Posts tagged events

Hassan Khan Exhibition and Kodak Passage is a media partner in this year’s D-CAF. During the festival several posts will appear on the blog covering some of its venues and events.


A historical perspective and urban context*

Pedestrian passageways are a prominent feature of downtown Cairo, having been influenced by the Parisian arcades of late nineteenth century.  Today many of these passageways and gaps between buildings have been transformed into back alleyways, housing multiple activities and uses that are often invisible from the street. Coffee-shops and bars, restaurants and food-stands, crafts and small workshops, mosques and prayer corners, stationary shops and bookstores, galleries and antique stores have taken up occupation, while many passageways remain closed, uninhabited or dilapidated.

Kodak Passage is both an exemplary and exceptional space. What used to be a narrow dead-end service alleyway between Adly and Abdel Khaliq Tharwat Streets, through a 1920s art deco ensemble (now owned and managed by al-Ismaelia), was turned into a pedestrian passage as part of a larger experiment of pedestrianized zones Downtown during the 1990s. Kodak store, labs and garage/warehouse used to occupy the western flank of the passage, while Café de Brasil occupied the central bay of the eastern side, and remains today, though shuttered.  Surrounded by a number of emerging art, film and design spaces (CIC, Cimatheque, and CLUSTER), the passage was identified by CLUSTER as a rare opportunity to introduce to this end of Downtown a pop-up gallery space, and to engage art interventions that may serve as a catalyst for urban development and revitalization of surrounding buildings, shops and passageways.

The current exhibition space occupies four different storefronts along the western side of Kodak Passage, ranging in their size, clear height and physical conditions. Setting up these spaces required major architectural renovation and upgrade of the infrastructure, in addition to installing the necessary exhibition walls, lighting system and other audio-visual elements. The exhibition curation, design and architectural renovation were undertaken by CLUSTER and the project was produced by Orient Productions and Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF). The two-month long renovations included the input of different national and international installation crews, as well as direct input from the artist. The Hassan Khan exhibition was designed and curated by CLUSTER to present a procession of exhibition spaces, interjecting the artist’s ouevre amidst the public and pedestrian activities of the arcade.

Hassan Khan exhibition opening: March 30, 6pm

Exhibition schedule: March 30 - April 26, 12pm – 8pm

Koday Passageway, 20 Adly Street, Downtown Cairo

For more information:

The Hassan Khan exhibition is part of this year’s D-CAF Festival. D-CAF has over the past two years worked diligently to reinvent public space, changing perceptions, and as a result drawing in the public for a renewed interaction.




*Text and Photos courtesy of CLUSTER

Urban Visions program brings contemporary dance to the streets is a media partner in this year’s D-CAF. During the festival several posts will appear on the blog covering some of its venues and events.




Consistently one of D-CAF’s most popular programs, Urban Visions returns this year, bringing new choreography to public spaces in Downtown Cairo and Alexandria. Working to increase the visibility and appeal of contemporary dance in Egypt, the program aims to engage the general public by placing contemporary art within an everyday urban landscape. Unsuspecting passersby become curious audience members, who are presented with work that challenge their ideas of what contemporary art is, and where it fits in our modern lives.

The program kicks off this year with a performance choreographed by Egyptian dance studio Ezzat Ezzat. Invisible Boundaries toys with the idea of a third dimension, and deals with the abstract, literally invisible boundaries that we confine ourselves to, or sometimes create for ourselves.

Back for the second consecutive year, Dutch duo The100Hands have created a new, site-specific piece, Running Nucleus, which deals with the concept of resilience and looks at communities, connection, and dependency. The piece will be performed along with Egyptian dancers, who have been rehearsing with The100Hands during the weeks prior to the festival.

Dealing with the intricacies of love, Remind Me, Choreographed by Lotte Sigh (Denmark) expresses the humanity, brutality, and tenderness of the relationship between a man and a woman. The piece features two dancers, and premiered in 2008 at Dansecenen in Copenhagan.

A more complex performance follows, with Ex Nihilo’s Mashy (France), about a group of men and women who become involved in a game of challenges, pulling in passersby who become part of the performance. The show is a co-production of Ex Nihilo and Nassim El Raqs, and has been created with the cooperation of the Cairo Contemporary Dance Center (CCDC) and the Institut Francais Egypt as well as the Institut Franceais/Ville de Marsaeille.

The final piece of the program, an Egyptian- American collaboration titled I’ll Dance While You’re Dancing and We Will Have Danced Together,  uses handheld technology to allow the performers to respond to one another’s movements across time and space.

This year’s performances will take place in front the Egyptian stock exchange (Borsa), one of last year’s popular locations, as well as Alfy Bey street, and the American University in Cairo’s GrEEK campus on Mohammed Mahmoud street. For the first time this year, these performances will also travel to Alexandria, where they will be performed at the statue of Ismail, beside the Roman Theatre.

All performances will take place on several nights, allowing for more exposure of the general public to these works.

For more information on our programs, visit our press website,

Main website:

Facebook: Dcaf.egypt



Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival: Press Release is a media partner in this year’s D-CAF. During the festival several posts will appear on the blog covering some of its venues and events.


Bringing in artists from all over the world, unearthing local and regional talent, and featuring six diverse programs, the third edition of the Downtown Contemporary arts Festival (D-CAF) promises to fill the three weeks between 20th March and 11th April with an eclectic selection of independent art events catering to all tastes.

A production of Studio Emad Eddin, D-CAF works to reinvigorate Downtown by bringing all genres of arts to its street corners, entering and revitalising spaces and venues that have been neglected for years, and acting as a catalyst for the creative energy increasingly emanating from this part of the city.

