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Mother of the World

By Jane Wiseman


Egyptians call Cairo the “Mother of the World”, and after visiting the bustling city I can see why. With such a variety of things to do and places to see, there really is something for everyone. I took a picture from the pool at the Le Meridien Pyramids Hotel in Cairo and it really embodied the sense that there was something here for everyone. I was standing in this magnificent hotel with a gorgeous pool at my feet, a hookah bar to my left, a drink bar to my left, and in front of me, just over the boundaries of the hotel walls I could see the mighty pyramids towering above the city. It made me think of Farha Ghannam's chapter called "Relocation and the Creation of a Global City" in which she talks about the fact that Cairo is such a hodge-podge of vernacular and transnational entities. The single picture I took really embodies the message I got from her article. While I enjoyed the magnificent view from my hotel and basked in awe that I was actually looking at the pyramids, I also thought of the article we read at the beginning of the semester by Eric Darton entitled "The Janus Face of Architectural Terrorism: Minoru Yamaskai, Mohammad Atta, and Our World Trade Center." Darton talked about the fact that for these transnational structures to be built, everything from World Trade Centers to grandiose hotels, something vernacular must be destroyed. I wondered what might once have been where my hotel now stood. What had to be destroyed so that I could travel across the world and have this magnificent view?                    
                Another thing I saw while in Cairo that supports the idea that it is the “Mother of the World” is the slums of Cairo. Even though people know how crowded Cairo is, people are still flocking to the city to find work that eldues them in the countryside. There is a massive lack of housing and people are forced to live anywhere they can. One example of this and a place that we talked about in class is The City of the Dead. As well as being a cemetery, The City of the Dead is home to hundreds of thousands of Egyptians who are living in the tombs because they have absolutely no where else to live. Although living there is nothing to brag about and those that do live there hardly ever talk about it, the sheer fact that people feel the need to live there shows the desperation to obtain housing. The fact that people are willing to live in a cemetary demonsrates the draw that Cairo has. People are willing to live in a cemetery just to be able to live in the city. Cairo must truly be the Mother of the World if people are willing to live in tombs as a way to be in the center of the action.  
                    There is a stark contrast between the hotel I stayed at and The City of the Dead. And yet, both coexist a few short miles form one another. Both the transnational hotel and vernacular cemetery show the extremes between transnational and vernacular that I found in Cairo. If nothing else, this exemplifies that Cairo is a Global City. It has to deal with both ends of the transnational spectrum, both good and bad.

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