtesy of Zawya

176: Photo: © CLUSTER

295: Photo: Nancy Nasser Al Deen, © CLUSTER

81: Photo: © CLUSTER

180: Photo: © CLUSTER

82: Photo: Omar Nagati, © CLUSTER

182: Photo: © CLUSTER

96: Photo: Omar Nagati, © CLUSTER

184: Screen shot: courtesy of CLUSTER

104: Photo: courtesy of Karim El Hawayan

187: Photo: © CLUSTER

The Creative Cities: Re-framing Downtown Cairo conference was organized by CLUSTER in partnership with the American University in Cairo School of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Research Foundation for the State University of New York with support from the Ford Foundation This publication was produced with the support of a grant from the Ford Foundation to the Research Foundation of the State University of New York to pilot approaches to documentation, network building and urban design that improve public space governance. Disclaimer: The content of the report reflects the views of the authors and does not necessarily represent the views of the Ford Foundation or the Research Foundation for the State University of New York.

Sponsored by:

‫بعضها أمثلة للعمارة الحداثية صممها الجيل األول من رواد العمارة المصريين‪،‬‬

‫ً‬ ‫مستقبل لتوسيع‬ ‫وأخيرا‪ ،‬نطمح أن تساهم تلك المساحة في تأسيس آلية مؤسسية‬ ‫ً‬

‫أو أستديوهات التصوير اآلخذة في اإلندثار‪ ،‬بينما استكشفت جوالت أخرى‬

‫المشاركة المجتمعية في تخطيط وسط البلد‪ ،‬تسمح بعملية أكثر تشاركية تُ مكن‬ ‫ً‬ ‫ً‬ ‫واستدامة‪.‬‬ ‫ورحابة‬ ‫تنوعا‬ ‫من الوصول إلى وسط بلد أكثر‬ ‫ً‬

‫وسط البلد من خالل ممراتها وشوارعها الخلفية‪ ،‬أو من على الدراجة‪ .‬هدفت‬ ‫هذه الجوالت مجتمعة إلى ترسيخ النقاش حول السياسات العمرانية والخطاب‬ ‫األكاديمي بالمؤتمر وأثره على الحياة اليومية والواقع العمراني لوسط البلد‪.‬‬


‫ملخصا لندوات المؤتمر‪ ،‬كما تتضمن المحاضرات‬ ‫تقدم هذه المطبوعة‬ ‫ً‬ ‫المقدمة والنقاشات التي تلتها‪ .‬كما تشتمل على جزء يوضح الصياغات‬ ‫والمسارات والخرائط لجوالت وسط البلد‪ .‬وقد قام شركاء المؤتمر من اإلعالم‪:‬‬

‫(‪”Colin Mercer, Cultural Planning for Urban Development and Creative Cities )١‬‬

‫«مدى مصر» و«منطقتي وسط البلد» ‪ ،‬بإصدار مجموعة من المقاالت‬

‫‪Martha Rosler, “Culture Class: Art, Creativity, Urbanism, Part III,” e-flux vol. 25 no. 5 (2011):‬‬

‫أنظر أيضاً ‪(, 2006): 2–3.‬‬

‫)‪journal/culture-class-art-creativity-urbanism-part-iii/#_ftn57, last accessed 04/09/2016.‬‬

‫حية بوسط البلد‪ .‬ويمكنكم االطالع على‬ ‫والفيديوهات ‪ -‬بالتوالي‪ -‬عن قضايا ّ‬

‫(‪ )٢‬أنظر ‪Sharon Zukin, The Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places (New York: Oxford University‬‬

‫مقاالت «مدى مصر» في الجزء الثالث من هذه المطبوعة‪ ،‬وعلى فيديوهات‬

‫‪.Press, 2010‬‬

‫«منطقتي» على الموقع اإللكتروني المصاحب لهذه المطبوعة (‪www.‬‬

‫‪Demos, 1995); Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community,‬‬

‫(‪ )٣‬للمزيد عن الخطاب حول المدينة اإلبداعية‪ ،‬انظر ً‬ ‫مثل ‪Charles Landry and Franco Bianchini, The Creative City (London:‬‬

