Compromising Spatial Quality: Modernity in the Era of National State Building in Cairo

Gehan Selim

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


The paper examines the imposition of western ideals of urbanism within colonial Cairo between1882-1952. It looks at the ideologies of capitalism, state control, and utopian idealism, which were vital tools to create modern built environments in the city. The argument is that principles of Western urbanism were at work and deeply influenced the institutional and professional practices of the Egyptian planners, who were mostly educated in Europe; however the outcomes revealed a major shift towards more inflexible solutions described as more open to compromise with the existing conditions. The paper analyses the case of a re-planning scheme drafted in the 1920s by the first Egyptian director of the Ministry of Town Planning under the British occupation. The scheme represented the superimposition of a western-style neighbourhood model on a historically rooted traditional quarter in Cairo. The paper largely relies on original archival materials, maps, documents and accounts to support the historical narrative of urban planning in Cairo. It reports that westernization approaches for planning Cairo were introduced to offer a new imagery representation, which remained central to the development of planning practices in postcolonial Egypt through different practical applications.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationColonial and Postcolonial Urban Planning in Northern African Cities
EditorsC. Silva
ISBN (Print)9781472444844
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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