This year’s inaugural event will feature a screening of Salma El Tarzi’s film “Underground/On the Surface,” which shows glimpses of the lives of Shaabi Musicians on the rise, Okka and Ortega, followed by the first act of D-CAF’s music program, a performance by Dutch-South African duo Skip&Die.

The festival’s six programmes – Performing Arts, Music, Visual Arts, Film, Urban Visions, and Special Events, will feature world premieres, international collaborations, as well as a special visual arts survey show.

Curated by D-CAF’s artistic director, Ahmed El Attar, the Performing Arts segment of D-CAF 2014 brings dynamic international and locals performances to the Falaki Theatre and Hotel Viennoise, amongst other venues. These include the dance installation Art of Movement, which will prompt audiences to question their perceptions of reality and C’est du Chinois, a performance that challenges language barriers. Stemming from the region, It Happened Tomorrow by Syrian theatre company, Damascus Theater Lab (DTL) will show at Talee’a Small Theatre, while Violence Lointaine, directed by Omar Ghayatt (Egypt) will make its world premiere at Talee’a Large Theatre. Egyptian choreographer, Mohamed Shafik, will also present his piece An House Empty of Hospitality for the first time in the Arab world.

On the hunt for musicians who draw on different music structures and genres to create new sounds, D-CAF’s music curator, Mahmoud Refaat, has compiled a music programme that offers experimental, psychedelic, new pop and electro shaabi concerts. Kasr El Nil theatre, once a platform for such renowned singers as Umm Kulthoum, will host this year’s music program highlight, a concert by Lebanese singer Yasmine Hamdan, followed by the sounds of vocalist Fayrouz Karawya and music producer Ismael, who will be debuting their new collaborative project. The theme of collaboration features heavily in this year’s music program, with a concert by London’s RINSE.FM and Cairo’s 100Copies, performing under the name ‘Cairo Calling.’

Internationally celebrated Hassan Khan dominates the Visual Arts programme this year, with a major survey of his work exhibited within the Kodak Passage on Adly Street, which underwent extensive renovations by CLUSTER in preparation for its debut as an exhibition space. Curated by Beth Stryker, the exhibited works range from the start of Khan’s career in the mid 90s until today. The exhibition, which opens on March 30, exemplifies what D-CAF strives to accomplish; bringing art into public spaces and, through that process, applying new perspective to the streets of Downtown Cairo.

The shorts film programmer at International Francophone Film Festival of Namur (Belgium), Hervé Le Phuez, will curate D-CAF’s 2014 film program; his selection of strictly francophone cinema, made up of five features and nine shorts, hail from a number of countries including Romania, Switzerland, Canada and Portugal.

Bringing site-specific dance performances to Downtown’s streets, the Urban Visions programme has been a unique, and highly successful, feature of D-CAF in past editions. This year, the festival welcomes back last year’s Dance duo, The100Hands (Netherlands) debuting their collaborative piece, Running Nucleus. D-CAF also happily welcomes contributors to the 2012 edition, Ex Nihilo (France) with their piece, Mashy. The programme will also feature the choreography of local talent, Ezzat Ismail, who will present his piece, Invisible Boundaries.  Taking place in front of El Borsa (the Egyptian Stock Exchange), on Alfy Bey Street and at the GrEEK Campus, most of these performances will also be presented in Alexandria. 

Finally, the Special Events programme offers a mash-up of events ranging from a concert by the French group, Jazz Nomads, titled La voix est libre, to a four part discussion series under the banner of Is Art Important? (Iraq/Syria).

In a bid to encourage local aspiring filmmakers, D-CAF’s smART Mobile Film Festival will showcase the culmination of a series of workshops held in four cities across Egypt, where participants produced one to three minute films. A selection of the best films will be screened in special booths around Downtown during the festival.

D-CAF’s final week will bring the focus back to regional artists. Dubbed ‘Middle East Focus’ the week spanning 3-7 April will feature Arab artists from all over the region with the purpose of showcasing regional talent in all its forms to international festival programmers, who have been invited to D-CAF expressly for this purpose.

On the brink of its third edition, D-CAF continues to engage with, and contribute to, the independent arts scene both locally and regionally, and for the three weeks of its duration, it will transform Downtown Cairo into a cultural buffet of visual art, music, dance, theatre, and film, waiting to be consumed by eager audiences.

You can find further information on D-CAF through our online platforms:

Main website:

Facebook: Dcaf.egypt


Twitter: @dcafFestival

Instagram: DCAFFEST

Lara El Gibaly

PR Officer

Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF)

20th March - 11th April 2014

Event: Book launch of “Learning from Cairo” and “Archiving the City in Flux”



Please join us at the British Council for the launch of our two new publications: Learning from Cairo and Archiving the City in Flux

The publication Learning from Cairo: Global Perspectives and Future Visions, and accompanying website:, are based on a three-day international conference held at AUC Tahrir Square April 12-14, 2013

Learning from Cairo, co-organized by CLUSTER and the American University in Cairo, was an international symposium that sought to engage the current political and urban transformation unfolding in Cairo as a critical context for examining relevant international case studies and best practices in areas ranging from housing, transportation, public space and local governance to informality. The conference emphasized a comparative and interdisciplinary approach bringing practitioners, academics, officials and local stakeholders into dialogue, with the objective of generating an ongoing critical urban discourse and future visions for Cairo

Archiving the City in Flux examines new modes of informal urban interventions in public space in Cairo that have emerged since January 2011. During this time a breakdown of the security apparatus has led to a state of unprecedented fluidity in the city. Archiving the City in Flux offers a preliminary account of the city as it has evolved over this two-year period, focusing primarily on public space and emerging urban orders, and attempts to draw lessons from informality towards the development of alternative design guidelines and planning policies

نتشرف بدعوتكم للإنضمام إلى حفل إطلاق مطبوعتين : دروس من القاهرة وتوثيق المدينة فى حالة السيولة
المقام بالمركز الثقافى البريطانى

يستند كتاب: “دروس من القاهرة”: منظور عالمي ورؤى مستقبلية والموقع الإلكتروني المصاحب له على أعمال مؤتمر دولي عقد في مقر الجامعة الامريكية بالتحرير في القاهرة لمدة ثلاثة أيام من 12 وحتى 14 إبريل،2013.