‫‪ ،)‬والذي يشتمل كذلك على توثيق لكل الندوات‪،‬‬

‫‪Age: Economy, Society and Culture Vol. I (Malden, MA and Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1996‬‬

‫باإلضافة إلى وقائع وبرنامج المؤتمر‪ .‬باإلضافة إلى ذلك‪ ،‬تضم هذه المطبوعة‬

‫‪and Everyday Life (New York: Basic Books, 2002); Manuel Castells, The Rise of the Network Society, The Information‬‬

‫عن دور الفن في اإلحالل الطبقي العمراني‪ ،‬انظر ‪Loretta Lees, Tom Slater and Elvin Wyley, Gentrification (London and‬‬ ‫‪New York: Routledge 2008); Neil Smith, The New Urban Frontier Gentrification and the revanchist city (London and‬‬

‫ً‬ ‫ملحقا يوثق المبادرات اإلبداعية بوسط البلد بالقاهرة‪ ،‬والتي قام مختبر عمران‬

‫‪.)New York: Routledge, 1996‬‬

‫القاهرة بجمعها‪ ،‬باإلضافة إلى دليل للمباني التراثية يعتمد على سجل التوثيق‬

‫(‪ )٥‬قام مختبر عمران القاهرة بتنظيم عدة فاعليات مثل ندوة «الفنانون كمحفزين للعمران» والذي تم تنظيمه بمعهد جوتة‬

‫الذي أصدره الجهاز القومي للتنسيق الحضاري عام ‪.٢٠٠٩‬‬


‫(‪ )٤‬أنظر ‪‬‬

‫بالقاهرة‪ ،‬نوفمبر ‪ .2012‬انظر ‪‬‬

‫(‪ )٦‬منصة المبادرات العمرانية بالقاهرة‪ ، .‬انظر ُعمر نجاتي وبث سترايكر‪ ،‬ممرات‬

‫سيرا على األقدام (القاهرة‪ :‬كلستر‪ )2015 ،‬و‪‬انظر ً‬ ‫أيضا‬ ‫وسط البلد بالقاهرة‪ :‬جولة ً‬

‫تدخالت مختبر عمران القاهرة في ممرى كوداك وفيليبس في وسط البلد بـالقاهرة في ‪.2015‬‬

‫نتمنى أن يساهم موقع المؤتمر اإللكتروني ومطبوعته مدن إبداعية‪ :‬إعادة‬

‫(‪ )٨‬انظر قائمة المراجع في نهاية هذه المطبوعة‪ .‬يمكنكم ً‬ ‫أيضا اإلطالع عليها في مكتبة عمران القاهرة(‪،)‬‬

‫صياغة وسط البلد بالقاهرة في خلق مساحة للحوار والتشاور حول ُرؤى التطوير‬

‫والتي يتم حاليً ا دمجها في مبادرة المكتبات المشتركة (‪ ،)PILOT‬والذي سيتم إطالقه في نهاية ‪.2016‬‬

‫لمنطقة وسط البلد بالقاهرة وخططها‪.‬‬

‫(‪ )٩‬لمواضيع ومسارات وخرائط تلك الجوالت انظر الجزء الثاني من هذه المطبوعة‪.‬‬

‫(‪ )١٠‬نُ شر في قرار رئيس مجلس الوزراء رقم ‪ 2964‬لعام ‪.2009‬‬

‫‪ 291‬مقدمة‬

‫والية نيويورك‪ ،‬ومختبر عمران القاهرة في مقر مركز المعهد األمريكي للعمارة‬

‫التدخالت العمرانية التي تهدف إلى اختبار فرضية دور الفن والثقافة في إحياء‬

‫بنيويورك‪ ،‬حيث تم التطرق إلى دور السياسات العمرانية في عملية إعادة اإلحياء‬

‫ً‬ ‫ورحابة‪ .‬وقد استحوذت وسط البلد على‬ ‫تنوعا‬ ‫الفراغ العام وتطويره ليصبح أكثر‬ ‫ً‬

