The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

AUC's new campus: a mirage in the desert?

First off, apologies for the slow posting (traveling outside Egypt at the moment).

I meant to link to a story I did before I took off on AUC's new campus. In September, the American University in Cairo is leaving its location on central Tahrir Square and moving to a brand new campus in the desert suburb of New Cairo.  The AUC is quite an institution in Egyptian cultural and intellectual life, and in the life of Downtown Cairo. The move is a dramatic change for the university, which is basically suddenly going from being an urban to a suburban university. What I find particularly interesting about the move is how it fits into a broader pattern of (not to sound alarmist) the abandonment of Downtown in favour of sprawling desert suburbs.  Living in Cairo, it's impossible not to understand the desire to move to less congested, less polluted areas. But personally I fear that this move (of the elites) to the edges of the city is yet another sign of the total lack of foresight and vision that is so endemic to the administration and planning of Cairo. And the role of real estate speculation--the fact that the construction of new suburbs is much more profitable than the upkeep of central neighborhoods--can't be underestimated. Anyway, here's what I wrote:
Last month, students and faculty at the American University in Cairo bade farewell not only to each other but to their campus. Over the summer, the university is abandoning its historical downtown location and moving to a new campus on the outskirts of the city.

The offices of professors and administrators are cluttered with packed boxes. The library shelves are empty. And workers are toiling day and night in the desert outside Cairo to have the new campus – which will be 29 times bigger than the old one – ready by the time classes start in September.

“It’s a very rare opportunity for a university to rebuild itself and upgrade to extraordinary levels all at one time,” says Phil Donoghue, vice president for planning and administration, of the move to the new state-of-the-art campus. But others are concerned that by leaving Cairo’s downtown and moving to the suburbs, the university will lose an important connection to the city and a cornerstone of its identity.

You can read the rest of the piece here.