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Cairo’s Street Stories

Cairo’s Street Stories: Exploring the City’s Statues, Squares, Bridges, Gardens, and Sidewalk Cafés

Lesley Labadidi
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 152
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  • Book Info
    Cairo’s Street Stories
    Book Description:

    In 1872, Ismail Pasha, the khedive of Egypt, was the first to adopt the European custom of positioning heroic statues on public display as a symbolic message of the continuing authority of the ruling Muhammad Ali dynasty to which he belonged, but it was not until the early twentieth century and the determination of sculptor Mahmoud Mukhtar that such public art gained general acceptance, and today statues stand, ride, or sit in the streets, squares, and gardens of Cairo. Each sculpture adds a piece to the jigsaw of history spanning personalities and events that shaped the city and wider Egypt from 1805 to 1970, and here Cairo-based author Lesley Lababidi provides a unique perspective on Egyptian history through looking at more than thirty statues and monumental sculptures and the stories behind them. Between statues, she explores Cairo’s growth and its multidimensional identity, as manifested in the development and changing use of city space over the centuries, and examines the relationship of Cairo’s modern denizens with the landscapes, districts, palaces, archaeological sites, cafés, bridges, and gardens of their great and maddening city, the Mother of the World. Illustrated throughout with color photographs and archival pictures, Cairo’s Street Stories presents a unique and lively view of the history that fashioned the city’s streets and open spaces, and of the many and often unexpected uses to which its inventive inhabitants put them.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-274-4
    Subjects: Middle East Studies, Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Chapter 1 Eclectic City
    (pp. 1-10)

    There may be no better way to appreciate the vast extent of the city of Cairo than to inch around the circumference of the platform at the top of the Cairo Tower on the island of Gezira. As far as the eye can see from this narrow 360-degree ledge, there is city. A hazy sky gives way to the world’s longest river, the Nile, meandering almost parallel to the Muqattam Hills to the east. Only the Nile hosts respite from the ancient and modern, from the stone and sand. Twenty million people encased in a gray concrete sea press in...

  5. Chapter 2 River City
    (pp. 11-14)

    Any discussion about CAIRO begins with the Nile,al-bahr—the Arabic word for sea. The Nile waters enabled people to develop civilizations along its banks for millennia. The Nile swelled during the summer heat, fertilizing its valley and delta with 140 million tons of rich silt from Aswan to the Mediterranean Sea. Until the construction of the Aswan High Dam in 1970, the river played an important role in communication between Upper and Lower Egypt, served as the highway to transport minerals, grains, and materials, and enriched the land with rich silt for bountiful harvests. Without the African waters there...

  6. Chapter 3 Virgin City 640–1270
    (pp. 15-20)

    Each ruling dynasty left its mark by reflecting a unique vision for their society. They were architects of a virgin space and used the environment to fulfill their needs and express their beliefs. The Umayyads brought Islam to the Byzantine province of Egypt in the seventh century. From Damascus, Caliph Umar sent his commander Amr ibn al-As and an army of fifteen thousand men; they arrived at a small port on the Nile, the Byzantine stronghold of Tendunyas (also known as Umm Dunain, and later under the Fatimids as al-Maks). There a battle raged, and the Byzantine army was defeated....

  7. Chapter 4 Medieval City 1270–1517
    (pp. 21-28)

    From the Fatimid city walls to Salah al-Din’s Citadel, Cairo filled in and spread out to the north. The Nile receded to the west, exposing Gezirat al-Fil (‘Elephant Island’) and silting up the port of al-Maks; a new port was created at Bulaq. In 1270 Baybars I built a massive congregational mosque and palace in the Husayniya district, which developed quickly as wealthy merchants settled around the palace. The population spread out along the city’s northern wall. To the west, the expansion developed along the Khalig al-Misri and on the island of Roda. Sixty years later, Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad opened...

