Feautured Image Source: Under Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Isma%27il_Pasha.jpg
Cairo is Egypt’s largest city, it’s the political and cultural heart of Egypt and has been so for a very very long time. The eastern side of the city was mainly built in the 10th-14th centuries. It formed much like every other medieval city, tight, high density and dirty. Its story is vivid, varied and incredible.
But I would argue that the western half of the city is much more interesting. It is a story of a clash of cultures and the burgeoning of a new Cairo, a new Egypt and a new Middle East. It is the story of why Cairo is called the Paris along the Nile and why the city is the way it is. The main driver of this new city was Ismail Pasha. The Khedive of Egypt at the time. He wanted a new Cario to be based on the streets of Paris with large avenues and bolavards running criss-cross through the city. Large central squares with even larger statues of the people who made Egypt. Ismail Pasha once said ‘My country is no longer in Africa; we are now part of Europe. It is therefore natural for us to abandon our former ways and to adopt a new system adapted to our social conditions‘. He wanted Egypt to become a European power. Although he ran the country into bankruptcy and it eventually became a British colony he helped modernise the country as a whole, and Cairo in particular.
These streets, squares and buildings would fit in perfectly in any European city. It was one of the largest city planning and building projects in Africa. Downtown Cairo as it’s known is one of the prettiest cities in the world. Its large 20th-century roads and apartment blocks. Busy city squares and corner shops help to make the city feel very quaint and messy but the avenues string all this mess together in neat straight lines.