The red brick housing block of the informal settlements in and around Cairo are so recognizable and telling, that the national government is getting concerned about Egypt’s reputation. Not able to stop their spread, let alone to remove them, the government now ordered painting all exteriors to hide the reality of the day. Yasmin Mardini proposes a different interpretation of these neighborhoods, that ‘normal people’ will only see from the distance of their car. She shows the power of close reading as a way to understand and next, perhaps, to accept and integrate.
In a city where the roof of a building is the fifth facade for advertisement and billboards function as fences, streets and sidewalks are the places where space is negotiated by the citizens. In this speculative and subjective article, Yasmin Mardini argues that the arterial system of Cairo represents the public space where mutually exclusive localities are temporarily brought together.