‫العمراني وعالقة الفن والثقافة باإلزاحة االجتماعية واألبعاد األمنية‪ ،‬عبر المدن‬

‫اهتمام متزايد تشهد عليه األدبيات والفاعليات التي ظهرت في السنوات القليلة‬

‫المختلفة وسياقها االقتصادي‪.‬‬

‫(‪) 4‬‬


‫الماضية‪ )7(.‬وقد حرص مختبر العمران على تطوير قائمة بالمراجع والكتب والمقاالت‬ ‫بنهاية هذا الجزء من هذه المطبوعة‪.‬‬

‫وفي سبيل التواصل مع قطاع أكبر من األطراف المعنية‪ ،‬سعى مؤتمر ُمدن إبداعية‪:‬‬ ‫إعادة صياغة وسط البلد بالقاهرة لالستعانة بلجنة إشراف متخصصة ومتنوعة‬

‫وقد تم تنظيم مؤتمر مدن إبداعية‪ :‬إعادة صياغة وسط البلد بالقاهرة من خالل‬

‫ضمت ً‬ ‫كل من لينا عطا هللا (مدى مصر)‪ ،‬وناثانيال بوديتش (الجامعة األمريكية‬

‫ست جلسات متتالية تناول ٌ‬ ‫محددا تتقاطع فيه القضايا العمرانية‬ ‫موضوعا‬ ‫كل منها‬ ‫ً‬ ‫ً‬

‫بالقاهرة)‪ ،‬هبة فريد (مركز الصورة المعاصرة)‪ ،‬ماريا جوليا (كاتبة)‪ ،‬مي اإلبراشي‬

‫والثقافية واالقتصادية وتلك المتعلقة بالسياسات مثل دور الفنانين كمحفزين‬

‫(مجاورة‪ :‬جمعية الفكر العمراني)‪ ،‬محمد الشاهد (مدونة ُمشاهد القاهرة) خالد‬

‫للعمران وخطر اإلزاحة اإلجتماعية وحرية الحركة‪ ،‬والتراث العمراني‪ ،‬وثقافة المدينة‪،‬‬

‫الخميسي (مؤسسة دوم الثقافية)‪ .‬كما حرص المؤتمرعلى دعوة ممثلي المحافظة‬

‫والسياسات الثقافية‪ ،‬والحوكمة العمرانية‪ ،‬آخذين في االعتبار عوامل األمان‪،‬‬

‫ومؤسسات الدولة المختلفة‪ ،‬وشركات التطوير العقاري‪ ،‬والقطاع الخاص في مركز‬

‫باإلضافة إلى تناول الرؤى البديلة والموازية لتطوير وسط البلد‪ .‬وقد تتضمنت‬

‫المدينة‪ ،‬وكذا ممثلي المجتمع المدني‪ ،‬بما في ذلك من مبادرات فنية وثقافية‪.‬‬

‫كل جلسة وجهات نظر متعددة لألطراف المعنية‪ ،‬باإلضافة إلى تناول أحد األمثلة‬ ‫الدولية‪ ،‬كما سبقها عرض ألحد التقارير الصحفية من خالل فيلم قصير‪ ،‬من إعداد‬

‫أخيرا‪ ،‬استمد هذا المؤتمر موضوعه من اهتمام مختبر عمران القاهرة ‪-‬والذي‬ ‫ً‬

‫جريدة «منطقتي وسط البلد»‪ ،‬ليستعرض مواضيع تعكس الخبرة اليومية ألهالي‬

‫بدأ منذ ثالث سنوات‪ -‬بدور الفنانين كمحفزين للعمران ومساهمتهم في‬

‫وسط البلد من حركة المرور ومرتاديها‪ ،‬ومشاكل تداعي البنية التحتية للسكان‪،‬‬

‫ً‬ ‫سابقا‬ ‫االقتصاد المحلي والتجديد العمراني‪ )5(.‬فقد قام مختبر عمران القاهرة‬

