In Cairo collages, the large-scale political, economic, and social changes in
Egypt brought on by the 2011 revolution are set against the declining fortunes
of a single apartment building in a specific Cairo neighbourhood. The violence
in Tahrir Square and Mohamed Mahmud Street; the post-January euphoric moment;
the increasing militarisation of urban life; the flourishing of dystopian novels
set in Cairo; the neo-liberal imaginaries of Dubai and Singapore as global
models; gentrification and evictions in poor neighbourhoods; the forthcoming new
administrative capital for Egypt – all are narrated in parallel to the ‘little’
story of the adventures and misfortunes of everyday interactions in a
middle-class building in the neighbourhood of Doqi.
This chapter addresses the circumstances that ensued after the 2011 January
revolution, resulting in the writing of this book. It addresses theoretical
sociological questions concerned with post-traumatic and euphoric moments.
It engages with debates on the anthropology of ethics. It equally addresses
Cairo’s major urban disparities, evictions, and the question of the failing
neo-liberal housing policies.
Chapter 2 narrates the personal meanderings and wanderings and descriptions
of billboards advertising massive real-estate projects of compounds and
gated communities along the commute to the Eastern Desert towards the
district of New Cairo. It also addresses one Ramadan television serial and
three dystopian novels, which portray imagined and real depictions of the
gated communities’ lifestyles of the rich and apocalyptic images of the city
This chapter focuses on the history of the quarter of Doqi, with an emphasis
on the life-world of a building and the elevator around which a multitude of
stories are woven. The chapter engages with the work of Stephen Graham on
elevators. The question of multiplying elevator incidents and everyday
interactions in the neighbourhood are discussed. The chapter also addresses
the topic of elevators in one Egyptian film and focuses on Naguib Mahfouz’s
novel Modern Cairo, which takes place in the neighbourhood of Doqi.
This chapter narrates the story when the elevator collapsed finally while
carrying people. It also narrates the process of replacing it and the
numerous problems related to rubbish collecting, the stairwells, communal
water, and electricity bills in the building.
This chapter discusses the overwhelming role of the army in civil life and
the harsher comeback of the police forces after 2011. It tackles the
grandiose neo-liberal project of the New Cairo Capital erected by President
This chapter discusses the idea of the ‘building’ as a literary and
sociological ‘topos’. It discusses Cairo’s major makeovers since 2011, with
an emphasis on the violent incidents of Mohamed Mahmud Street in
2011. The chapter discusses too the question of nostalgia and the city.
It addresses the theoretical debate of ‘Singapore as a model’ (Chua 2011) to
extend it to the phantasm of replicating mini-Dubai(s) in Egypt.
Nostalgia and al-zaman al-gamiil (the ‘beautiful old
Time and again, this chapter provides detailed descriptions of a flat in the
quarter of Doqi and the daily interaction with the neighbourhood. It
describes street life and the expansion of popular cafés. It also focuses on
the lively soundscape of schools of the neighbourhood together with state
propaganda songs played in schools.