I have recently become motivated to define a profile of Egyptian exceptionalism through the appendages of Western Empire. With this I want to clarify the unique case of Egypt as a cultural and linguistic ghost of its hegemon, and how this lingering influence positions Egypt to itself subsume the role of empire.
As a satellite metropole, how can we understand the bidirectional relationship Cairo holds with broader Africa? Walter Rodney wrote that as Africa developed Europe, Europe underdeveloped Africa. If, as I argue, Egypt is the remaining metropole in Africa, then I assert that it may observe this same relational structure— ie. while Africa develops Egypt, Egypt may reinforce Africa’s underdevelopment. In my argument, however, I also aim to highlight the ways in which the Egypt/North Africa-Africa relationship in fact strays from this relational structure, establishing a new sort of hegemon with its own imperial politic.
When arriving back in Egypt, I anticipate the challenge of being able to directly articulate, or at least illustrate the profundity of how, Egypt’s superstructures are clearly or convolutedly tethered to a murky imperial legacy. I had been thinking over the logistics of my time there simple things— like what traffic will I run into in this part of the city, or should I stay in Tagamo or Zamalek— and I found these questions in fact pertinent with this project. I mulled over my aversion to staying in New Cairo. Under Sisi, Egypt is currently seeing an era of hyper-development and ceaseless infrastructure projects; my friends and I are decisive in our language, however, when we call it one of the most accelerated and sweeping gentrification projects that North Africa has seen. This administration is advancing unrelenting expansion eastward and establishment and growth of ‘urban developments.’ Luxury housing, commercial districts, but most prominently language schools have been dropped down amidst previously low-maintenance and undeveloped land. Construction of entire new communities and low-density residential areas are forming around these new schools; it is no coincidence that these are French and English language schools and that the neighborhoods and shopping centers oriented around them are markedly and purposefully Western, with signs written exclusively in English and billboards advertising the next hot development. I was able trace back how this was relevant to an overhaul problematization of the contemporary Cairo Arab condition: the pursuit of Euro-ness, rebranded as refined Oriental-esque Westernism.