نظم كلا من مختبر عمران القاهرة للتصميم والدراسات والجامعة الامريكية مؤتمر “دروس من القاهرة” الذي سعى إلى توظيف التحوّل السياسيّ والعمرانيّ الجاري في القاهرة ليكون سياقا نقديّا يسمح بالتعرف على أفضل الممارسات العالميّة والحالات النموذجيّة في مجالات الإسكان والنقل والمساحات العامّة والإدارات المحليّة المستقلّة بالإضافة إلى اللارسميّة العمرانية. وشدد مؤتمر “دروس من القاهرة” على إعتماد نهج مقارن ومتعدد التخصصات يجمع بين الأكاديميين ومسؤولي المؤسسات الحكومية والمهنيين وأصحاب المصلحة المحليين في حوار يهدف لتفعيل خطاب عمرانيّ نقديّ مستمر ورؤى مستقبليّة للقاهرة.

يتعرض كتاب “توثيق المدينة في حالة سيولة” أنساق جديدة للتدخلات العمرانية غير الرسمية في الفراغ العام في القاهرة التي ظهرت منذ ثورة 25 يناير، حيث أدى الانهيار الجزئي للمنظومة الأمنية إلى إحداث حالة من السيولة غير المسبوقة في المدينة. يقدم “توثيق المدينة في حالة سيولة” رصد أولى للتغيرات المتلاحقة التي حدثت في المدينة خلال العامين السابقين، مع التركيز بشكل أساسي على الفراغ العام والممارسات العمرانية الناشئة وكذا محاولة إستخلاص دروس من اللارسمية نحو رؤى تنموية ومعايير تصميمية وسياسات تخطيطه بديلة.


More event info here.

Event: Symposium on social accountability, government responsibility and municipal management


هل تعرف تكلفة رصف الطرق وإضاءة الشوارع وصيانة الحدائق بمنطقتك؟ هل تعرف مين الجهات الحكومية المسئولة عن تمويل بناء الوحدة صحية أو مركز الشباب؟ مين بيحدد أولويات الخدمات التي تحتاجها منطقتك؟ مين بيراقب تكلفة هذه الخدمات العامة وبيتأكد من جودتها؟ لو عايز يبقى ليك دور في تحسين منطقتك ومسائلة الأجهزة الحكومية عن مستوى الخدمات فيها ممكن تعمل ده من خلال “المسائلة المجتمعية”

تنظم مبادرة التضامُن العمراني بالقاهرة، وقسم السياسة العامة والإدارة بكلية الشئون الدولية والسياسات العامة بالجامعة الأمريكية بالقاهرة، ندوة عن آليات “المسائلة المجتمعية” كأحد وسائل رفع كفاءة الخدمات المقدمة من الجهات الحكومية للمواطنين في مجال العمران، وضمان عدالة توزيع هذه الخدمات بين مناطق وأحياء المدينة المختلفة. وتتطرق الندوة لجوانب أخرى مرتبطة بآليات المسائلة المجتمعية مثل الشفافية وحق المواطنين في الوصول للمعلومات وبالأخص في مجال العمران.

وتتعرض الندوة لجهود بعض الجهات الحكومية وغير الحكومية العاملة في هذا المجال في مصر، كذلك بعض التجارب الدولية التي طبقت مفاهيم المسائلة المجتمعية بصورة ناجحة ومؤثرة. وتنتهي الندوة بنقاش مفتوح.

برنامج الندوة

الجلسة الأولى
- قسم السياسية العامة والإدارة، كلية الشئون الدولية والسياسات العامة، الجامعة الأمريكية بالقاهرة
- مركز العقد الاجتماعي
- هيئة كير مصر

الجلسة الثانية
- مبادرة التضامُن العمراني بالقاهرة
- المركز المصري للإصلاح المدني والتشريعي
- نقاش مفتوح

تقام الندوة بالقاعة الشرقية، بمقر الجامعة الأمريكية بميدان التحرير، القاهرة (الدخول من شارع محمد محمود)

الندوة باللغة العربية، والدعوة عامة

الرجاء تأكيد الحضور على:

Do you know who pays for paving the roads, fixing the street lighting or maintaining green spaces in your neighborhood? Do you know which governmental agency is responsible for building your Healthcare Unit or your Youth Club? Who decides the priorities of public services needed in your area? Do you know who monitors the cost of these public services and ensures their quality? If you want to have a role in improving your neighborhood and to hold governmental agencies accountable for the efficiency and quality of public services in your area, you can do that through “Social Accountability”.

TADAMUN: the Cairo Urban Solidarity Initiative and the Department of Public Policy and Administration, School of Global Affairs and Public Policy (AUC) organize a public Symposium with the aim to develop a better understanding of social accountability mechanisms to explore their potential role as a tool to improve the standards of public service provision and ensure the equitable distribution of services across the city. The Symposium also addresses the importance of government transparency and the right to access to information to enable citizens to hold the government accountable for its urban planning policies, its implementation of urban development projects, and its management of urban areas.

To this effect, the Symposium will illustrate the recent efforts of some governmental and non-governmental agencies active in this field in Egypt. It will also demonstrate some successful and effective international practices concerning social accountability. The Symposium will conclude with an open discussion to facilitate strategic action.


