The dilemma of sustainability in the development projects of rural communities in Egypt - The case of New Gourna

K. Galal Ahmed, L. El-Gizawy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Gourna, a vernacular village in Upper Egypt, was built over a Pharonic heritage site. During the 1940s, and in order to protect the monuments from theft, the Egyptian government commissioned the renowned Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy to design a new settlement for the Gournii. Despite the great effort exerted by Fathy to design The New Gourna in an environmentally and socially responsive manner, the project had considerably failed as most of the residents refused to move to the new village. Recently, the government repeated the attempt but this time the second version of the New Gourna came significantly different. In order to force them to move, the government demolished most of the houses of the residents of Gourna and left only a few houses to be re-used as museums for the vernacular architecture of the village. The main objective of the paper is to investigate if the second version of the New Gourna is going to overcome the sustainability problems associated with Fathy's New Gourna and if it is going to deal successfully with the sustainable vernacular architecture of the region. In order to undertake this investigation the paper first reviews the vernacular architecture of Gourna and then discusses both Fathy's approach and the recent New Gourna village's approach from the sustainability point of view. It has been found that, no matter how the good intentions were, both attempts to build New Gourna reveal how the top-down official processes ended up with either a superficial mimicry to the authentic vernacular and traditional architecture of the region, or a totally imposed alien built environment. Thus, from a sustainability perspective, it is expected that the recent project is going to end up in failure as its predecessor.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-429
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Sustainable Development and Planning
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • Egypt
  • Gourna
  • Hassan Fathy
  • Sustainability
  • Taref
  • Vernacular

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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