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Mohamed Elshahed


Cairo Past Futures

“Cairo Past Futures” consists of twenty-four photographs, each combined with a headline extracted from the Egyptian press of the 1950s and 60s. Headlines like “This is Tomorrow’s Cairo” and “Urban Planning in the Era of Revolution” are superimposed on images of contemporary Cairo depicting scenes such as speculative informal housing properties on the edge of Giza and dilapidated social housing blocks in Bulaq. These two-layer montages combining text and image put to the test ...

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Ten Must-Watch Videos to Understand Egypt’s Urban Challenges

[Screen shot from the Right to Housing Initiative video entitled

Right to Housing is an initiative that aims to link contemporary urban challenges with the notion of the “right to housing,” which, if that right is constitutionally protected and guaranteed, urban activists argue, could lead to the drafting of policies that will respond to the many negative aspects of urban and rural life in Egypt. Yahia Shawkat, author of the Shadow Ministry of Housing urban blog initiated the project. A foundational aspect of the initiative is to document ...

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Pageantry, Military Myths, and Egypt's “Daddy Complex”

[Members of the Egyptian press listen to President Anwar Sadat and military commanders as they explain the course of the October 1973 War. Mubarak is fourth from the right. Image courtesy of Zeinab Mohamed.]

The Egyptian calendar is punctuated by various celebrations associated with military events. The Sixth of October had typically been the most flamboyant of those celebrations. Normally, the population does not actively participate in these festivities. On the streets, the Sixth of October feels like any other day; however, state TV has traditionally aired images of the army, nationalist songs, concerts organized by the ruling party to commemorate the day—and, most ...

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Struggles That Fueled a Revolution

[Still image from

Bulaq: Among the Ruins of an Unfinished Revolution. Directed by Davide Morandini and Fabio Lucchini. UK/Italy/Egypt, 2011. “Bread, freedom, and social justice” has been one of the most memorable chants from Egypt’s year of mass protests. Although world and Egyptian media have been fixated on the symbolic Tahrir Square, little attention has been directed towards places where many Egyptians converging on the square actually live. Bulaq, only a few hundred meters north of ...

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Urbanizing the Counter-Revolution

[Egyptian soldier urinating on protesters from the roof of parliament building. Image by Mostafa Sheshtawy.]

Since February of this year Cairo has become dotted with sites of trauma, locations where violence—and often death—have taken place at the hands of security forces or army personnel. Despite the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’ (SCAF) claim that it “protected the revolution” and its continuous promises to transition “post-Mubarak Egypt” into democracy, they have stood silent and unremorseful at the loss of human life. A series of violent clashes, sometimes continuing for ...

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The Road to New Cairo

[Home in New Cairo. Image from Mohamed Elshahed.]

Tahrir Square is the epicenter of the Egyptian uprising and the inspiration for the global occupy movement. From here, at the gate of the American University’s downtown campus, busses depart on a regular schedule towards the new campus some forty kilometers away. From downtown Cairo, the historic nineteenth century center, the journey east to New Cairo takes about one hour without traffic. On board the air-conditioned bus students and faculty surf the Internet on their ...

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New Additions to the Literature on Cairo

[Tahrir Square in 1993. Image from the film

Nezar AlSayyad. Cairo: Histories of a City. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011. David Sims. Understanding Cairo: the Logic of a City out of Control. Cairo; New York: The American University in Cairo Press, 2010. Nezar AlSayyad’s Cairo: Histories of a City and David Sims’ Understanding Cairo: The Logic of a City out of Control are the latest additions to a vast body of literature on Cairo’s urban development. In these early days following the ...

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The Case Against the Grand Egyptian Museum

[Tahrir Square. Image from unknown archive.]

A Modern Museum for an Ancient Nation? With the French Revolution came the first truly public museum in the world, the Louvre, which opened its doors in 1793. Private collections owned by wealthy individuals were made accessible to the middle and upper classes in major European cities roughly since the eighteenth century. Access to such collections by a greater public was seen as one of the engines of European enlightenment. With the emergence of public museums came a new ...

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Mohamed Elshahed

Mohamed Elshahed is a 2014-15 Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices postdoctoral fellow at the Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin. His doctoral dissertation Revolutionary Modernism? Architecture and the Politics of Transition in Egypt (1936-1967) investigates the ways in which the profession of architecture was Egyptianized and how Egypt's architectural modernism converged with the country’s political transition from monarchy to military republic. Mohamed has a Bachelor of Architecture from the New Jersey Institute of Technology and a Master in Architecture Studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Mohamed blogs about Cairo’s architecture, urbanism, culture and heritage at Cairobserver.