CLUSTER’s Cairo Downtown Passageways website and publication offer a vision to reimagine Downtown Cairo and its intricate network of passageways, alleyways and in-between spaces as a framework for urban regeneration.
Downtown Cairo was partially modeled after European cities in the late nineteenth century, including Paris and Vienna. The commercial arcade was one of the key urban typologies inserted within, or between many buildings Downtown. Having undergone periods of prosperity, deterioration, and decay over the past decades, many Downtown passageways serve today as sites for rich and diverse uses and activities. These activities extend to the gaps between buildings, setbacks, courtyards, and a number of side streets that were either officially or de facto pedestrianized. Uses of these spaces range from food places and coffee shops, to sites for trade and retail, including stationeries and bookstores, bars and restaurants, galleries and art spaces. Being off the main channels of traffic, they operate as hubs for competing interests and claims to space.
Viewed together, they offer an opportunity to re-envision Downtown as a network of pathways housing commerce and entertainment. They also offer a counter-point to the traffic and street grid, and may serve as a stage for periodic artistic and cultural programs, such as book fairs, children’s festivals, flea markets, and even bike ways/greenways.