Theses Master's

Preservation with a Donkey’s Leg: Nostalgia, Neighborhood Identity, and Heritage Preservation in Heliopolis

Harrison, Calvin

Initially built in the early 20th century as a real estate venture on undeveloped desert land, Heliopolis has, with time, become a beloved neighborhood of Cairo, considered part of the urban core and celebrated for its unique architecture, relatively abundant public space, and middle-class cosmopolitan milieu. However, the urban fabric has changed over time as Cairo’s population grew, and in recent years the neighborhood has lost much of its green space and pedestrian realm to road widenings and bridge construction aimed at drivers traveling to satellite cities like the New Capital.

Using interviews, historic research, social media, and other sources, this thesis investigates the discourse mobilized by advocates for heritage preservation in the neighborhood, primarily the Heliopolis Heritage Initiative (HHI). It argues that the heritage discourse in Heliopolis is intimately tied to a spatialized nostalgia for the neighborhood’s past, but, because of constraints imposed by the Egyptian regime both in terms of heritage management and civic action, heritage preservation manifests in public awareness raising and profit-driven adaptive reuse. This raises important questions about the way heritage functions in the Egyptian context, how middle-class groups experience and respond to urban change, and the complexity (and contradictions) of heritage preservation and urban development policy.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Bou Akar, Hiba
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
August 2, 2023