AUC Tahrir CultureFest, the City of Cairo, and AUC Press 

AUC Press was proud to partner in the inaugural edition of the AUC Tahrir CultureFest, organized by the American University in Cairo, and which took place at the AUC Tahrir Campus in April 2024. The event featured a book bazaar held by AUC Press and AUC Bookstores Egypt, along with Tanmia Bookstores, as well as a lineup of talks by AUC Press authors. The authors shared insights on the culture, architecture, and history of Cairo through talks and panel discussions, exploring various topics contributing to the preservation of Cairo’s heritage.

Book Bazaar 

Book Talk: “Unveiling Ottoman Cairo: Exploring Religious Architecture from Sultan Selim to Napoleon,” by Menna El Mahy

The book talk, led by Menna El Mahy, adjunct instructor at AUC, explored Cairo’s rich architectural history, as presented in Ottoman Cairo: Religious Architecture from Sultan Selim to Napoleon (AUC Press, 2021), which was authored by the late Dr. Chahinda Karim, the esteemed adjunct professor of Islamic art and architecture at the American University in Cairo, with the assistance of Ms. El Mahy.

El Mahy shed light on the intricate designs, styles, and historical contexts of these buildings, illustrating how the comprehensive study presented in the book not only unveils the beauty of Ottoman-era mosques, madrasas, and other religious structures but also reveals how these structures continue to influence Cairo’s identity to this day.

Menna El Mahy with Soad Saada, daughter of Chahinda Karim

Book Talk: “Urban Conservation as a Vehicle for Sustainable Development in Cairo,” by Dr. Ahmed Sedky.

This book talk led by Dr. Ahmed Sedky, Urbanist, Heritage Management Consultant, and author of Living with Heritage in Cairo: Area Conservation in the Arab-Islamic City (AUC Press, 2009), explored the intricate relationship between conservation efforts and sustainable development.

Dr. Sedky introduced the processes that should be designed and implemented to achieve sustainable development in accordance with SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) principles and the UN’s new urban agenda, and the essential steps needed for their further advancement. He emphasized how Cairo’s unique architectural heritage serves as a foundation for contemporary urban planning, which, in an ideal world, should weave together strands of history and innovation.

Talk: “Cairo, the Neverending Street Story,” by Lesley Lababidi

The talk, led by long-time AUC Press author Lesley Lababidi, an active and well-traveled blogger, and author of Cairo’s Street Stories: Exploring the City’s Statues, Squares, Bridges, Garden, and Sidewalk Cafes (AUC Press, 2008) and co-author of A Field Guide to the Street Names of Central Cairo, (AUC Press, 2018), provided a fascinating window onto the city’s past through the lens of its street names, exploring their significance and revealing layers of history, culture, and identity in the process.

Lababidi’s expertise illuminated how street names serve as silent storytellers, carrying within them the legacies of conquerors, rulers, and pivotal moments in Cairo’s history. Her insights painted vivid images of bustling markets, majestic palaces, and revolutionary gatherings.

Book Talk: “Heritage for the Living in the ‘City of the Dead,’” by Agnieszka Dobrowolska

The book talk, by Agnieszka Dobrowolska, director of ARCHiNOS Architecture, and author of The Sultan’s Fountain: An Imperial Story of Cairo, Istanbul, and Amsterdam (AUC Press, 2011), explored how the conservation and preservation of historic heritage can serve as a vehicle for social and economic development for the present and the future.

Dobrowolska presented how the ARCHiNOS Architecture project, funded by the European Union, is carried out in Cairo’s culturally rich but impoverished and underprivileged Sultan Qaytbay neighborhood.

Dobrowolska shared stories about the neighborhood’s history, demonstrating that saving old buildings isn’t just about the buildings themselves, but also about involving local communities in the preservation process and keeping the stories of the people who live there alive.

Panel Discussion: “Cairo Houses Then and Now,”  by Dr. Bernard O’Kane

Bernard O’Kane, AUC Press author and professor of Islamic art and architecture at the AUC’s Department of Arab and Islamic Civilizations, led a panel discussion with Beshir Shousha, narratives content creator, Shewekar El Gharably, manager of Shewekar Design Studio and AUC Press author, and architect Omniya Abdel Barr, who is head of development at the Egyptian Heritage Rescue Foundation.

Professor O’Kane presented Cairo’s grandest historic buildings and highlighted the intricate features of these buildings, from colorful stained glass windows to elaborate carvings and detailed ceilings.

Additionally, the panel explored the history and heritage of Cairo’s oldest homes, and how modern projects have the potential to preserve the character of these buildings, both in public spaces and private homes so that the Egyptian heritage can be kept alive.

From left to right: Beshir Shousha, Omniya Abdel Barr, Bernard O’Kane, and Shewekar El Gharably
The Mosques of Egypt by Bernard O’Kane (AUC Press, 2017)
The Treasures of Islamic Art in the Museums of Cairo, edited by Bernard O’Kane (AUC Press, 2006)

Panel Discussion: ‘Echoes of Journeys: Cairo’s Encounter with Khartoum and Ramallah in Literary Narratives,’

The panel featured  Palestinian poet and novelist Ibrahim Nasrallah and Sudanese writer and journalist Hammour Ziada winner of the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature 2014. Both Nasrallah and Ziada are Hoopoe authors. 

The discussion explored the shared history of Cairo, Khartoum, and Ramallah and analyzed the artists’ works in the context of historical changes, literary rebellion, and interconnected narratives.

From left to right: Ibrahim Nasrallah, Moustafa Al Tayeb (Moderator, content creator), and Hammour Ziada.

The Lanterns of the King of Galilee: A Novel of 18th-Century Palestine by Ibrahim Nasrallah, translated by Nancy Roberts (AUC Press, 2015)
Time of White Horses: A Novel by Ibrahim Nasrallah, translated by Nancy Roberts (AUC Press, 2016)
Gaza Weddings: A Novel by Ibrahim Nasrallah, translated by Nancy Roberts (AUC Press, 2017)
Gaza Weddings: A Novel by Ibrahim Nasrallah, translated by Nancy Roberts (AUC Press, 2017)
The Longing of the Dervish: A Novel by Hammour Ziada, translated by Jonathan Wright (AUC Press, 2016)

Panel Discussion: “Cairo veiled in the tales of storytellers and the narratives of writers and literati,”

The panel discussion featuring Ashraf El-Ashmawi, a judge and author of The House of the Coptic Woman and The Lady of Zamalek, journalist, and writer Omar Taher, and content creator Omar El Maadawy, explored how Cairo is portrayed through the annals of history and the pens of historians and writers.

From left to right: Omar Taher, Omar El Maadawy, and Ashraf El-Ashmawi

The House of the Coptic Woman
The House of the Coptic Woman by Ashraf El-Ashmawi, translated by Peter Daniel (Hoopoe, 2021)
The Lady of Zamalek
The Lady of Zamalek by Ashraf El-Ashmawi, translated by Peter Daniel (Hoopoe, 2021)

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