Remembering a Future Cairo

Lecture by Clare Davies

“The connoisseurs of fine living often look back fondly on old downtown Cairo in the 1920s. Everything about life was so French. The pace, the architecture, the settings. Life was unhurried, untouched by pollution and congestion and marked by quaint buildings, café boulevards and premium arcades."

So begins an advertisement for the Rivoli compound at Centre Ville, New Cairo, a real estate project of development giant, DAMAC, designed to capitalise on nostalgia for the old city's downtown, an area which now represents to many some of the prime reasons for urban flight: pollution, high population density, and dilapidation. While areas of medieval Cairo are being restored or reconstructed to recapture something of their supposed original appearance, new versions of the city's early "modern" quarters are being rebuilt at its outskirts. As the expansion of the Greater Cairo Region continues apace, the old city offers parallel models for imagining a future Cairo. The newness of New Cairo and the oldness of the old city are shown to be relative, the products of intersecting projects.

Clare Davies is a Ph.D. candidate in art history and Erwin Panofsky Fellow at the Institute of Fine Arts. She divides her time between Cairo and New York.

Kharita /
English / 00:31:23.281 / 97 MB / Ogg Theora/Vorbis - 640x360/Mono

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