What’s in a street name? A Cairo guidebook explains

Updated 26 September 2018
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What’s in a street name? A Cairo guidebook explains

  • This guidebook is anything but ordinary
  • A visit to Cairo is a trip through the ages

BEIRUT: Cairo, sometimes called the City of a Thousand Minarets or Mother of the World, has grown into a megalopolis unlike any other. A visit to Cairo is a trip through the ages — from the immutable pyramids to the humongous medieval open mall in Khan Al-Khalili and right up to the 19th century under the rule of Ismail Pasha, the khedive of Egypt and Sudan. He stressed the importance of urban planning and transformed Downtown Cairo into a bastion of fashion and elegance known as “Paris on the Nile.”
This “Field Guide to the Street Names of Central Cairo,” by Humphrey Davies and Lesley Lababidi, may seem like a typical guidebook, yet it is anything but ordinary. The authors’ singular passion for Cairo provided them with the inspiration and resilience to uncover the truth behind the frequent renaming of the city streets and the plethora or absence of street signs.
“Street signs are missing, or damaged, or concealed behind storefronts. More remarkably, signs bearing different names sometimes appear on the same street. This may be due partly to the fact that signs can be ordered by private citizens from specialized hardware stores,” write Humphrey and Lababidi.
Tourists will, without a doubt, find this handbook terribly useful as they roam through Central Cairo across the picturesque Zamalek, Garden City or Munira. However, this guide has been written especially for the true, unconditional lovers of Cairo.
Not everyone loves this city, and not anyone can love this city. To love Cairo is to see the unseen. To love Cairo is to grasp that intangible and elusive quality of time, where the past drifts into the present and the present lingers in the past.
In the ever-changing light of the day, between past, present and future, this multi-layered city gives you a glimpse of eternity. This precious little book rekindles memories and brings to life the forgotten streets, lanes, alleys and passageways of Central Cairo.


What We Are Reading Today: Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe

Updated 23 February 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe

Patrick Radden Keefe tells the story of the conflict in Northern Ireland between the Irish nationalists, the Catholics, and the unionists, the Protestants, in a time described as The Troubles.

Say Nothing is an excellent account of the Troubles; it might also be a warning, Roddy Doyle stated in a review published in The New York Times

“The book is cleverly structured. We follow people — victim, perpetrator, back to victim — leave them, forget about them, rejoin them decades later. It can be read as a detective story,” the review added. 

Doyle said: “The book is full of the language of my youth, phrases I heard every day — ‘political status,’ ‘shoot-to-kill policy,’ ‘dirty protest,’ ‘legitimate target.’ And it is full of names, names that are more than names — Gerry Adams, Bobby Sands, the Price sisters, Burntollet Bridge, Bloody Sunday, Enniskillen, Margaret Thatcher, Ian Paisley — the names of people and places, events, that carry huge emotional clout, that can still silence a room or start a fight.”

Doyle added: “If it seems as if I’m reviewing a novel, it is because “Say Nothing” has lots of the qualities of good fiction, to the extent that I’m worried I’ll give too much away.”