Applying the Cultural District Concept as an Approach for Boosting Future Development of Cairo City

Haitham Samir

The notion of ‘cultural district’ or ‘cultural quarter’ is not new. Cities have always had spaces for entertainment, arts, and cultural consumption, whether as scattered venues across the city or in clusters of entrepreneurial activity. Cultural districts are geographical areas which contain the highest concentration of cultural and entertainment facilities in a city or town. Cultural districts have a role to play if it is well defined inside the cities. It could be a catalyst for development as well as enhancing the image of the city. Thus, corresponding policies towards the recognition of these places and consequently adopting suitable plans for its development will result in economic benefits to the city. Although the fact that ‘cultural districts’ have been well identified in many international practices as well as in the literature, the concept is still vague in the developing countries. Cairo is possessing several places where culture is the main focus involving important intellectual and creative components. The city centre, Old Cairo, Khan El Khalili, Coptic Cairo are all districts with high potential of cultural and creative activities. They are a sound strategic investment for boosting the economic fortunes of the city. Thus, a dedicated plan should be tailored considering its capacity for local development and the recognition that culture could be facilitated for more benefits.

This paper aims to address the notion and characteristics of ‘cultural districts’ and apply this concept to re-frame some specific areas inside Cairo and to explain how culture and creativity can act as a driver for identifying solutions to the main development challenges they face. The viability of cultural districts is discussed regarding the designation of potential territories, required and supporting legal frameworks, contributing stakeholders, ending by adopting a management plan that could lead to territorial competence and efficiency within the city. The research targets the area of Al Fustat specifically as a potential territory for applying the discussed notion. The paper is organized in two main parts to achieve its objectives: The first part is the theoretical part which discusses the definitions of cultural districts and its associated characteristics. The paper demonstrates the classification of cultural areas within the city and focuses on policies and approaches that govern them. The second part analyses some international experiences of cultural areas to conclude the “cultural districts model”. And consequently apply them to the Egyptian context, for future consideration of the culture and its role in development plans.

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