Session I:
- Department of Public Policy and Administration, School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, AUC
- The Social Contract Center
- CARE Egypt

Session II:
- TADAMUN: the Cairo Urban Solidarity Initiative
- The Egyptian Center for Civil and Legislative Reform
- Open Discussion

Time: June 26 at 6-9pm

Location: The Oriental Hall, AUC Campus, Tahrir Square, Cairo (Please enter from Mohamed Mahmoud Street)

The Symposium is open to the public and will be in Arabic


For more info on the event click here.

Two recent conferences, between national policy and urban reality


دينا لطفي

مؤتمر: مستقبل المُجتمعات العمرانية الخاصة" نحو تنمية عمرانية مستدامة، يونيو 2013

بالمركز القومي لبحوث الاسكان والبناء

علي مدار ثلاثة أيام، وبعد عدة جلسات وأوراق بحثية قُدّمت من باحثي المركز القومي لبحوث الاسكان والبناء وبعض باحثي الجامعات المصرية، اتضح بشكل كبير الفكر السائد في المؤسسات الرسمية وخاصةً المؤسسات المعنية بالإسكان، وذلك من خلال الموضوعات المطروحة في تلك الجلسات، والتي وإن تنوعت في الشكل والمضمون، كان الانطباع المهيمن عليها واحداً تقريباً -فيما عدا عدد قليل من الأبحاث خارج هذا السياق- ؛ وهو تأييد فكرة الانغلاق داخل المجتمعات، مع اعتبار المجتمعات المُسَوَّرة أو المُغلقة أو الـ Gated Communities ؛ حلاً جيدا ربما يشوبه فقط بعض السلبيات، مثل الانعزال والطبقية وتعارضها مع الاستدامة الاجتماعية، والتي غالباً ما كانت تُذكر علي استحياء في آخر سطر من البحث، والتي اعتبرها أيضاً معظم الباحثين مشكلات لها حلول أو أنه يمكن الحدّ من تأثيراتها السلبية عن طريق التشريعات والقوانين.

شملت الأبحاث دراسة عن الوضع الراهن لمدينة الشيخ زايد وقد تبيّن أن 70% من اسكان مدينة الشيخ زايد حالياً اسكان فاخر وأنها تضم حوالي 50 تجمع سكني مُغلق تتراوح مسطحاتها بين 170- 588 فدان، وذلك بالرغم من أن منحة الشيخ زايد في الأساس كانت من أجل انشاء إسكان اقتصادي للفقراء.

شملت الأبحاث أيضاً دراسة لأسباب تَحوّل المُجتمعات لفكر الانغلاق في بعض دول العالم، والتي غالباً لا تخرج عن البحث عن جودة الحياة، الوجاهة الاجتماعية، والشعور بالأمن. وقد قام أحد الأبحاث بتوضيح أمثلة مدن انتشرت فيها الجريمة في جنوب افريقيا، والصين والولايات المتحدة الأمريكية وذكر البحث أن الانغلاق أدّي بالفعل الي انخفاض معدّلات الجريمة في تلك المدن.

كما شملت الأبحاث دراسة عن نشأة وتطور المُجتمعات المُغلقة في الولايات المتحدة وكندا ودول أمريكا اللاتينية وأوروبا، ورصد وتقييم تجربة أوروبا الشرقية بعد انهيار الشيوعية وتأثرها بفكر العولمة وظهور المجتمعات المُغلقة تأثراً بأمريكا مما أدي الي طفرة عقارية سكنية" علي حد تعبير الباحث، واعتبار هذه التجربة تحديداً نموذجاً يمكن الاستفادة منه في ظل تأثرنا بالعولمة والتحولات الاقتصادية وتقلّص دور الدولة في قطاع الاسكان، وذلك من خلال المشاركة بين القطاع العام والخاص في مجال التطوير العقاري.

تناول أحد الأبحاث أيضاً بعض النماذج لمجتمعات مُغلقة خضراء في الولايات المتحدة والهند وهولندا؛ ومن توصيات البحث أن تقوم الدولة بتشجيع القطاع الخاص علي الاتجاه للعمارة الخضراء في مشروعات المُجتمعات المُغلقة عن طريق حوافز مادية سواء كانت اعفاءات أو تسهيلات.

حضر بعض الأساتذة للتعقيب علي الأبحاث من معارضي فكرة المُجتمعات المُغلقة، وكان من أبرزهم أ.د. أبوزيد راجح، الرئيس السابق للمركز القومي لبحوث الاسكان والبناء، والذي اعتبرها ظاهرة تعبر عن خلل اجتماعي واقتصادي شديد، كما انتقد اهدار الطاقة في تلك المجتمعات التي أطلق عليها مجتمعات الوفرة، وذكر علي سبيل المثال أن ريّ فدان واحد من ملاعب الجولف يكفي لري أفدنة زراعية، كما أن استخدام تلك المشروعات للرصيد القومي من المياه الجوفية في بعض الأحيان يمثل اهداراً لموارد الدولة. ورأي أن جودة الحياة في هذه المُجتمعات بها مبالغة شديدة وتتمتع برفاهية زائدة عن امكانية المجتمع وأن الطبقات الفقيرة هي التي تدفع الثمن وحدها.

مؤتمر: دروس من القاهرة؛ وجهات نظر عالمية، ورؤي مستقبلية، ابريل 2013

بالجامعة الأمريكية بالقاهرة، وبمبادرة عدد من العاملين والمهتمين بمهنة العمارة في المجتمع المدني

علي مدار ثلاثة أيام أيضاً وقبل المؤتمر سالف الذكر بشهرين تحديداً، عُقد مؤتمر دروس من القاهرة، حيث كان الدافع مختلف، والانحياز مُختلف أيضاً. فقد كانت الأفكار المطروحة في المُجمل توضح تجارب سعت بشكل ما لتحقيق عدالة اجتماعية عن طريق مهنة العمارة، سواء كانت من تاريخ القاهرة أو من خلال تجارب دولية من مدن في الهند، وجنوب افريقيا وفنزويلا.

