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Unconventional Housing in Cario: Unpacking the Narratives of Tomb Communities

Authors: Lindsey Bertrand Logan*, Kansas State University
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Middle East, Qualitative Research
Keywords: urban informality, housing, Cairo, Egypt, narrative
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/8/2020
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 4:35 PM
Room: Virtual Track 3
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The housing crisis in Cairo, Egypt is a “wicked problem” that has stumped urban planners, built environment professionals, and residents alike. The problem stems from a government decision to expand the city into the surrounding desert. Cairo’s 18 million residents are engaged in an everyday struggle for space, particularly housing. Further, the current housing stock does not respond to the residents’ everyday needs. Overpopulation and lack of affordable housing have resulted in residents “informally” squatting and self-building housing. My research centers around an unconventional housing settlement called the City of the Dead (COD). COD is a series of cemeteries located in Cairo’s city center. Built structures in the cemeteries have become temporary or permanent homes for much of Cairo’s urban poor and rural migrants. The dominant narrative about the City of the Dead imagines it to be a cemetery and not a residential settlement. Additionally, planning efforts such as Masterplan Cairo 2050 outline intentions to evict inhabitants of COD without details on the relocation process. Before places become objects of change, they exist in experience, hearsay, and memories. Standing between decision-makers and new or modified development are embedded narratives. Narratives can be ignored for the sake of development, but they cannot be entirely erased (Beauregard, 2005). Using qualitative methods, in this work I focus on unpacking the narratives of COD held by major stakeholders, popular media, and other sources to illuminate how these determine the negative planning outcomes proposed in policy documents.

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