‫ودور المساحات الفنية بالفراغ العام‪ ،‬باإلضافة إلى لقاءات مع أصحاب المحالت‬

‫بتنظيم مجموعة من المؤتمرات والندوات سعت لجمع مختلف األطراف المعنية‬

‫والمطاعم‪ ،‬مع التركيز على دور المرأة والشباب في هذا الصدد‪.‬‬

‫واستكشاف االستراتيجيات المحلية الممكنة لدعم مساهمات الفنانين المتجددة‬ ‫في التطوير العمراني من خالل مناقشات نقدية‪ .‬وباإلضافة إلى ذلك‪ ،‬قام مختبر‬

‫وبالتوازي مع الندوات‪ ،‬نظم المؤتمر في نهاية اليوم األول ست جوالت‪ ،‬بالتعاون مع‬

‫عمران القاهرة بالعمل على مجموعة من الدراسات لرصد المبادرات الفنية‬

‫خبراء محليين‪ ،‬هدفت إلى طرح سرديات وصياغات بديلة لوسط البلد‪ ،‬حيث مر بعضها‬

‫عددا من‬ ‫والثقافية والعمرانية وتوثيقها عقب ثورة يناير‪ ،‬باإلضافة إلى تنفيذ‬ ‫ً‬

‫بمواقع ظهرت في السينما المصرية أو األدبيات عبر العقود المنصرمة‪ ،‬واستعرض‬

‫ومقاهيها الثقافية وباراتها القديمة‪ ،‬ليرتادها ً‬ ‫شابا من الفنانين والطالب‬ ‫جيل ً‬

‫والمستقبلية لتطوير وسط البلد من خالل مقارنة نقدية مع مدن أخرى مع األخذ في‬

‫والصحفيين ونشطاء المجال الثقافي والعديد من األجانب؛ مما ساهم في‬

‫االعتبار خصوصية القاهرة االقتصادية والعمرانية والمؤسسية‪.‬‬

‫ويمكن اعتبار المشهد الفني والثقافي بوسط البلد بالقاهرة من خالل إشكاليتين‬

‫ومن خالل هذين المحورين ‪-‬الفن والثقافة واالقتصاد اإلبداعي من جهة‪ ،‬والتطوير‬


‫العمراني من جهة أخرى‪ -‬هدف المؤتمر إلى خلق مساحة للحوار المجتمعي‬

‫الخفوت والتداعي العمراني‪.‬‬ ‫استعادة وسط البلد لصحوتها بعد ثالثة عقود من ُ‬

‫تتشاور فيه األطراف المعنية المختلفة‪ ،‬تُ طرح فيه مصالحهم المتباينة وتستجيب‬ ‫ً‬ ‫وثانيا‪ ،‬مقاومة محاوالت‬ ‫أول‪ ،‬الدور الذي يلعبه في إثراء التنوع بمركز المدينة‪،‬‬ ‫ً‬ ‫استغالله كأداة لتفعيل سياسات أو مصالح أطراف أخرى‪.‬‬


‫الهتماماتهم بما في ذلك الشركاء المنظمين‪ .‬وقد استضافت الجامعة األمريكية‬ ‫بالقاهرة ‪-‬الشريك المنظم للمؤتمر‪ -‬فاعلياته في الحرم الجامعي بالتحرير‪ ،‬كانعكاس‬

‫الهتمامها بهذا المقر ومحيطه العمراني‪ ،‬حيث ُأطلقت بالتوازي «مبادرة ُحسن‬ ‫استدعى عنوان المؤتمر‪« :‬مدن إبداعية» تحوالت اقتصادية وعمرانية عالمية‪،‬‬

‫للتعرف على األطراف الفاعلة‬ ‫الجوار» بالشراكة مع الجامعة األمريكية ببيروت‬ ‫ُّ‬

‫نقديا تبلور منذ ثمانينيات وتسعينيات القرن الماضي‪ ،‬حيث‬ ‫أكاديميا‬ ‫خطابا‬ ‫وكذا‬ ‫ً‬ ‫ً‬ ‫ً‬

