Homes of modernity: European influences on the architecture of home in Cairo at the turn of Twentieth Century

By Mohamed Gamal Abdelmonem
Submitted to Session P3820 (Governing Urban Informality: From Colonial to Neoliberal Cairo, 2014 Annual Meeting
Archit & Urb Plng
Arab States;
19th-21st Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
The women question was at the centre of cultural reform movement that took firm stand against the suppression of women in the patriarch Egyptian society at the turn of the twentieth century. Having experienced social and political structures of the 19th century Europe, wester- educated Egyptians used public institutions to force legislative structures and procedures that ruled out traditional housing forms and spatial systems. This paper detects direct and indirect influences European society and culture had on shaping modern forms of living in Egypt in the first quarter of the twentieth century. At one moment, Modern Egypt was exemplified in the ‘new man’ whose position towards the liberation of women, tyrannical society, and domestic manners would determine whether Egypt was ready to join the modern world and be capable of ruling itself. This paper offers analysis of socio-spatial practices and change in ordinary Cairenes’ modes of everyday living, by using social routine and interaction to explain spatial systems of daily events at the time. In doing so, the research utilised archival documents, accounts, formal decrees, and novels of the time as well as conducting survey of house forms and spatial organizations in Old Cairo.

This paper argues that liberal values of modern Europe were embodied in a nationalist agenda that attempted to break with the deeply rooted traditions and mystical culture of the past as the only path to independence from the colonial rule. It reports that European culture could be traced through three pathways of change in Cairene homes; a. Restructuring the legal system that governed the design and construction of houses in line with European counterparts; b. Reforming children education to focus on domestic manners and behaviour; and c. Founding professional training on ideals of modern architecture