African Visions: Literary Images, Political Change, and Social Struggle in Contemporary Africa

By Cheryl B. Mwaria; Silvia Federici et al. | Go to book overview

8
A Vision of the Past as a Beacon for the Future: The Application of Fatimid Ideals in the City of Cairo

Habibeh Rahim


PRELUDE

Described as "maddening, exhausting, endlessly fascinating," contemporary Cairo "juggles the strains of overpopulation with the wealth of a long history in a rich, chaotic mix." 1 More than 3.5 million visitors flock to Egypt every year and a major percentage end up as tourists in Cairo. 2 What is the fascination for this great influx of people? In part the answer lies in the presence of historical sites and artifacts that are several hundred, if not a few thousand, years old. However, with the constant arrival of the indigenous population who come to the city to stay in search of newer economic opportunities and the tourists who come to enjoy the city and then move on, the metropolis appears to require drastic reformulations in housing and the urban environment for this new millennium in order to enhance the services and quality of life offered to its denizens.

Is it possible to reshape and revamp an aging, antiquated megalopolis not only with physical changes of the built environment but also with philosophical and ideological transformations that may facilitate its dynamic participation in world events? Where would the proposed trail for the philosophical and material changes commence? The answer perchance is secured from the analysis of the historical city more than a thousand years old, which forms the nucleus of the contemporary expansive metropolis. Was the original city established and administered with an ideological context which may serve as a beacon for the present restructuring of the mega city? The inquiry that follows the introduction of the historical city deals with quality of life issues which are timeless.

-105-

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