‫بالمجتمع المحلي المحيط من حيث أولوياته ومشاكله‪ ،‬وكذا دور السلطات المحلية‬

‫أدى تحول مدن عديدة بأوروبا وأمريكا الشمالية من اقتصاد اإلنتاج الصناعي‬

‫فيما يتعلق بالتطوير المستقبلي لهذا الجزء من وسط البلد‪ .‬ومن هذا المنطلق‬

‫إلى ما بعد الصناعي في إطار الليبرالية الجديدة وفي عصر شهدت فيه ثورة‬

‫ساهمت جلسات النقاش في تفعيل دور البرامج األكاديمية بالجامعة األمريكية‬

‫ً‬ ‫مراكزا لجذب الفن والثقافة‬ ‫المعلومات إعادة صياغة الكثير من المدن لتصبح‬

‫بالقاهرة‪ ،‬وكذا الحرم اليوناني ‪-‬أحد الداعمين للمؤتمر‪ -‬بما يضمه من مبادرات‬

‫ورؤوس األموال من خالل تحويل المناطق الصناعية والقلب المتداعي إلى مراكز‬

‫إبداعية وما يجاوره من مقرات فنية وثقافية‪.‬‬

‫للثقافة وساحات للمهرجانات‪ )2(.‬وقد توازى ذلك مع ظهور أدبيات تطرح قضايا‬ ‫جميعا إلى‬ ‫نقدية متعلقة بمجتمع المعلومات واالقتصاد اإلبداعي‪ ،‬والتي تشير‬ ‫ً‬

