Egypt: Modern Cairo, Urban Development, and Social Change
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Examine the continuing triumphs and struggles of Cairo’s residents as they face the challenges of living in one of the world’s most densely populated cities.
As a result of massive urban expansion and population growth, Cairo’s infrastructure—including its water, sewer, transportation, and waste management systems—has been strained severely. The city’s metropolitan population stands at around 17 million, a figure expected to grow to 24 million by 2020. Zuhma, the colloquial term for Cairo’s crowdedness, is part of the daily lexicon of Cairenes.
As the largest metropolitan area on the African continent and in the Arab world, Cairo is an ideal location in which to experience and study the challenges presented by rapid urban growth. The recent social uprising has added further layers of symbolic meaning to urban planning, the production of space, and processes of place-making in Cairo.
In addition to being the political, commercial, and cultural capital of Egypt, Cairo is a tremendously important center of learning, media, and culture across the Arab world. It is home to Al Azhar, the world’s second oldest university, and is widely known to Arabic speakers as Umm al-Duniya—the Mother of the World.
Historically, Cairo has been an inspiration for Egyptian writers, including such works as Naguib Mahfouz’s 1945 Cairo Modern; Yusuf Idris’s City of Love and Ashes, set in Cairo six months before the 1952 revolution that brought Gamal Abd al-Nasser to power; and Alaa Al Aswany’s novel, The Yacoubian Building, set in downtown Cairo in 1990.
Students will experience urban life in a highly dynamic environment while analyzing many of the city’s most pressing urban development issues and reviewing strategies designed to reduce the stress caused by increasing urban density.
Gain new competencies in Arabic
All students in the program will receive 90 class hours of intensive instruction in Modern Standard Arabic, with additional training in colloquial Egyptian Arabic, or Masri. Learning Arabic will increase students’ immersion within their host communities and help them conduct research for their Independent Study Projects (ISPs). In addition to classroom instruction, students will have the opportunity to practice speaking Arabic in their everyday interactions with local residents and during group excursions.
Potential program partners
Students will benefit from the resources of SIT’s many in-country partners, which may include
- Al-Azhar University, Cairo
- Cairo University
- Alexandria University
- Association of the Protection of the Environment, Cairo
- Centre for Social, Judicial and Economic Documentation and Study
- Environmental Science Centre, Cairo
- Solar CITIES, Cairo
- Artellewa, Cairo
Independent Study Project
Students will spend four weeks near the end of the program conducting primary research on an approved topic of their choice. The ISP may be conducted in Cairo or at another appropriate location in Egypt. The ISP period gives students the chance to directly apply the concepts and skills gained through their experience-based learning and interdisciplinary coursework, while exploring a topic of particular significance to them.
Each student will be mentored by an ISP advisor, who will provide needed expertise, and will work with the student on the design, implementation, and evaluation of their research project.
Sample topic areas for the ISP include:
- Urban policy and population growth
- Waste management and the fight against poverty
- Public transportation and pollution
- Tahrir Square and the production of social revolution
- Social uprising and the birth of the New Egypt
- Places of worship and religious tolerance
- The Coptic neighborhood and tourist industry
- Ancient Egypt and modern museums
- Cultural centers and the construction of urban identities
View Student Evaluations for this program:
About the Evaluations (PDF)