Take a coffee with your heritage!

Bottom up approach to communicate heritage: a project in Downtown Cairo.

How would it be possible to link the everyday users of the historical city with the tangible values of the building heritage?

Downtown Cairo is the district developed under the Kedive Ismail at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. The city plan was inspired by the streets and squares pattern introduced by Haussmann in Paris, and several European and Egyptian architects built palaces and apartments buildings using a stylistic vocabulary which referred to European, Ottoman and local architecture. Nowadays Downtown is the main lively heart of the city, hosting small shops, offices, houses, cafes and restaurants in a complex social, religious and functional equilibrium. A general lack of regulations regarding how to deal with the heritage and an old rental system, which had frozen the fees since the 1950ies, are the main reasons for the neglect of the architecture and numerous demolitions of the old Ismaelia buildings. Some studies and projects started surveying and analysing the architecture and the intangible heritage (oral histories) of Downtown[1], but the main problem still remain the lack of interactions and communication between these scientific works and the inhabitants of the historical buildings.

The first step for the conservation is knowledge.

Our project has the main purpose to start and encourage the vertical communication between specialists and inhabitants, developing and supporting the awareness of the inhabitants towards the architecture of Downtown. We chose a small local coffee shop, not too famous and not too big. We refurnished the shop and modified objects of daily use (such as shisha, tablets, chairs) with a corporate design based on images of buildings and information about Downtown architecture. On the other hand, we started using it as a location for every further activities related to the tangible and intangible heritage of the area.

[1] Scharabi, M., Kairo. Stadt und Architektur im Zeitalter des europäischen Kolonialismus, Tübingen 1989, the recent publication of Galila El Kadi, Le Caire. Centre en mouvement, Marseille 2012, the work of the National Organisation of Urban Harmony – NOUH and Cultnat and several individual researchers: Mercedes Volait and Claudine Piaton, just to name only the most active. For the intangible heritage we refer to the work of Samir Rafaat, Khaled Fahmy, Omar Hussein.



… our flyer to explain the project and map the first buildings in Downtown Cairo…

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…the postcards about some iconic buildings in Downtown Cairo…

…a golden cup at the coffee Shop, the Heritage Chairs with the hanging postcards, the Heritage Bag to walk around, the bookshelf in the coffee Shop with books about Downtown Cairo…



LAUNCH! On the 13th of December 2012  at 8.00 pm we launched the project at the coffee shop Mohamed Mahmoud str. 31, Metro: Naguib, close to Abdeen Palace

The project target at improving the dialogue between experts on heritage and the inhabitants of Downtown, to start sharing know-how from one side and histories, legends, personal experiences from the other. Regular meetings have organised, to talk, discover, comment the tangible and intangible heritage of Downtown Cairo.

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