‫ومن جهة أخرى‪ ،‬تم تنظيم المؤتمر بالشراكة مع مؤسسة األبحاث بجامعة والية‬

‫بزوغ االقتصاد الالسلعي‪ ،‬والذي يرتكز على الثقافة والفنون واإلبداع كركيزة‬

‫نيويورك‪ ،‬في إطار مقاربات التوثيق العمراني وتفعيل شبكات للتنسيق بين األطراف‬

‫للنهوض العمراني لمدن عديدة حول العالم‪ ،‬وكذا تداعيات تلك التحوالت العمرانية‬

‫المعنية وتطوير مفاهيم الحوكمة الرشيدة بالفراغ العام‪ .‬وفي هذا السياق‬

‫كاإلزاحة االجتماعية وبزوغ الطبقة اإلبداعية وتحويل مراكز المدن إلى متاحف‬

‫استعرض المؤتمر خبرات دولية لدور الفن والثقافة في المدينة كمدن بأوربا وأمريكا‬

‫مفتوحة تخلو من التنوع االقتصادي واالجتماعي‪ )3(.‬في هذا اإلطار سعى المؤتمر‬

‫الشمالية مثل لندن ونيويورك‪ .‬وقد انعكس هذا التوجه من خالل ندوة الحقة بعنوان‬

‫للتواصل واالستفادة من تجارب دولية وإقليمية تساهم في إثراء الخطط الحالية‬

‫«الفن والسياسة والمدن في لحظة تحول» نظمها ٌ‬ ‫كل من كلية بيرتشيس بجامعة‬

‫‪ 293‬مقدمة‬

‫مؤتمر مدن إبداعية‪:‬‬ ‫إعادة صياغة وسط‬ ‫البلد بالقاهرة‬

‫سعى هذا المؤتمر لتناول قضايا متعلقة بـ«المدن اإلبداعية»‪ ،‬والدور الذي يمكن‬ ‫أن يلعبه الفن والثقافة والمبادرات اإلبداعية في اإلحياء والتجديد العمراني؛‬ ‫ليسلط الضوء على منطقة وسط البلد بالقاهرة‪ ،‬والتي مرت بتحوالت سياسية‬ ‫وعمرانية ذات وتيرة متسارعة ومستمرة خالل الخمس سنوات المنصرمة‪ ،‬أدت‬ ‫إلى تغيرات بنسيجها االجتماعي والثقافي‪ ،‬وكذلك بالفراغات العامة بها‪ .‬كما‬ ‫فرصا للمواطنين للتعرف على‬ ‫هدف إلى خلق مساحة للحوار المجتمعي تتيح‬ ‫ً‬ ‫التحوالت التي تحدث بأحيائهم وإبداء رأيهم فيها‪ .‬وقد عمل المؤتمر في سبيل‬ ‫ذلك على جمع األطراف المعنية من إدارة محلية‪ ،‬ومبادرات حقوقية‪ ،‬وشركات‬ ‫التطوير العقاري الخاصة‪ ،‬والقطاع الثقافي المستقل باإلضافة إلى معماريين‪،‬‬ ‫وعمرانيين‪ ،‬مصريين وغير مصريين؛ لتداول عدة أسئلة مثل‪ :‬ما هو الدور الذي‬ ‫ُ‬ ‫يمكن أن يلعبه الفنانون كمحفزيين عمرانيين؟ وما تأثير السياسات الثقافية‬ ‫والحوكمة العمرانية في تطوير منطقة وسط البلد؟ وما إشكالية اإلزاحة‬ ‫االجتماعية المصاحبة للتطوير في وسط البلد بالقاهرة؟‪ .‬وقد طرح المؤتمر‬ ‫تساؤالت عن خصوصية القاهرة مقارنة بمدن أخرى‪ ،‬مثل نيويورك ولندن‪ ،‬فيما‬ ‫ومن يستخدمه؟‬ ‫ومن يديره؟ َ‬ ‫يتعلق بقضايا الفراغ العام‪ ،‬مثل‪َ :‬من يملكه؟ َ‬ ‫مؤخرا العديد من خطط التطوير تضمنت مشروعات إلعادة‬ ‫شهدت وسط البلد‬ ‫ً‬ ‫االستقرار في إطار رؤية أشمل لإلحياء والتطوير‪ ،‬تتشارك فيها السياسات‬ ‫دوما‬ ‫الحكومية وشركات التطوير العقاري واالستثماري‪ .‬وبينما كانت وسط البلد‬ ‫ً‬ ‫ً‬ ‫حيويا لألدباء والفنانين والمثقفين بمنتداياتها ومقاهيها‪ ،‬فقد شهد العقد‬ ‫مركزا‬ ‫ً‬

‫بث سترايكر وعمر نجاتي‬

‫تقريبا‪ -‬بزوغ ساحة فاعلة للفن المعاصر والمستقل‪،‬‬ ‫الماضي خاصة منذ عام ‪2000‬‬ ‫ً‬ ‫مباشر في «إعادة اكتشاف وسط البلد» بمبانيها التاريخية‬ ‫بشكل‬ ‫والتي أسهمت‬ ‫ٍ‬ ‫ٍ‬

‫ملخص عام‬

‫© ‪ 2016‬كلستر والجامعة األمريكية بالقاهرة ومؤسسة األبحاث بجامعة والية نيويورك‬ ‫تم تحرير هذه المطبوعة والموقع اإللكتروني المرافق لها‪ :‬‬ ‫ً‬ ‫إرتكازا على مؤتمر دولي عقد في حرم الجامعة األمريكية بالتحرير في ‪ 31‬أكتوبر و‪ 1‬نوفمبر‬ ‫‪ 2015‬لمدة يومين‪.‬‬

‫جميع الحقوق محفوظة‬ ‫رقم تسلسل الكتاب العالمي ‪978-0-9980983-0-2‬‬ ‫تحرير‪ :‬بث سترايكر وعمر نجاتي‬ ‫تنسيق المطبوعة‪ :‬نهى درويش‬ ‫محرر مراجع‪ :‬ميا يانكوفيتش‬ ‫تصميم‪ :‬أحمد حمود‬ ‫صورة الغالف‪ :‬نانسي ناصر الدين‬ ‫تمت الطباعة في القاهرة‪.‬‬

‫مدن إبداعية‪:‬‬ ‫إعادة صياغة وسط البلد بالقاهرة‬ ‫تحرير‪:‬‬ ‫بث سترايكر‬ ‫عمر نجاتي‬


