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Cities of the Middle East


Megalopolis on the Nile



With 12 million inhabitants, the Egyptian capital Cairo is at once the largest city in the Arab world and the largest of any country bordering the Mediterranean. Site of the pharaonic pyramids and of the mosques and citadels of the medieval Islamic world, it became, with the opening of the Suez Canal in the mid-nineteenth century, a cosmopolitan capital with communities from all over the Mediterranean. As Cairo's greatest modern writer, Naguib Mahfouz, very well illustrates in his novels, cultural currents of a regional and national character have long intersected here with those of universal concern. Since the Egyptian revolution of 1952, however, the city has become the centre of power of Arab nationalism and the place from where the military rulers who continue to control its destiny exercise their influence.

This new debate in the series on Middle Eastern cities will examine both the historical and architectural legacy of Cairo's past, and the changing attitudes of its writers and artists to the city's place in the modern Egyptian and Arab worlds.

Fred Halliday, director of the CCCB's cycle of debates on cities of the Middle East

Monday 10 November

7.30 p.m. Recent (hi)stories of the "Mother of Cities"


Khaled Fahmy, Associate Professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at the New York University.
"The Essence of Modern Cairo"

Alaa Al Aswany, writer and author of The Yacoubian Building (Harper Perennial, 2006).

Fred Halliday, ICREA research Professor at IBEI.

9.30 p.m. SCREENING
The Beginning and the End, by Salah Abu Seyf (Egypt, 1960). 130 min. Original version with Spanish subtitles.
In the Egypt of the 1930s, a mother and her four children are struggling to survive after the death of their father. This classic film about Cairo is based on a novel by the Nobel Prize laureate Naguib Mahfuz.
Copy kindly made available by the Egyptian Institute of Islamic Studies, Madrid.

Tuesday 11 November

7.30 p.m. Urban, Literary and Cinematographic Metamorphosis


Sabry Hafez, Research Professor of Modern Arabic and Comparative Literature at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) of the University of London
"The Aesthetics of the Closed Horizon. The Transformation of the City and the Novel in Egypt Since 1990"

Nadia Kamel, filmmaker and author of Salad House (Egypt and France, 2007).
"Cultural Inquisition and Diversity. Stories from Cairo"

Fred Halliday, ICREA research Professor at IBEI.

9.30 p.m. SCREENING
Salata Baladi, by Nadia Kamel (Egypt and France, 2007). 105 min. Original version with Spanish subtitles.
The director Nadia Kamel teaches her nephew about the plurality of origins and creeds in the family, a diversity that is threatened by nationalist and religious fanaticism in present-day Egypt.
Copy kindly made available by Casa Árabe, Madrid.

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