The Egyptian Government Bulldozed an Iconic Cairo Art Center With ‘Millions’ in Art Inside

The Egyptian Government Bulldozed an Iconic Cairo Art Center With ‘Millions’ in Art Inside

Darb 1718, an iconic contemporary arts center in Cairo, was demolished on January 6, the organization said in a post on Instagram at the time.

“We are deeply saddened and outraged to announce the demolition of the main building of Darb 1718, a historic Cairo landmark that has served as a haven for artists and artisans of all kinds, without any prior notice or compensation,” the post read. “The demolition of Darb 1718 is a stark reminder of the ongoing threats to Cairo’s heritage and historic fabric, and the displacement of its communities without regard.”

According to authorities, the building was demolished to widen a highway. Cairo is undergoing a massive redevelopment, as Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi attempts to both modernize the overcrowded city and build his $59 billion new capital on the edge of the desert. The government has already built over 4,000 miles of new roads and 900 tunnels and bridges as part of the project. But all that development has resulted in whole neighborhoods being razed, landmarks and all.

Last August, the government began to demolish buildings in the ancient Fustat area, where many of the city’s last traditional craftspeople live. At the time, Moataz Nasreldin, the founder of Darb 1718, told the New York Times that government officials had told him that the art center was slated to be destroyed to make way for an elevated highway. Then, in September, officials ordered all staff to leave the building and close the space.

Opened 16 years ago, the center was one of the first cultural spaces in the city to host exhibitions, concerts, events, and workshops. The space was named after the 1977 “bread riots” in the country, which took place on January 17 and 18 that year.

Last week, Nasreldin appeared on the talk show of top Egyptian TV host Lamis Elhadidy, telling her that “the works of 150 foreign artists that are worth millions” were destroyed and that bulldozers took down the center’s exhibition hall and two workshops.

Elhadidy, who usually defends the Egyptian government, offered a rare bit of criticism for the Sisi regime. “We hate our history and our old Cairo,” Hadidi said, according to AFP. “We want a city that will be nothing but roads, asphalt, bridges.”

The post “The Egyptian Government Bulldozed an Iconic Cairo Art Center With ‘Millions’ in Art Inside” by Harrison Jacobs was published on 01/16/2024 by