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Understanding Cairo: The Logic of a City Out of Control Paperback – September 15, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-9774165535 ISBN-10: 9774165535 Edition: Reprint

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Editorial Reviews

Review


"[Sims] is one of Cairo's sharpest observers." --Los Angeles Review of Books


"This volume describes the urban development of the Egyptian city of Cairo over the past half century, concentrating on issues of land and housing use and development, as well as intersecting issues of economic organization, transport, and governance. The central theme that arises in nearly every aspect of the proceedings is the contradiction between the authoritarian (but often ineffective) state and the vast areas of informality that make Cairo what it is today, although particularly in the area of housing and land, where, for example, urban extensions planned by the state often remain devoid of inhabitants while two-thirds of the city's inhabitants live in unplanned neighborhoods that have sprung up since 1950 in contradiction of state policies and laws." --Reference Book News


"In a rigorous presentation of Cairo s growth and geography in the last four decades, Sims has done a masterful job to present the city as an exceptional case of urban logic. While Cairo is often included in studies of the global south, Sims argues that the city is in fact one that follows its own logic, often in spite of deliberate policies of the Mubarak regime to address problems and issues. This book is an important urban study of the largest city in Africa." --The Global Ministries


"To get a sense of the magnitude of the challenge and of the inequalities the Mubarak regime fostered, one need look no further than David Sims s book . . . . [Understanding Cairo] is a wonderful new reference." --The National


"Highly recommended to students and scholars looking to further explore issues relating to contemporary Cairo. It is also useful to tourists as an alternative to the clutter of superficial narratives and portraits of the city." --Jadaliyya


"An eye-opening and readable account of Cairo s urban framework." --Egypt Independent


"Encyclopaedic in scope, structure and information." --Egyptian Gazette


"The strength of Understanding Cairo stems from the author's seemingly limitless knowledge of the city and his familiarity with relevant academic and journalistic texts, census data and Google satellite images. Tables, charts, photos and maps abound, complementing the book's content. The time Sims has spent in Cairo allows him to add anecdotes like the following: "In no sense are [informal areas] 'no-go zones,' except perhaps for those of Cairo's paranoid upper classes." Sims successfully challenges conventional wisdom throughout the book."--Christopher Reeve, Journal of International Affairs


"Although individual informal areas of Cairo have been well studied by anthropologists and sociologists, Sims aims for a more relational approach among different sectors of the city. This is a crucial methodological intervention and makes for engaging reading. Sims's personal experience of the city enhances his analysis, and he brings a close, critical and yet compassionate eye to local innovations and the openings caused by the relative failures of elite-led development. For residents, urban planners and scholars of Cairo, this book is a welcome and very important addition to understanding the contemporary city. For urban studies scholars more generally, it is a model of understanding the role of local context in broader patterns of late 20th-century and early 21st-century urban growth."--Urban Studies


About the Author


David Sims is an American economist and urban planner who has led a number of studies about Cairo's urban development and housing.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: The American University in Cairo Press; Reprint edition (September 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9774165535
  • ISBN-13: 978-9774165535
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 1 x 5.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #714,687 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Brendan Haug on May 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Visitors to Cairo probably come away with the same images stuck in their heads: the yellow air, snarled traffic, crumbling colonial architecture, trash piles, et cetera. These are all, of course, part of the contemporary urban reality of the largest city in Africa. Sims' new book, however, is the best--perhaps only--compact source that discusses the sides of the city visitors rarely have reason to see: the massive informal residential expansion and the new desert cities. A simple figure immediately alter one's perspective: already in 1996, 62% of the population was living in areas informally developed since 1950 (p. 69). That is, nearly 2/3 of the city lives in areas organically grown and not overseen by any government planning body. This is to be compared to the eight new desert cities, which have devoured massive amounts of capital and government attention (even attracting the new campus of the American University in Cairo to the city of New Cairo), and yet hold a population of only 610,000, <4% of the population of Greater Cairo, according to the 2006 census (p. 171).

The sections covering the informal city are perhaps the most conceptually useful sections of the book. Those of use who have visited Cairo immediately realize how little of the city we have seen. Tourists and students generally remain in the older urban core and are, as such, entirely unacquainted with the regions that house the majority of the population.

Apart from this, the single most welcome aspect of Sims' book is its ability to deftly disabuse the reader of his or her preconceptions. I include one example here. The number of cars in the city, ownership rates, and traffic are covered on pp. 234-39.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By egyptophile on May 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Few cities are as complex, few bureaucracies as complicated, as Cairo's. David Sims has managed to make sense of the place and its government in a fascinating, well-documented, and readable study of how this behemoth manages to operate. Anyone who has tried to cross a Cairo street or hire a taxi or (God help you!) deal with a government office knows that Cairo is the n'est plus ultra metropolitan nightmare. Yet, somehow, defying logic, it works. Drawing on hard-to-find sources in English and Arabic, interviews, and three decades living and working in Cairo, Sims shows how and why it survives and offers some valuable insights into its future. This is a must-read for anyone wanting to foresee what life in Cairo might be like after the Lotus Revolution, and for anyone broadly interested in modern history, sociology, and urban studies.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By DRat on February 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Written by a long-time Cairo resident, acdemic and employee of both the public and private sector, this is a book we should all be reading in the wake of Mubarak's fall to get a sense of how the country will go forward, and why it makes the choices it will.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Cairo has attracted a number of excellent books in recent years, and this one ranks among the best. It does not deal with a description of the monuments and the antiquity of the city's history, but rather the problems that the the city currently faces. These issues-- for example, such as overcrowding, an inadequate infrastructure, wide dispersions in income and wealth, frequently long distances from the slums to the jobs that that the slum dwellers are able to get, the potential for violence and disorder when large masses of disgruntled persons coalesce together, etc.-- reflect what other rapidly growing urban centers in the world face. The manner in which the authorities in Cairo confront these issues and, that is hope, resolve them, could serve as salutary lessons to other large urban conglomerates.
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By Catherine Lynch on November 29, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Excellent! A great source of information about the urbanization on Cairo.
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