Spaces of the maybe: fragments as new urban possibilities in Cairo’s extended urbanisation

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Architecture Department

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Momen el-Husseiny

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Research Article

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Journal of Urbanism: International Research on Placemaking and Urban Sustainability

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Urban “fragments” play a key role in healing megacities and carving new relationships of civic connectivity. At the edge of a gated community in Cairo, AlRehab, the open market or souq serves as an urban fragment, creating different experiences that unsettle the normative assumptions of the separation between the private and public spheres. Using a Lefebvrian analysis to examine the souq of AlRehab, a two-phase longitudinal study was conducted between 2008–2012 and 2018–2022. Within the geopolitical context of the Arab Spring and the New Administrative Capital, the narratives of the souq’s developer, urban planner, residents, activists and shop workers reveal the power of agency and activism in the provision of “multiple publics” as a civic-common space. This allows the creation of transient connections, sites for political expression, as well as a base of operations for expanding job opportunities and social networks. Based on urban design theories and literature on Global South urbanism, this article poses the nuanced possibilities of reimagining the edge as a “space of the maybe,” given its capacity to create new public spheres and a new urban grammar of entangled livelihoods, able to adapt to an urbanity of movement and growth.

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