اشتمل المؤتمر أيضاً علي زيارات ميدانية لعدة مواقع في مدينة القاهرة وما حولها؛ قلب القاهرة، بعض المناطق غير الرسمية، و بعض المدن الصحراوية، ثم القيام بعقد جلسات متوازية عن قضايا متنوعة؛ المناطق غير الرسمية، الإزالات والاخلاء القسري ومبدأ المواطنة، الابتكار والتطوير العمراني، النشاطات المُجتمعية وسُبل المشاركة، الأمن والفصل والحدود، وأخيراً التدخّلات البحثية والتصميمية في المدينة غير الرسمية.

وكان أحد أهداف هذا المؤتمر محاولة إدراك واقع المدينة، والاستعانة بتجارب مشابهة الي حد ما في الظروف الاقتصادية والاجتماعية، مع محاولة لرصد ودراسة واقع القاهرة والأغلبية السكانية الفقيرة التي تعاني أكثر من غيرها، والتفكير في حلول تحقق الأهداف بما لا يؤثر سلباً علي نسيج المُجتمع.

لم يحضر هذا المؤتمر أي من ممثلي الجهات الرسمية المعنية بالاسكان؛ سواء من وزارة الاسكان أو المحافظة، وذلك علي الرغم من دعوتهم -علي حد قول أحد المنظمين. وقد اتضح الانفصال بين واقع الدولة وسياسة الدولة علي سبيل المثال عند الحديث بشكل عام عن فكرة المخالفات أوالتعدّيات" في كلا المؤتمرين، ففي المؤتمر الرسمي" كان الحديث عنها يتسم بالصرامة، حيث وجّه البعض نداءه للدولة بسرعة توفير جهاز يقوم بتنفيذ الإزالات طالما أن جهاز الداخلية لا يقوم بهذا الدور بشكل فعّال. أما في المؤتمر الآخر فكان الحديث أولاً عن مدي دقة تعريف مخالِف" أو تعدّي" أو غير رسمي، وأي من الحالات يمكن اعتبارها مخالفة، وكون 80% من الاسكان في القاهرة يُعد مخالفاً جعل الباحثين يتسائلون؛ أيُّهما يمكننا اعتباره غير واقعي، هل هو القانون" أم المُنفّذ المخالِف؟

كما اتضح أيضاً أن الجهات الرسمية لم تدرك بَعد واقع المدينة الحقيقي، وما زالت انحيازاتها لصالح الأقلية من الطبقة فوق المتوسطة والعليا، علي حساب الطبقات الأقل دخلاً، مع تأييد واضح لفكرة تقليص دور الدولة وتنازلها بشكل كبير عن دورها التنفيذي لصالح القطاع الخاص الذي يهدف الي الربح والربح فقط، من خلال سياسات الخصخصة التي توفّر جودة الحياة التي تسعي اليها تلك الطبقات، برغم من التأثير السلبي لتلك السياسات علي اقتصاد الدولة وإهدار الموارد من الأرض والطاقة.

وإننا من هذا المنطلق نتساءل؛

هل يُعتبر السكن الآدمي" بكل ما يشمل من مواصفات وجودة ومرافق وبنية تحتية؛ كهرباء ومياه وصرف وغاز وطرق ومواصلات؛ ومناطق خضراء وأماكن عامة وأماكن للتنزّه وخدمات؛ هل يعتبر سِلعة" ترجع الي سوق العرض والطلب وتوافر الامكانيات المادية؟ أم هو حَقّ لكل مواطن" كما ينص الدستور المصري؟

وهل حقاً الدولة لا تملك ما تستطيع به تحقيق هذا التوازن، أم أن الأمر هو عدالة غائبة وسوء توزيع؟

Event: Protest at the Cairo Governorate 19 June 5pm


(scroll down for English)

القاهرة بتتهد…. القاهرة بتضيع

وقفة 19 يونيو 2013 بميدان عابدين

بيان صحفى

تدعوكم مجموعة إنقاذ القاهرة للمشاركة فى وقفة يوم الأربعاء 19 يونيو فى تمام الساعة الخامسة، أمام محافظة القاهرة، فى ميدان عابدين، إحتجاجا على التدمير الممنهج للتراث المعمارى للمدينة، وانتشار البناء بطريقة عشوائية فى جميع أحياء المدينة.

وتتسبب هذه الظاهرة في تبديد النسيج العمراني وفقدان مباني المدينة التاريخية. عانت القاهرة من سوء التخطيط على مدى عقود ووصلت لحالة من الفوضى التامة خلال العامين الماضيين، فنجد الأبراج الشاهقة غير الآمنة تنتشر بسرعة البرق فى الحارات الضيقة على حساب مستقبل مدينتنا وتاريخها.

تأتي هذه الوقفة كخطوة أولى للتعبير عن غضبنا نحن محبى القاهرة من ما يحدث في جميع احيائها، نحن مهتمون بالقاهرة ككل، ولكن وقفتنا اليوم تركز على ما وصلت إليه الأوضاع في القاهرة التاريخية.

