Synopses & Reviews
This book moves beyond superficial generalizations about Cairo as a chaotic metropolis in the developing world into an analysis of the ways the city's eighteen million inhabitants have, in the face of a largely neglectful government, built and shaped their own city. Using a wealth of recent studies on Greater Cairo and a deep reading of informal urban processes, the city and its recent history are portrayed and mapped: the huge, spontaneous neighborhoods; housing; traffic and transport; city government; and its people and their enterprises.
The book argues that understanding a city such as Cairo is not a daunting task as long as pre-conceived notions are discarded and care is taken to apprehend available information and to assess it with a critical eye. In the case of Cairo, this approach leads to a conclusion that the city can be considered a kind of success story, in spite of everything.
"[Sims] is one of Cairo's sharpest observers." --Los Angeles Review of Books
"This volume describes the urban development of the Egyptian city of Cairo over the past half century, concentrating on issues of land and housing use and development, as well as intersecting issues of economic organization, transport, and governance. The central theme that arises in nearly every aspect of the proceedings is the contradiction between the authoritarian (but often ineffective) state and the vast areas of informality that make Cairo what it is today, although particularly in the area of housing and land, where, for example, urban extensions planned by the state often remain devoid of inhabitants while two-thirds of the city's inhabitants live in unplanned neighborhoods that have sprung up since 1950 in contradiction of state policies and laws." --Reference Book News
"In a rigorous presentation of Cairo s growth and geography in the last four decades, Sims has done a masterful job to present the city as an exceptional case of urban logic. While Cairo is often included in studies of the global south, Sims argues that the city is in fact one that follows its own logic, often in spite of deliberate policies of the Mubarak regime to address problems and issues. This book is an important urban study of the largest city in Africa." --The Global Ministries
"To get a sense of the magnitude of the challenge and of the inequalities the Mubarak regime fostered, one need look no further than David Sims s book . . . . [Understanding Cairo] is a wonderful new reference." --The National
"Highly recommended to students and scholars looking to further explore issues relating to contemporary Cairo. It is also useful to tourists as an alternative to the clutter of superficial narratives and portraits of the city." --Jadaliyya
"An eye-opening and readable account of Cairo s urban framework." --Egypt Independent
"Encyclopaedic in scope, structure and information." --Egyptian Gazette
"The strength of Understanding Cairo stems from the author's seemingly limitless knowledge of the city and his familiarity with relevant academic and journalistic texts, census data and Google satellite images. Tables, charts, photos and maps abound, complementing the book's content. The time Sims has spent in Cairo allows him to add anecdotes like the following: "In no sense are [informal areas] 'no-go zones,' except perhaps for those of Cairo's paranoid upper classes." Sims successfully challenges conventional wisdom throughout the book."--Christopher Reeve, Journal of International Affairs
"Although individual informal areas of Cairo have been well studied by anthropologists and sociologists, Sims aims for a more relational approach among different sectors of the city. This is a crucial methodological intervention and makes for engaging reading. Sims's personal experience of the city enhances his analysis, and he brings a close, critical and yet compassionate eye to local innovations and the openings caused by the relative failures of elite-led development. For residents, urban planners and scholars of Cairo, this book is a welcome and very important addition to understanding the contemporary city. For urban studies scholars more generally, it is a model of understanding the role of local context in broader patterns of late 20th-century and early 21st-century urban growth."--Urban Studies
About the Author
is an American economist and urban planner who has led a number of studies about Cairo's urban development and housing.
Table of Contents
List of Maps
List of Illustrations
List of Tables
Abbreviations and Acronyms
Foreword Janet Abu-Lughod
1. Imaging Cairo
2. Cairo is Egypt and Egypt is Cairo
3. A History of Modern Cairo: Three Cities in One
4. Informal Cairo Triumphant
5. Housing Real and Speculative
6. The Desert City Today
7. Working in the City
8. City on the Move: A Complementary Informality?
9. Governing Cairo
10. Summing Up: Cairo Serendipity?
Postscript: Revolutionary Cairo One Year On