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The Entanglement of Class, Marriage and Real Estate: The Visual Culture of Egypt’s Urbanisation

Hendawy, Mennatullah; Stollmann, Jörg

A majority of scholars consider Egypt’s urban development a product of the neo-liberal political economy facilitated by the country’s central government. In this article, we want to shift our attention towards the public and its demand for housing. We describe the urban everyday experiences of a population within a country in which a visual culture established via public media creates an urban imagination that does not reflect the lived social, spatial, and economic reality of the majority of the population. Exploration of the general public’s attitudes towards media narratives that focus their advertisement campaigns on high class residential projects launched this investigation. The argument that follows is based on empirical studies within the Greater Cairo Region (GCR). In this setting, a puzzling trend from our collected data guides our central research question: Why aren’t ads for luxury housing—a market segment clearly beyond the reach of most Egyptians—condemned by those who cannot afford it? To tackle this phenomenon, we shed light on how the pre—and post-marital demand for housing among young couples and their families influence the market, and particularly, the market for upscale and luxury housing in Cairo. The research consists of four phases, including (1) field interviews with Uber and Careem drivers, (2) an online survey targeting inhabitants across varying urban and social segments of the GCR, (3) the first author’s personal story, which posits that marriage culture acts as a key driver for real estate narratives, and (4) a visual analysis of a real estate advertisement. To conclude, the article discusses how far a hegemonic visual culture that caters to socio-economic links between class, marriage, and real estate engages the support of a large part of the population, which in turn, co-produces a spatially unjust urban development scheme that works against their own interests.
Published in: Urban Planning, 10.17645/up.v5i2.3026, Cogitatio Press