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Global Dreams

Global Dreams: Class, Gender, and Public Space in Cosmopolitan Cairo

Anouk de Koning
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 212
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  • Book Info
    Global Dreams
    Book Description:

    At the start of the twenty-first century, Cairo’s cityscape has acquired a spectacular global touch. Its luxurious five-star hotels, high-rise office buildings, immaculately clean malls, and swanky coffee shops serving café latte and caesar salad, along with the budding gated communities in the city’s desert expanses, exemplify three decades of economic liberalization. In the surrounding social landscape, the gradual abrogation of the Nasser-era structures that provided many with low-cost goods and services is dearly felt. This new study examines Cairo’s experience of economic liberalization in an era of globalization. It asks what happened to a postcolonial middle class that was once the carrier of national aspirations and dreams. It explores how young middle-class professionals navigate Cairo’s increasingly divided landscape and discusses the rise of a young uppermiddle class presence in the work, leisure, and public spaces of the city.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-251-5
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. A Note on Transliteration
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction Young Professionals and the City
    (pp. xv-xxxii)

    If I were to tell the story of this study, one evening in November 2001 would certainly provide a good starting point. I had been in Cairo for a few months, and had made the leftist, progressive Downtown scene of artists, journalists, activists, and hopefuls my home base. That evening, however, I made my way to a five-star hotel in Zamalek, Cairo’s old elite neighborhood, where I encountered a crowd of elegantly and formally dressed young Cairenes. They were members of SaharaSafaris, an internet-based community founded a few months previously, which brought people together for trips to the desert and...

  6. Chapter 1 Dreams of a Global Cairo History, Present and Future
    (pp. 1-30)

    In December 2002 the opening of a French hypermarket on the outskirts of Cairo was a hot topic in my upper-middle class circles. Everyone seemed to be talking about the new Carrefour, located close to the exclusivecompound(gated community) of Qattamiya Heights outside of up-market Maadi (see map). Maha, an upper-middle class friend in her late twenties, excitedly invited me to come along to see the new hypermarket-cum-shopping mall. In the first weeks after the opening we paid a visit to one of Maha’s friends who worked as a store designer at City Center Mall, the official name of...

  7. Chapter 2 The Education of Class
    (pp. 31-58)

    The numerous private educational institutions that claim Western standards and may even award Western degrees are important signposts of Egypt’s new liberal age, just as the high-rise office buildings along the Nile, the ring road around Cairo, or the immaculately clean shopping malls that offer Western designer clothes at unaffordable prices. The Western knowledge and degrees offered by these new schools make for sought after cultural capital and present crucial assets in the urban labor market. While Nasser-era policies were geared toward the creation of a broad, educated urban middle class, the policies and narratives of Egypt’s new liberal era...

  8. Chapter 3 The Logics of Reform Stories of Cairo’s Labor Market
    (pp. 59-84)

    I had met many young men and women who had experienced hardships in the labor market, heard numerous stories about the difficulties of finding even halfway decent jobs, and had sat with groups of youth in sidewalk cafés who seemed to have nothing else to do with their lives. Yet, it was a two-hour meeting with five young men in February 2003 that left an indelible impression on me.

    I had asked a lower-middle class friend of mine to arrange an interview with a few other graduates who were similarly struggling with the harsh realities of Cairo’s labor market. He...

  9. Chapter 4 Class and Cosmopolitan Belonging in Cairoʹs Coffee Shops
    (pp. 85-120)

    On a weekday in summer 2004 I had arranged to meet with Amal and Miriyam at the Retro Café in Mohandisseen for an interview about coffee shops. Like many of my upper-middle class friends and acquaintances, I had met Amal and Miriyam at a SaharaSafaris ‘social.’ That day we were to meet in one of the up-market coffee shops that had become an essential part of the daily routines of many upper-middle class professionals. These arecoffee shops, always referred to in English, never to be confused withahawi baladi, the male-dominated sidewalk cafés for which Cairo is famous. Different...

  10. Chapter 5 Of Taxi Drivers, Prostitutes, and Professional Women Gender, Public Space, and Social Segregation
    (pp. 121-146)

    In early spring 2002 a persistent story went around about a serial killer operating from a taxi in and around Heliopolis, one of Cairo’s old upper-middle class districts. The purported killer was said to kidnap, rape, and murder young ‘well-dressed’ women and mutilate their bodies. I received several e-mails describing these crimes in horrific detail. These e-mails included witness statements of policemen and a victim’s mother who had talked to her daughter on her cell phone just before the fatal moment. The story became big enough for the government to react. It vehemently denied the factuality of the stories in...

  11. Chapter 6 Global Dreams and Postcolonial Predicaments
    (pp. 147-154)

    This essay, published in one of the numerous English-language magazines that appeared in Cairo at the start of the twenty-first century, addresses the question of belonging in a country with disjunctive fates. Against the background of a divided nation, its upper class author asks: Who are the real Egyptian youth? It is not surprising that issues of belonging and national identity come up in an increasingly segregated city marked by glaring social inequalities, where ever more rigid divisions carve up the one time iconic professional middle class. Her quest calls up many of the themes I have discussed with respect...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 155-170)
  13. Index
    (pp. 171-176)