Reflections on Cairo

I spent a few months in Cairo in 2003, which has made the ongoing violence surrounding the elections particularly poignant (and especially see Jadaliyya's coverage) It was that in mind that I stumbled across a thoughtful description by Mohamed Elshahed of the new campus of the American University of Cairo and its position within what is now known as 'New Cairo':
New Cairo is neither new in its conception nor related to Cairo’s complex cumulative urban heritage. Cairo was never a colonial city the way Algiers was, for example, where a privileged minority lived in an exclusive part of the city segregated by an army from the majority of the population. Mubarak’s neoliberal policies have in fact created a colonial city condition in Cairo where a political and economic minority fills the role of colonizers. The colonizers are backed and protected by a militarized government at the expense of the majority of the population, create zones of exclusivity, enjoy special benefits from the state, gain direct access to resources, and exploit cheap labor. New Cairo is not for all Egyptians yet government funding and planning backs it. Within it is a collection of gated complexes within which are homes or businesses that also have their own gates and walls. The only thing new about New Cairo is its unprecedented politics. Riding the bus back towards Tahrir Square, I look forward to arriving at a place I recognize as a city and as uniquely Egyptian, it is everything New Cairo is not.
 There are perhaps questions to ask about what it means to describe something as 'uniquely Egyptian', but all the same - a really thoughtful piece.


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