Histories of A CityeBook - 2011
From its earliest days as a royal settlement fronting the pyramids of Giza to its current manifestation as the largest metropolis in Africa, Cairo has forever captured the urban pulse of the Middle East. In Cairo: Histories of a City, Nezar AlSayyad narrates the many Cairos that have existed throughout time, offering a panoramic view of the city’s history unmatched in temporal and geographic scope, through an in-depth examination of its architecture and urban form.
In twelve vignettes, accompanied by drawings, photographs, and maps, AlSayyad details the shifts in Cairo’s built environment through stories of important figures who marked the cityscape with their personal ambitions and their political ideologies. The city is visually reconstructed and brought to life not only as a physical fabric but also as a social and political order—a city built within, upon, and over, resulting in a present-day richly layered urban environment. Each chapter attempts to capture a defining moment in the life trajectory of a city loved for all of its evocations and contradictions. Throughout, AlSayyad illuminates not only the spaces that make up Cairo but also the figures that shaped them, including its chroniclers, from Herodotus to Mahfouz, who recorded the deeds of great and ordinary Cairenes alike. He pays particular attention to how the imperatives of Egypt's various rulers and regimes—from the pharaohs to Sadat and beyond—have inscribed themselves in the city that residents navigate today.
Nezar AlSayyad narrates the many Cairos that have existed through time, offering a panorama unmatched in temporal and geographic scope, through an in-depth examination of the city’s architecture and urban form. His narration illuminates how there can be “no one history of the city, but rather multiple, contested, and often invented histories.”
The author has had a long relationship with Cairo since the early 1970s when he was a student there and became deeply fascinated with its Islamic heritage. AlSayyad is a professor of architecture, planning and urban history, and is affiliated with the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the U. of California, Berkeley. He came to the project of writing this book reluctantly, then warmed to the task as he shaped the material in a highly personal manner. Twenty-five centuries in the making, Cairo is no ordinary city (hence the notion of "histories" in the subtitle). This presentation is in 12 chapters focusing on locations within the city and describing both the past and the present. Numerous color photos support the deeply informed and informative text. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)