'If the buildings are not documented or photographed, it’s like they never existed at all,' says Mohamed Elshahed
Part of Elshahed’s book, Cairo Since 1900: An Architectural Guide, which will be released on Wednesday, January 15, is a rebuke against how we think of heritage1. It explores 226 buildings from around Cairo. They are not necessarily masterpieces in the architectural sense – a category that often shapes the selection of buildings for guides such as this. They are mostly office and apartment buildings, hospitals and state institutions, and hotels like the 1982-built Shahrazad Hotel. There are also embassies, such as the Embassy of the Czech Republic, built in 1980. They are all architecturally interesting, even if not avant-garde.
The book also lists some mosques and churches, including St Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, which underwent a complete renovation in 2018 as part of its 50th anniversary. Mosaics and plaster crosses were added and the cathedral lost its original architectural intent.
- 1. Some of the buildings in the book have already been torn down or gruesomely defaced. Others – such as Zaha Hadid’s Nile Tower – have never existed and are simply proposals. However, the entries give a representative sample of one of the world’s largest and most densely populated cities. They all make up a part of Cairo that risks being wilfully ignored or forgotten.