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Living with Heritage in Cairo

Living with Heritage in Cairo: Area Conservation in the Arab–Islamic City

Ahmed Sedky
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Living with Heritage in Cairo
    Book Description:

    The Arab–Islamic city has been always a glamorous urban dream in human cultural memory. This is manifested in Cairo, the world’s largest medieval urban system where traditional lifestyles are still implemented. Nevertheless, despite the extensive efforts to preserve Historic Cairo, it is sadly vulnerable. Ahmed Sedky investigates the reasons behind this condition, exploring and comparing regional and international case studies. Questions such as how and what to conserve are raised and elaborated through the perspectives of different stakeholders. A resulting evaluative framework is accumulated that underpins the criteria for assessing area conservation in the Arab–Islamic context and that can be used to delineate the causes responsible for the present condition of Historic Cairo.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-374-1
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. xvii-xxii)

    Historic Cairo is the world’s largest medieval urban system where traditional lifestyles are still alive in daily practice.¹ Despite its international and local significance, the old city is sadly vulnerable. Like many similar areas around the world, historic Cairo has suffered neglect and deterioration as a consequence of modernization and changes in cultural views and traditional lifestyles.

    Many efforts have been made to confront the old city’s problems. A good start was made in 1980, when the wife of President Sadat, together with United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), campaigned to preserve the district between the northern and...

  7. Part One— What To Conserve

    • 1 The Current Meaning of Historic Areas in Cairo
      (pp. 3-36)

      Generally the term ‘historic Cairo’ means the specific zone that is the focus of numerous area conservation and upgrading projects under the auspices of different governmental and international organizations. The zone includes Fatimid Cairo and Coptic Cairo (also known as the al-Fustat area), as well as the intrinsic urban fabric between al-Fustat and the southern gates of al-Qahira (now called the areas of al-Darb al-Ahmar and Ibn Tulun Mosque). The boundaries of the zone (see Fig. 1.1) can be explained historically.

      The medieval city expanded in the south–north direction due to the topography. The Muqattam Hills prevented expansion toward...

  8. Part Two— How to Conserve

    • 2 The Concept of Area Conservation
      (pp. 39-80)

      In considering how to conserve any urban historic area, the priority is to safeguard or enhance its environmental quality by applying the appropriate principles. After elucidating those principles, this chapter explains the economic motives that drive any intervention in historic areas.

      Urban area conservation began in a mixed spirit of nostalgia and nationalism during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The French approach made no distinction between restoration and conservation, and opinion leaders such as Viollet-le-Duc advocated stylistic restoration (Jokilehto, 1999a, p. 202). At that time, in France and many other countries, the mainsprings of conservation were the national interests...

    • 3 Area Conservation Processes
      (pp. 81-110)

      The principles explained in the previous chapter must be implemented through processes that guide the planning of any area conservation scheme. This chapter will outline the specific processes answering the question of how to conserve.

      Area conservation is primarily a planning endeavor. Its decisions are subject to the limitations of time and resources. Thakur (1990, pp. 347–48), Evans (1999, p. 345), and Trache (2001, p. 160) specify four stages for any project: 1. defining the context; 2. documenting the area’s values and problems; 3. formulating the general policies and detailed guidelines; 4. implementing the project.

      Policies and legislation are...

  9. Part Three— Assessment of Area Conservation in Cairo

    • 4 Assessment of Area Conservation in Historic Cairo
      (pp. 113-120)

      Having so far reviewed the principles of area conservation in general, I am now going to describe my own observations of actual sites in historic Cairo. To begin with, I shall establish the assessment criteria that will be applied in the next chapter. These criteria address both environmental quality and upgrading policies as interrelated factors which influence each other (Innes, 2002; see Fig. 4.1).

      To measure the quality of a conservation scheme and its impact on a historic area, the most important questions are what it aims to conserve, and how it does so.

      Each conservation area has an original...

    • 5 Area Conservation in Cairo
      (pp. 121-226)

      The assessment model described in the previous chapter is the one I applied to area conservation projects in Cairo. The aim is to define the chief actors involved in area conservation schemes, as well as those who synthesize the conservation and urban planning policies in historic Cairo. The role of each of these influencing actors is assessed by applying the previously compiled assessment criteria to judge the quality of area conservation, as well as reveal the actual directions controlling the different interventions in historic Cairo.

      Different efforts have been made to develop and upgrade historic Cairo. One of the earliest...

    • 6 Summary and Conclusion
      (pp. 227-232)

      My concern for historic Cairo was inspired by the old city’s dilapidated condition, especially after the 1992 earthquake, and by its relentless environmental decline despite continual upgrading attempts ever since the 1980s. The present inquiry began by exploring the significance and values of the historic areas and by defining the qualities to be safeguarded through appropriate processes and mechanisms of area conservation. My findings indicate the advisability of a broad perspective to reconcile the different claims and needs of the “U,” “N,” and “W” interest groups within each historic area.

      The study covers the proposals and interventions that have been...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 233-264)
  11. References
    (pp. 265-288)
  12. Charters and Legislation
    (pp. 289-294)
  13. Index
    (pp. 295-306)