تعد القاهرة التاريخية مثالاً حياً لتاريخ إنسانى متواصل، فقيمتها لاتكمن فقط فى عدد أثار هائل يتخلل نسيجها العمرانى المتماسك بل في إحتفاظها بروحها وحرفها وشوارعها وعاداتها وتقاليدها التي تحدث عنها المؤرخون. ولذا أدرجت منظمة اليونسكو القاهرة التاريخية كمدينة - وليس كمجموعة آثار متفرقة - ضمن قائمة التراث العالمي في عام 1979. ولكن للأسف يتم الآن تدمير النسيج العمراني لهذه المدينة القديمة التى سحرت كل زائريها على مدار العصور وأصبح وضعها على القائمة مهدد ومتوقع نقلها إلى قائمة المدن المهددة اذا استمر معدل الهدم والبناء العشوائي الحالي.

تتعرض القاهرة التاريخية اليوم لأضعاف ما تتعرض له باقي المدينة من تشويه. فعمليات الهدم الواسعة تصل أحيانا لهدم المباني المسجلة كآثار وكثيرا من المباني ذات الطراز المعماري المتميز. أما المباني حديثة الإنشاء فهى عبارة عن أبراج" يتخطى إرتفاعها إرتفاع مآذن مدينة الألف مأذنة" و يطغى عليها القبح. والأخطر من ذاك هو أن تلك الأبراج غير آمنة إنشائياً فهى كالقنابل الموقوتة تنتظر إنفجارها في أى وقت على رؤوس قاطنيها لتقتل البشر وتدمر الآثار التي حولها - مشاكل متوارثة ولكنها تفاقمت تحت الظروف التي نعيشها الآن بين الإنفلات الأمني والغياب التام لكل الجهات المنوط بها تنفيذ القوانين والتصدي للمخالفين، وكذلك جشع قلة من المواطنين وكثرة من المقاولين و تواطؤ أو اهمال مسؤولي الأحياء.ويضاف اليها ظاهرة سرقة الآثار التي استفحلت في الآونة الأخيرة.

وعلى ما تقدم فاننا نطالب محافظ القاهرة بالاتي:

أولا: تجميد تراخيص الهدم والبناء فى القاهرة التاريخية لمدة عام.

ثانيا: إزالة الادوار المخالفة ومنع منعا باتا من توصيل المرافق من ماء وكهرباء للعقارات المخالفة

ثالثا: تكوين غرفة عمليات يكون من اختصاصها:

  1. تقييم ودراسة الوضع الحالى.

  2. حصر المخالفات.

  3. تفعيل قوانين البناء والحفاظ واقتراح التعديلات إن لزم الأمر.

  4. إيجاد حلول عن طريق عملية تشاركية تشمل المجتمع المحلي والمجتمع المدنى وجميع الجهات المعنية.

رابعا: تطوير خطط طويلة المدى تهدف إلى تحسين الأوضاع المعيشية والاقتصادية بالأحياء التاريخية.


“Cairo is being demolished….Cairo is vanishing”

June 19th, 2013 Vigil in Abdin Square

Save Cairo Group calls upon you to participate in a stand next Wednesday, June 19h, 2013 at 5:00 pm in front of Cairo Governorate in Abdin Square to protest against the organized destruction of the citys’ architectural heritage and the ongoing random and often illegal construction plaguing all its neighborhoods. This phenomenon is a basis for eliminating Cairos’ urban fabric and losing its historic buildings for ever. Cairo has been suffering from bad planning for quite some time, but during these last two years, it has reached a state of complete chaos. We witness unsafe tall building towers mushrooming rapidly in its narrow alleyways at the expense of our city and its history. This stand is a necessary first step to express our anger and anguish, we Cairenes, feel towards what’s happening throughout the whole of Historic Cairo. We care about the entire city but our stand today is focused on the miserable state of affairs in Historic Cairo.


Historic Cairo is a living organism providing a continuum of human history, civilization and habitat. Its value does not only lie in the wealth and sheer number of monuments within a sophisticated urban fabric, but also its common ethos, its traditional arts and crafts, its streets and alleyways and its norms and traditions that have amazed travellers and historians alike. Hence Historic Cairo was recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site in 1979 due to its irreplaceable urban fabric and not only its monuments. Sadly, this unique urban fabric is currently being destroyed by the minute to the point where UNESCO has threatened to move it to the list of cities under threat if the rate demolishing its old buildings and construction of new “ugly” replacements doesn’t halt immediately.


Historic Cairo is under severe attack compared to the rest of the city as large scale demolition often reaches registered monuments and many older buildings with exquisite architectural styles. They are replaced by newly erected menacing towers that belittle the elegant minarets of “the city of 1000 minarets”. More importantly, these towers are often structurally unsafe which transforms them into dangerous timed bombs ready to explode and kill inhabitants as well as destroy priceless buildings in their vicinity.  These are some of the inherent problems of Historic Cairo which are accentuated now by the appalling lack of security and the total dysfunction of pertinent government bodies mandated with the responsibility of implementing the laws and dealing with its offenders. Also, greed of a minority of citizens and a majority of contractors coupled with neglect or connivance of government officials as well as the increasingly systematic looting of Cairos’ monuments have become malignant problems.


Therefore we, Save Cairo Group, demand the following from the Egyptian Government represented by the Cairo Governor:

I. Freeze the issuing of all building and demolition permits in Historic Cairo for one year.

II. Immediate demolition of extra stories and abstention from supplying new buildings with their utilities.

III. Create an Operation Room to mandate the following:

1. Evaluate and study the current situation. 2. Survey building violations.

3. Implement construction and preservation laws and make amendments if necessary.

4. Finding plausible solutions through a participatory process that involves local communities, civil society and any other relevant party.

IV. Develop a long term plan to enhance the living conditions of historic Cairo through reviving its economy.

Event: Book Launch of Maisons de France au Caire

Book Launch on Wednesday May 29 at Institut français d’archéologie orientale (IFAO) in Mounira at 5-7pm, followed by a presentation and debate with the author, Mercedes Volait at 7pm, and an exhibition and sale at 8pm.

