Trends in Cairo’s Development and its Impact on Cultural Heritage

The recent demolition of Darb 1718, a historic arts center in Cairo, highlights the ongoing threats to the city’s cultural heritage and the displacement of its communities due to large-scale redevelopment projects. As Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi aims to modernize Cairo and build a new capital, significant changes are taking place, impacting both the physical landscape and the cultural fabric of the city. This article will analyze the key points of this situation and discuss potential future trends related to these themes.

1. Redevelopment projects and modernization efforts

The demolitions of Darb 1718 and other buildings in Cairo are part of the government’s efforts to widen highways and create new infrastructure. President Sisi’s vision for modernization includes building a billion new capital on the outskirts of the desert. This ambitious development plan involves constructing thousands of miles of roads, tunnels, and bridges. While these efforts aim to alleviate overcrowding and improve connectivity, they have resulted in the demolition of neighborhoods and landmarks.

2. Threats to cultural heritage

The destruction of Darb 1718, a historic landmark that served as a haven for artists and artisans, highlights the disregard for Cairo’s cultural heritage. The loss of this art center not only erases an important cultural space but also signifies the displacement of communities that relied on it for creativity and expression. This trend of demolishing historical sites and displacing traditional craftspeople poses a threat to Cairo’s unique cultural identity.

3. Challenges for artists and artisans

Artists and artisans in Cairo face significant challenges due to these redevelopment projects. The demolition of Darb 1718 resulted in the destruction of valuable artworks and disrupted the livelihoods of both local and international artists. The displacement of traditional craftspeople in the Fustat area further reduces the opportunities for craftsmen to practice their trades and pass down their skills to future generations.

4. The tension between heritage preservation and modernization

There is an evident tension between the desire to preserve Cairo’s historical fabric and the push for modernization. As Lamis Elhadidy, a prominent TV host, expressed, there seems to be a focus on creating a city of roads, asphalt, and bridges, neglecting the appreciation for Cairo’s rich history. Balancing the preservation of cultural heritage with the need for development poses a significant challenge for the government and urban planners.

Predictions and Recommendations for the Industry

  • Prediction 1: The pace of redevelopment projects in Cairo is likely to continue, driven by the government’s modernization agenda. This will result in further demolitions and displacement of communities unless proactive measures are taken to protect cultural heritage.
  • Prediction 2: The destruction of landmarks like Darb 1718 indicates a need for stronger regulations and enforcement to preserve historic sites. This may lead to increased public awareness and activism towards heritage preservation.
  • Prediction 3: The loss of cultural spaces like Darb 1718 will spur the emergence of new grassroots initiatives and privately-owned art centers that aim to fill the void left by demolished institutions.

Recommendation 1: The Egyptian government should prioritize heritage preservation in its urban development plans. This can be achieved through careful urban planning that considers the cultural value of existing sites and integrates them into the fabric of new developments.

Recommendation 2: Stakeholders in the arts and cultural sector should collaborate to create a comprehensive database of Cairo’s cultural heritage, including historical sites, art centers, and traditional craft communities. This resource would aid in advocacy, policy-making, and conservation efforts.

Recommendation 3: International organizations and foreign artists should support and collaborate with local initiatives that promote cultural diversity and artistic expression. These partnerships can provide resources, knowledge transfer, and opportunities for local artists and artisans to sustain their livelihoods.

“We hate our history and our old Cairo. We want a city that will be nothing but roads, asphalt, bridges.” – Lamis Elhadidy

In conclusion, the demolitions of cultural landmarks like Darb 1718 illustrate the challenges faced by Cairo in balancing development with cultural heritage preservation. To ensure the sustainable growth of the city, it is crucial to prioritize the protection of historical sites, support local artists and artisans, and foster an appreciation for Cairo’s rich cultural identity. Only through a holistic approach can the city maintain its unique character while embracing modernization.


  1. The Art Newspaper – Darb 1718 in Cairo demolished without warning or compensation
  2. The New York Times – Cairo Building Demolitions Show Brutal Side of Urban Overhaul
  3. AFP News Agency – Sisi regime defended as Egyptians voice regret over demolition of art showcase