Alternative Mappings of Egypt: Critical Cartographies

“Mapping [informality]…is a job for the independents, mostly startups and mostly local, which are taking a more discreet route to fomenting change in their hometown….Cairo has long been a city of uncharted urban elements, a situation not helped by the governmental vacuum since the 2011 revolution.Today, no official authorities are mapping either people’s needs or features as basic as bus routes….Egypt has been without local councils for five years, since they were dissolved after the 2011 uprising for being controlled by cronies of deposed President Hosni Mubarak. This has left Egyptians unable to find out what is happening in their neighbourhood….This is why the task of mapping Cairo has fallen to independents launched after 2011″—Rachel Williamson, “The startups mapping Cairo’s in between spaces

Mapping is a form of representation that is imbued with relations of power. It is a historically contingent practice of epistemological, aesthetic, methodological, economic, scientific, bureaucratic, gendered, sensory, ontological, and cosmological techniques that attempts to represent, govern, form, and transform how different bodies (both human and non-human) and different spaces (and spatialities) overlap and interact in different times (and temporalities).

Here is a list of projects that attempt to provide alternative mappings of Egypt:

  • The Other Maps of Cairo (a blog attempting to archive and assemble different mapping projects throughout Egypt: “Focusing on the shift from analog authoritative maps of the city to digital crowdsourced ones, this platform is an attempt to put together a multiple perspectives across disciplines like architecture, history of urbanism, spatial politics, media theories and digital humanities. It includes a directory of maps both analog and digital as well as a set of critical essays and projects on maps, mapping, history, data visualization, and the right to knowledge and to the production of knowledge”)
  • Cairobserver (a blog assembling different resources on urbanism, architecture, urban planning, social justice and cities, and city life in general)
  • HarassMap (a cartographic reporting of harassment and assault incidents all over Egypt)
  • Cairo Tech Map (a mapping of Cairo’s tech sector and entrepreneurial ecosystem)
  • Transport for Cairo (digitally mapping all public transportation, formal and informal, in Greater Cairo)
  • Cluster, or Cairo Lab for Urban Studies, Training and Environmental Research (a platform for urban research, theorization and practice)
  • Cairo Urban Initiatives Platform (offers “a bilingual Arabic/English online directory and a shared calendar of events for the multiple art, culture, architecture, advocacy, urban development and interdisciplinary organizations/initiatives addressing issues related to the city, the urban environment and public space in Cairo.”—Cairobserver)
  • Cairo Downtown Passageways (maps downtown Cairo’s passageways, side streets, back alleys, and in-between spaces, thus offering, among other things: (1) “a counter-point to the traffic and street grid,” and (2) a documentation of “cultural and entertainment highlights, spaces of memory and heritage sites alongside Downtown’s back alleys”)
  • Desert City Mappers (documenting informal services in desert settlements in Cairo)
  • Mapping Cairo (a workshop that provided visual, comparative, and historical analyses of Cairo in terms of economic activities, public space, transportation, land use, housing, and population)
  • Ecocitizen Map (visual “data on local resource consumption, quality of life and elements of urban environmental quality”)
  • Iḥky ya Tarīkh, or the History Workshop Egypt Initiative (which traces historical narratives, but which can also be considered as a project of critical geographies rather than only critical histories)
  • Cairo Urban Sketchers (walks and tours with the aim of sketching and documenting the participants’ sketches of the city)
  • Megawra, or The Built Environment Collective (a co-working space and hub for lectures, workshops, and seminars on architecture and urbanism)
  • 10Tooba (an interdisciplinary initiative focusing on applied research related to marginalized communities, with the aim of participatory planning and social justice)
  • Cairo Urban Transformation – Neighborhood Workshops (a workshop between Cairo and Hamburg to document neighborhoods from different angles and perspectives. It focused on al-Darb al-Ahmar in Cairo)
  • CairoBookStop (a map charting Cairo’s literary bookstores and publishers)

Are there any other mapping projects/initiatives you would add to the list?

(Image source: Iḥky ya Tarīkh, Alexandria’s workshop, by Mohamed Hossny, link here)


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