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Cairo Since 1900: An Encompassing Guide of Cairo's Modern Architecture History

Architect Mohamed ElShahed's latest book shows how Egyptian architecture lost its identity.

Mohamed ElShahed

In light of the recent release of his book, 'Cairo Since 1990', Egyptian architect, researcher and Cairo Observer founder Mohamed ElShahed spoke with CairoScene about how Egypt treats its buildings.

"We need to move away from nostalgia as it is a defeatist concept," ElShahed told us. "Because we often want to disregard how unpleasant the present is, we look back to our distant past." ElShahed added that one of the main reasons he created the guide was to document Cairo's neglected modern architecture, where it is seen as less important compared to more historical buildings.  

With the help of fellow architect Hala Hegazy, as well as 15 young architects and interns, Mohamed ElShahed compiled 600 buildings that were eventually narrowed down to 226 due to lack of information. "The book includes buildings like Moustafa Fahmy's Saad Zaghloul Mausoleum, Mogamaa' ElTahrir, demolished buildings like Oum Kalthoum's house and several unbuilt design proposals," ElShahed said. "Because in order to have a comprehensive view of the present, we must look at what used to be there in parallel to what could've been there... Heritage is an ongoing thing, it is essentially the material evidence of modern society."

Through his scholarly approach to the city of Cairo, ElShahed expresses his belief that contemporary architecture in Egypt has lost its way because they have let go of their sense of modern history. 'Cairo since 1900' is currently available for pre-order on Amazon and will be available on bookstore shelves by the end of this month.