  8. Chapter 5 Oriental City 1517–1801
    (pp. 29-38)

    During the Ottoman era, from 1517 to 1798, expansion continued along the same lines (with respect to the Nile’s seasonal floods) and urban development continued in the same direction as under the Mamluks. After the Ottoman invasion of 1517, Europeans began to travel to the city of a thousand stories, among them probably the French orientalist Guillaume Postel, who wrote hisDescriptioin 1549. This description of the city inspired the Venetian printer and cartographer Mateo Pagano to engrave a Renaissance view of Cairo. Though Pagano had never traveled to Egypt, he mapped the city with extraordinary accuracy from an...

  9. Chapter 6 Egyptian City 1801–Today
    (pp. 39-52)

    Most civilizations utilize monumental figures and heroic sculptures to revere political figures and leaders. The tradition of immortalizing an individual, whether by human representation or by symbol, is a human trait. Governments impress their political heroes and leaders on their public; erecting statues at major intersections and in parks and gardens appears to reinforce both past heroic accomplishments and current ruling dogma. Heroic sculptures and monumental statues are visible reminders of a time in history when these individuals brought about substantial change in society and, in turn, influenced thought.

    Ismail Pasha (viceroy, then khedive of Egypt from 1863 to 1879)...

  10. Chapter 7 Muhammad Ali and Modernization, 1805–82
    (pp. 53-72)

    In 1800 Cairo was still considered a medieval city by European travelers. Napoleon’s engineers produced plans and diagrams that showed Cairo almost unchanged since the sixteenth century under the Ottoman Empire. The axis of the city ran from Husayniya in the north to Sayyida Zaynab in the south. At this time, the city wall had seventyone gates, including twelve major ones. Around the city there were gardens, orchards, and twelve lakes, the largest of which were Birkat al-Azbakiya and Birkat al-Fil.

    Muhammad Ali began his quest to modernize Egypt when he took over as governor-general in 1805. His rise to...

  11. Chapter 8 Nationalism and Independence 1882–1952
    (pp. 73-114)

    Between 1882 and 1925 a reorganization of laws came into effect that regulated building permission and provided services for street maintenance, planting of trees, and streetlights. The government implemented a tax scheme to preserve monuments, widen roads, improve streets in older districts, and provide better sanitation. In 1897 the draining of the Khalig al-Misri made way for a new form of transportation, the tramway. New bridges across the Nile, new roads, and the tramway all boosted mobility, and Cairo began to expand rapidly. Heliopolis, Shubra, Abbasiya, and Qubba saw massive growth, although—except for Heliopolis—little or no thought was...

  12. Chapter 9 Revolution and Political Reform 1952–70
    (pp. 115-134)

    The Nasser era brought about transformation, a real revolution. Gamal Abd al-Nasser led Egypt at a time when Nehru, Tito, Mao, Kennedy, and De Gaulle led their countries, and the world experienced an ideological tug-of-war. Although ‘Nasserism,’ at the time, was not identified as a doctrine, it did recognize a movement around charismatic leadership. It was Nasser’s death that defined the term, which became synonymous with radical transformation in the country through equality in social rights and justice among classes, through the lessening of the disparity between poor and wealthy, through the promotion of free education and equal opportunity, and...

  13. Chapter 10 The Sculptors
    (pp. 135-140)

    Henri Alfred Jacquemart (1824–96) was fortunate enough to see his works on display in both France and Egypt during his lifetime. He was born in Paris on 24 February 1824 and studied painting and sculpture at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. At the Salon de Paris he received a number of distinctions, a sign of royal favor as well as public recognition of his talent and achievement. Jacquemart traveled in Egypt and Turkey, studying style and mode of expression, though he secured his reputation as a sculptor in France. In Cairo his four lions stand guard at the ends...

  14. Chapter 11 How to Clean a Statue
    (pp. 141-144)

    In the Supreme Council of Antiquities Department of Restoration and Scientific Documentation on Nubar Street near Midan Laz Oghli is a permanent exhibition on the restoration of statues and antiquities, a laboratory to examine and determine the attributes of the monument to be restored, and a library with books and articles about restoration. A close inspection of the exhibit produces more information about the use of particular adhesives and consolidators used in the process. Here are the steps to a successful restoration:

    Assemble and review all information and past data on the statue or antiquity.

    Photograph the statue for ‘before...

  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 145-148)
  16. Index
    (pp. 149-152)