City interrupted: modernity and architecture in Nasser's post-1952 Cairo

Yasser Elsheshtawy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Following the 1952 military takeover, Egypt's former president Nasser initiated a pan-Arab movement that sought to distance Egypt from its Islamic past. Architecture and urban space were tools through which this vision was spatialized. Among the buildings constructed at the time, the Nile Hilton Hotel in particular became a symbol for the kind of Egypt that was envisioned by the new regime. Adopting the international style of architecture, it was an ideal canvas onto which the national aspirations of a new emerging nation could be placed. Through a historical case-study approach and mining of historical archives, this paper discusses these developments. Specifically, it looks at the construction of modernist buildings in Nasserist Cairo and the definition of a new kind of urban space, placing this within a larger socio-cultural narrative. It will be argued that the regime engaged in a short-lived modernist attempt in which Egypt as a nation sought to move beyond its historical constraints and in turn become modern. This project of modernity did not last and in the 1970s degenerated into a post-modern pastiche adopting Arab-Islamic elements influenced by the rise of the Arab Gulf. This paper concludes by linking this historical moment to current events taking place in Cairo.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)347-371
Number of pages25
JournalPlanning Perspectives
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013


  • 1960s' architecture
  • Cairo
  • International style
  • Nasser
  • Nile Hilton
  • Tahrir Square
  • Urban space

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development


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