The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

New issue of Bidoun

Bidoun, the magazine about Arab and Persian art, pop culture, architecture and much else, has a new issue out on the theme of envy. It includes an interesting article on Nasr City, the neighborhood of Cairo built in the 1960s.

Medinet Nasr's unapologetic modernist sprawl seems to insist on the physicality of history, especially the history of a reclaimed and self-determined Egypt that followed the 1952 revolution and the renegotiation of those concepts in following decades. Original housing was constructed by public companies, building and housing cooperatives made low-interest loans readily available, and the area was rapidly settled. The expanding ranks of nationalist-era civil servants and government employees constituted a majority of the area's first residents. Medinet Nasr became home to a flurry of new ministries and important government institutions such as the National Planning Institute and the Central Agency for Mobilization and Statistics. A newly installed metro line was intended to ensure access to the rest of Cairo.

Shifting dynamics in the international oil market catalyzed the area's growth. A boom in oil revenues from the early seventies until the late eighties led to an influx of wealth into Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, dramatically changing the region's economic situation and spurring major development initiatives and widespread investment there. At the same time, more and more people flooded into Cairo from the countryside, as increasingly subdivided agricultural land became less and less sustainable. Many Egyptian men joined the multitudes of foreigners flocking to the oil rich region to work in all sectors and at all economic levels. Their imported income supported a parallel boom in Medinet Nasr real estate and lent the area a particularly Gulf architectural influence and an association with new money.
There's also a review of a book on Iranian bloggers by Alaa Abdel Fattah of fame -- and much more.