This paper investigates the limitations of postcolonial planning practices that aimed to modernise Cairo’s urban spaces during Gamal Abdel Nasser rule (1952–70). Following the Free Officers revolution of 1952, ambition to display urban order through forceful change in the city’s built environment was in action. Nasser’s visions of modernity were explicit in a series of attempts to reshape several prime locations in central Cairo, which included the old traditional waterfront quarter, in Bulaq Abul Ela. An analysis of the Bulaq planning scheme drafted in 1966 reveals insights into how notions of order were spatialised to integrate with Cairo’s complex urban fabric. The official plans to regularise Bulaq also strongly demonstrates how this was a top-down, centralised process in terms of governance, with full utilisation of state resources, namely the military and the media. From a wider perspective, planning practices under Nasser demonstrated an evident break with the past to eliminate memories of colonisation and disorder. Drawing on original resources, archival material, meeting minutes and maps of this historical but dilapidated quarter of Cairo, this paper gives an insight into how Nasser’s government attempted to convey a sense of order in a revolutionary country without, however, having an understanding of order as a coherent, multilayered and sequential process of change.
- order; post-colonial Cairo; Bulaq Abul Ela; urban planning