Maisons de France au Caire. Le remploi de grands décors mamelouks et ottomans dans une architecture moderne
(French Diplomatic Architecture in Cairo. The reuse of Mamluk and Ottoman Fragments in Modern Buildings).

Cairo: IFAO Publications, December 2012 [in French and Arabic]
Hardcover, 298 pages, 231 illustrations.
ISBN 978-2-7247-0636-9

The book presents a detailed analysis of the two main premises that the French diplomatic mission successively occupied in Cairo : the Neo-Mamluk mansion designed in 1875-79 for the French aristocrat and early Islamic art collector Gaston de Saint-Maurice, based on the reuse of historical material (marble fountains, floors and panels, moucharabiehs and carved ceilings), complemented by matching design, and the Neo-Moroccan structure designed in 1934-38 to accomodate the historical fragments when the diplomatic mission was transfered to a new site. Based on unpublished sources, both visual and textual, complemented by contemporary photography, the book traces the artistic and political history of these consecutive reuses and reveals their accompanying epigraphy, of which a full illustrated catalogue is proposed.

The table of contents is available at:

Lessons from elsewhere: Milan Design Week, When Districts Compete

Around the world this spring and summer several international events take place at several cities, the Cannes Film festival, the Sharjah Biennial, the Venice Biennial and others are events that bring flocks of visitors interested in particular cultural productions such as film and art to those cities. The events serve various functions from energizing the economies of cities to revitalizing otherwise neglected spaces to creating dynamic reputations (branding) for those cities. In all cases such events put their host cities on the world culture map and bring visitors year round beyond the limited time frames of those events. In Egypt, events such as the Cairo Film Festival have failed to make a similar impact on the city. Aly Muhammad Ahmad visited Milan Design Week and reflected on the power of international events in revitalizing cities and keeping them going.


The main exhibition at Milan Rho

By Aly Muhammad Ahmad

Architecture has always been as much about the event that takes place in a space as about the space itself. Bernard Tshumi, Event Cities

Every year during April and for a week, Milan, the well known city as the capital of design and fashion, is well dressed to welcome one of the most important design events in the world: the Milan Design Week. The event takes place in Rho exhibition area (the main exhibition), and also at different districts and neighborhoods which are considered for young designers.

The upcoming lines are not a report about the event and the competition that takes place between designers from all over the world or their amazing works, but it is an attempt to consider an urban perspective on another competition that takes place between different city districts, neighborhoods and public spaces.

Different spaces in each district, whatever their original functions are, switch into exhibition areas. A university, a kindergarten, a warehouse or a workshop, it does not matter, they are all switched to serve the design exhibition.

The two examples below are for two districts that are quiet and calm neighborhoods during typical everyday life but during the Design Week, they are the most well known and active spaces in the city.


The Egyptian booth at salone satellite 2013

Ventura Lambrate

Ventura Lambrate area is a remote area and the main street where the exhibition takes place is full of warehouses, abandoned factories and workshops for small crafts where people are exhibiting their works side by side with their crafts tools.

There are some light fixtures, benches on the outside and bars to sell water and snacks are all what you need to bring life and people into a warehouse and display the different products in open partitions. The warehouse or the abandoned building becomes vibrant and occupied by people and designers and their products.

A kindergarten is changed and switched into another exhibition space for fashion design; many other buildings are easily switched into new temporary functions.


The exhibition at different Warehouses


The exhibition at Workshops

Via Tortona

Located behind “Porta Genova” train station, “Zona Tortona” is a very calm street with a lot of small houses with courtyards inside and some small shops outside. The courtyards and garages on the ground floor are ready to receive the new function during design week, for example, an entrance garden for a firm head office is switched to an open exhibition. The calm street becomes a crowded pedestrian path; entrances on both sides are opened to welcome people, the small shops display their products outside. Booths are everywhere, people are watching, taking photos, contemplating the products, drinking and crossing from one space to another. It’s totally a vibrant and lively space.


Courtyards at Tortona

Every space is well used; the corridor of an old palace is temporarily used as an open area for display. Many other places are hosting events and exhibitions, the courtyards and rooms of universities, the city centre public spaces, and many more.

Milan is fully booked every year during April because of Design Week; people from all over the world head to the city. In addition to the event, touristic sites across the city become activated and well-visited. The event is an important source of income to the city and its hostels, hotels, museums, transportation, and commercial spaces. Good infrastructure and services are very important to host an event like this.

It is all about a vision and a will to convert a specific place or a city to an attraction point. Why don’t you stop, visit, buy, eat, be entertained and enjoy an atmosphere full of art, design and beauty. It’s a will to bring life to a certain space.

It’s very strange how in Egypt we don’t appreciate the value of historical buildings and how we are neglecting them until we wake up everyday on news about the destruction or the collapse of all or a part of them. It is also strange how we feel shame from old crafts workshops and how we want to get rid of them, instead of discovering the potential inherent in them, while other people have crossed over this by giving value to non valuable buildings through contemporary and elegant functions, design, new concepts and creativity. This requires another look at the city and its contents.

Aly Muhammad Ahmad is a graduate student at the School of Architecture and Society at the Politecnico Di Milano.

Event: Parallel Practice


Panel Discussion at the Arab Academy for Science & Technology, Architecture Department. “Parallel Practice” includes speakers Omnia Khlail and Ahmed Zaazaa. Wednesday May 15 at 4:30pm in Gamal Mokhtar Hall (Building A). 

