In his introduction to Cairo Since 1900: An Architectural Guide, architectural historian Mohamed Elshahed writes that he hopes the book “will inspire residents and visitors to see Cairo in a new light,” and “will lead to the protection and preservation of some of the buildings included in it, for the sake of the city and its historical memory.”
When buildings or neighborhoods are demolished, they often disappear from history, because their presence was never properly documented.
“Modernism in Egypt has not been granted national heritage status, as if history stopped at the threshold of the twentieth century,” notes Elshahed. “There are no specialist government or private bodies recognizing, archiving, documenting or protecting Modernist buildings.”
Architecture education in Egyptian universities “marginalizes and often omits the history of modern architecture,” he adds. Architecture students “graduate without taking a survey course on the history of modern architecture in Egypt, a major blind spot in architectural education.”
For Elshahed and other scholars, Al Emara, a pioneering Arabic-language magazine on design and architecture that was published between 1939 and 1959, has been an inspiration and a resource. A comprehensive survey of 20th century Egyptian architecture was published by one of Al Emara’s editors, Tawfiq Abdel Gawad, in 1989 but contained errors in the identification of some buildings.