‫مدن إبداعية‪:‬‬ ‫إعادة صياغة وسط البلد بالقاهرة‬

‫مؤتمر مدن إبداعية‪:‬‬ ‫إعادة صياغة وسط البلد بالقاهرة‬ ‫ندوة دولية‬ ‫‪ 31‬أكتوبر و‪ 1‬نوفمبر‪2015 ،‬‬ ‫حرم الجامعة األمريكية بالتحرير – مصر‬

‫هدف مؤتمر “مدن إبداعية‪ :‬إعادة صياغة وسط‬ ‫البلد بالقاهرة” إلى تسليط الضوء على الدور الذي‬ ‫يمكن أن تلعبه الثقافة والفنون في تحفيز عملية‬ ‫التطوير الحضري حيث تناول أمثلة محلية وعالمية‬ ‫والتي يمكن أن تساهم في إثراء حوار نقدي حول‬ ‫الخطط المستقبلية لتطوير منطقة وسط البلد‪.‬‬ ‫في ضوء التحوالت التي شهدتها القاهرة في‬ ‫وبناء على الدراسات‬ ‫السنوات القليلة الماضية‪،‬‬ ‫ً‬ ‫الثرية لتاريخ عمران القاهرة وتحدياته المعاصرة‪،‬‬ ‫يطرح مؤتمر “مدن إبداعية‪ :‬إعادة صياغة وســط البلد‬ ‫بالقاهــرة” ُأطر مقارنة ومتعددة التخصصات لتناول‬ ‫قضايا متنوعة تشمل الفراغ العام والتراث والثقافة‬ ‫الحضرية‪ ،‬وكذا خطط إعادة إحياء وسط البلد في‬ ‫سياق إشكاليات اجتماعية واقتصادية هامة كاإلحالل‬ ‫الطبقي واإلعتبارات األمنية والحوكمة العمرانية‪.‬‬

‫تحرير‪:‬‬ ‫بث سترايكر‬ ‫عمر نجاتي‬

‫أتاح المؤتمر مساحة للحوار بين الباحثين‬ ‫والمهنيين والمتخصصين من جهة‪ ،‬والناشطين‬ ‫في المجال الثقافي والفني وأصحاب المصلحة‬ ‫والمستثمرين من القطاع الخاص من جهة أخرى‪.‬‬ ‫وقد نُ ظم المؤتمر من خالل ندوات عامة وجوالت‬ ‫رؤى موازية ومكملة‬ ‫عمرانية تهدف إلى تطوير‬ ‫ً‬ ‫لمنطقة وسط البلد‪ ،‬ترتكز على اإلستفادة‬ ‫من التجارب الدولية والممارسات المحلية‪.‬‬

‫المؤتمر من تنظيم‪:‬‬

‫منى أباظة‬ ‫خالد عبد الحليم‬ ‫عمرو عبد الرحمن‬ ‫دينا أبو السعود‬ ‫عماد أبو غازي‬ ‫ليسا أندرسون‬ ‫جورج عربيد‬ ‫ريهام عرام‬ ‫شكري أسمر‬ ‫طارق عطية‬ ‫لينا عطا هللا‬ ‫سحر عطية‬ ‫علياء أيمن‬ ‫ناثانيال بوديتش‬ ‫ناديا دروبكين‬ ‫عايدة الكاشف‬ ‫محمد الشاهد‬ ‫عماد فريد‬ ‫محمد جواد‬ ‫بولس أيوب‪-‬جداي‬ ‫جاين هول‬ ‫سهير حواس‬ ‫كريم إبراهيم‬ ‫مي اإلبراشي‬ ‫أكرم إسماعيل‬

‫جليلة القاضي‬ ‫جارولد كايدين‬ ‫إرنيستو لوبيز موراليس‬ ‫أحمد منصور‬ ‫سامية محرز‬ ‫عمر نجاتي‬ ‫نانسي ناصر الدين‬ ‫أحمد راغب‬ ‫هبة رؤوف عزت‬ ‫لوسي ريزوفا‬ ‫كريم شافعي‬ ‫يوسف شاذلي‬ ‫بث سترايكر‬ ‫ديرك وانروي‬ ‫ويليام ويلز‬ ‫طارق ذو الفقار‬

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