"ممارسة موازية" محاضرة و مناقشة تضم امنية خليل و احمد زعزع. الاكاديمية العربية للعلوم و التكنولوجيا، قسم عمارة. يوم ١٥ مايو الساعة ٤،٣٠. قاعة جمال مختار (مبني آ). 1 شارع المشير أحمد إسماعيل، مساكن الشيراتون

Artists as Urban Catalysts in Downtown Cairo


Last December the Geothe Institute hosted a panel discussion titled “Artists as Urban Catalysts in Downtown Cairo.” The event was organized by Beth Stryker and Omar Nagati (Cluster) and supported by the Ford Foundation. Invited panelists represented two types of stakeholders in downtown: property owners (Karim Shafei, CEO of Al Ismaelia Real Estate Development, and Bruce Ferguson, Dean of the School of Humanities representing the American University in Cairo), and representatives of cultural organizations (founding member of the Contemporary Image Collective Heba Farid, Townhouse Curator Ania Szremski, filmmaker and co-founder of Cimateque Tamer El Said). The panel was moderated by Mohamed Elshahed (Cairobserver).

The panel aimed to bring together the above mentioned representatives in an open public discussion to re-examine what the organizers called “the classic appropriation of artists as catalysts for urban regeneration by real-estate developers seeking future gentrification,”  asking how things might play out differently in Cairo. However, a key word in that sentence is difficult to translate into Arabic: Gentrification. Although the discussion was held in English (with Arabic translation available), it was important to note the untransability of the conversation’s central concept. The unavailability of a direct translation of the term/concept doesn’t mean the processes of gentrification do not exist in Cairo but it points to the need for analysis and theorization grounded in the Egyptian context.

AUC’s downtown campus, much of which is no longer in use, could potentially act as an anchor for cultural activity downtown and provide much needed space for independent artist organizations as well as to its own students to maintain the link between the now suburban university and its downtown urban past. The university has not taken an active role in realizing that potential, however it has made its Falaki Theater available for public performances and events. Al-Ismailia on the other hand is actively engaged with arts and culture in downtown; not only do several arts organizations rent space from the company, Al-Ismailia is also the main sponsor and organizer of the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival.

The three arts spaces represented (CIC, Cimateque and Townhouse) while they rent the spaces they presently occupy, their relatively short-term leases mean insecurity and potentially being forced out of their premises due a variety of economic factors. In other cities, particularly in Europe, similar arts organizations were able to negotiate deals with municipalities in which long-term leases were granted, sometimes with no rent, which has helped such organizations thrive by focusing their funds into their creative activities while catalyzing the regeneration of their urban contexts (which municipalities are interested in). Such a process is not possible in Cairo as the state; the governorate (the closest Cairo has to a municipality) does not seek artists as catalysts for areas it manages where underused buildings could be transformed into cultural centers. Nor does the Cairo governorate have a development plan or vision in which independent culture plays a key role in transforming the city. Thus, Cairo’s independent artists and the cultural organizations they establish depend on their relationship to private property owners when it comes to establishing a space. The three speakers on this side of the debate explicated the opportunities and challenges they face in this matter.

It is important to note that Egypt has a massive centralized Culture Ministry with an immense budget and numerous spaces including nearby downtown at the campus of the Opera and in downtown such as the National Theater. However these spaces are often inactive and unwelcoming not only to audiences but also to artists. The ministry’s budgets mostly go into paying wages, not into programming.

Two competing voices emerged from the audience; on one hand some applauded the work of Al Ismailia and its support for the arts in downtown. One audience member argued that as artists “no one owes us anything” and that artists must find ways to establish their spaces without relying on support from private interests. On the other hand, others voiced concern with those sentiments and argued that in the Egyptian context when contemporary art lacks cohesive institutional support, private developers and property owners have an increased responsibility to support artists with affordable spaces.

The panel discussion revealed the need for a mediating entity between the various and sometimes conflicting interests of stakeholders. As moderator I suggested the need to establish a “Downtown Arts Council,” an independent body that incorporates members of the various stakeholders on its board and which acts as a mediator, organizer, advocate and promoter of the arts in the district. Such councils have been established as non-profit organizations in cities around the world for several decades and they have had a key role in the stimulation of cultural and artistic life in those cities. An arts council for downtown Cairo will allow artists to focus on their creative work and not be burdened with logistics while acting as a buffer between the two co-dependent yet unequal (in financial terms) main players in this scene: the artists and the property owners/developers. The institutional structure of arts councils differ around the world and their relationships to the states and ministries of culture also differ and range from direct support by the state to parallel operations and autonomy. Cairo’s downtown arts community and other stakeholders will need to sit down on many occasions besides this panel to decide on which model works best for Cairo’s context.

To this end the organizers staged the panel around the critical questions: “How is Cairo different from other cities, such as New York and Beirut, where such cycles of gentrification have taken place? What role may the underutilized AUC campus play in providing a  cultural anchor Downtown? What are the advantages and downsides of private sector partnerships between real estate stakeholders and independent artists and arts organizations?” They created this initial forum seeking “to explore potential local strategies for sustaining artists’ access to the generative contributions they make to urban development.”

The arts can be an engine for urban regeneration and development while urban development and investment can enrich the arts, but striking this balance without repeating the mistakes of other “creative city” experiments will be difficult. This panel discussion was an important first step in starting a meaningful conversation. Cluster organized the panel discussion as the first in what they are developing as an ongoing series of stakeholder meetings related to the arts and urban development in Downtown Cairo. Maintaining that conversation, evolving it and reaching useful conclusions and outcomes will be work that the stakeholders will have to carryout for themselves and in cooperation with one another, otherwise such panel discussions risk becoming ephemeral one off events with little tangible impact on the issues discussed therein.

For more information and for a video of the discussion click here.


Lower Manhattan Cultural Council

Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona

Brooklyn Arts Council