AUC’s new campus: a mirage in the desert?

First off, apologies for the slow posting (traveling outside Egypt at the moment).

I meant to link to a story I did before I took off on AUC’s new campus. In September, the American University in Cairo is leaving its location on central Tahrir Square and moving to a brand new campus in the desert suburb of New Cairo.  The AUC is quite an institution in Egyptian cultural and intellectual life, and in the life of Downtown Cairo. The move is a dramatic change for the university, which is basically suddenly going from being an urban to a suburban university. What I find particularly interesting about the move is how it fits into a broader pattern of (not to sound alarmist) the abandonment of Downtown in favour of sprawling desert suburbs.  Living in Cairo, it’s impossible not to understand the desire to move to less congested, less polluted areas. But personally I fear that this move (of the elites) to the edges of the city is yet another sign of the total lack of foresight and vision that is so endemic to the administration and planning of Cairo. And the role of real estate speculation–the fact that the construction of new suburbs is much more profitable than the upkeep of central neighborhoods–can’t be underestimated. Anyway, here’s what I wrote:

Last month, students and faculty at the American University in Cairo bade farewell not only to each other but to their campus. Over the summer, the university is abandoning its historical downtown location and moving to a new campus on the outskirts of the city.

The offices of professors and administrators are cluttered with packed boxes. The library shelves are empty. And workers are toiling day and night in the desert outside Cairo to have the new campus – which will be 29 times bigger than the old one – ready by the time classes start in September.

“It’s a very rare opportunity for a university to rebuild itself and upgrade to extraordinary levels all at one time,” says Phil Donoghue, vice president for planning and administration, of the move to the new state-of-the-art campus. But others are concerned that by leaving Cairo’s downtown and moving to the suburbs, the university will lose an important connection to the city and a cornerstone of its identity.

You can read the rest of the piece here.

0 thoughts on “AUC’s new campus: a mirage in the desert?”

  1. Riham El Houshi shares this view. The AUC student calls the new campus “a huge improvement” and says of the downtown location, “Here you have to face street-crossing and beggars and valets and everybody you have to deal with. It’s annoying. And even if it wasn’t annoying, I don’t think it’s befitting to AUC.”

    People like this should move to the desert and stay in their bubbles. They only make a bad smell anyway. And the bit about the area soon being developed and full of people misses one point: what kind of people? the rich in their mock pharoanic, colonial, greek villas and the crowded towers full of the people wprking in their factories and cleaning their pools. real culture.

  2. Hi Scribbled.
    I agree with you, but I think it’s the university’s responsibility also to teach these kids to value things like the architectural heritage and social richness of downtown. The fact that they don’t is a product of their education, in the largest sense. And to be fair I think there are many AUC students who have misgivings about the new campus’ location.

  3. I agree ursula, it’s a shame for the students who do benefit from and appreciate all that downtown has to offer beyond beanos. I was referring solely to people who share the views of the girl you quoted. Unfortunately, the disdain for Cairo’s urban flaws and fabric displayed by the student are rampant among the poorly educated, shallow and powerful of all ages. Which is why malls thrive but heritage is rundown and cleared for profit.

    Nice blog by the way.

  4. You guys are romantic but naive. The “blame” for AUC’s move lies with the pitiful job that the Cairo governor does in managing the city. If you haven’t noticed, downtown is dying. Nothing is being done to revitalize. The traffic on Kasr el-Aini is appalling. The neighborhood around AUC degrades quickly as you head east. And for all that, the cost of expansion in these times of inflated real estate is prohibitive. You may cling to how wonderful and authentic downtown is supposed to be but the reality is that has become unmanagable. Good for AUC for giving their students a less “authentic” but superior educational experience. There is a reason that every decent business is fleeing downtown. And it’s not, as scribbled says, because they are full of ignorant, poorly educated, shallow people. Cairo’s urban flaws are not minor harmless inconveniences. Remember, businesses were fleeing New York before the city invested hundreds of millions in revitalization. That is why you can still have an authentic New York experience without getting mugged or hit by a taxi. That is why you can bring your child to Times Square to gaze at the lights and not have them propositioned by “urban flaws” including prostitutes and coke dealers.

    A city needs to take itself seriously or no one else will. Cairo administration needs to grow up and shake up or be left behind. Don’t blame AUC for what is happening downtown.

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