For those in Cairo and interested in the chronological growth of city walks in Cairo, Egypt, from 1970-2016, tracing initiatives (individual and organizational) across ten criteria, Shaimaa and I are presenting our paper that we unveiled for the event that was organized by Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage, University of Birmingham, Inheriting the City, April 2016. Lecture is in Arabic, slide show in English. See post, “Conference, Inheriting the City’ here; and at Shaimaa’s newsletter: http://shaimaa-keephuntingphotos.blogspot.com.eg/2016/08/narrating-cairo-walks-exploring-taipei.html
Borders Literature for All Nations 2016 is a Facebook site with the mission: In 2016, a forum for engaging with important issues and events in Africa’s history as recorded or reflected in good books.
Cairo’s Street Stories (AUC Press, Cairo, Egypt) was chosen for review by well-known and esteemed reviewer of African literature, Olatoun Williams. She writes:
We walk about the City of a Thousand Stories, ‘listening’ to Lababidi ‘speak’ with refreshing clarity on a wide range of topics spanning that history. What I have learned from her is fascinating about the evolution of women’s rights and the liberation of women embodied in the full figure of singer – el Sitt – Umm Kulthum….
…Though Lesley Lababidi does not take us on a linear journey, the tour is well-planned. She does not make it difficult to take in the plethora of evidence of foreign occupation manifested not only politically, but in art, language, education, urban planning and in the fact and manner of economic exploitation. Looking at the timeline of foreign invasions through her eyes, it is easy to see why Egypt’s raging identity crises are as inevitable as the annual flooding of the Nile.
My response to Olatoun for choosing to review Cairo’s Street Stories:
Your intellectual critic of CSS is beyond my admiration, beyond my gratitude, almost beyond words…. for your analytical approach as using CSS as a backdrop to study other literary books, that of the past- Mahfouz- and the moving, contemporary poetry of Zahery overwhelmingly left me shaking with delight, perspiring with the desire to walk the Cairo streets, and with pride : I am very, very honored that you choose CSS to examine the intricate texture and history of Cairo.
Inheriting the City: Advancing Understandings of Urban Heritage
March 31 – April 4, 2016, Taipei, Taiwan
Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage, University of Birmingham, is pleased to announce our next international conference. We invite academics, policy makers and practitioners to consider the ways that heritage is being protected, managed and mobilised in rapidly changing and pressurised urban contexts. This multidisciplinary conference will explore the type of heritage, both tangible and intangible, that cities and towns will pass to future generations, and the processes through which the heritage of cities is being re-made, re-presented and re-used.
Above photo: Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, Taipei, Taiwan– The venue for the conference.
This conference brought 200 professionals together from 40 countries to present papers on a variety of urban heritage issues from adaptive reuse of urban heritage to approaches to conservation of Chinese language, the 5-day conference was as diverse as it was inspiring. See program here.
The conference presented an opportunity to get out from behind the computer and meet, face to face, the people who work at preserving culture, saving heritage, and sometimes remembering heritage lost.
Shaimaa Ashour, Egyptian architect, and I collaborated on the project, #City Walks: Another Perspective for Narrating the History of the City. Cairo, Egypt. The research covered the chronological growth of city walks from 1970-2016, tracing initiatives (individual and organizational) across ten criteria. The analysis of city walks as a cultural heritage activity in Cairo emphasized individual and community initiatives that defines many facets of Egyptian heritage. A paper follows this presentation.
Shaimaa, myself, and Professor Mike Robinson, University of Birmingham in front of Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
Alone in Taipei for a Day
“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world” – Freya Stark
I have a day on my own in Taipei with no personal guide and no language skills; a dislike for public transportation (walking is quite acceptable) and a joy of discovery. I have a list: Buddhist temple. Paper Culture Museum. Traditional Tea House. Elephant Hill. Forget fumbling for directions on a smartphone. The receptionist at the hotel writes directions in Chinese on an old-fashion piece of paper.
Longshan Temple: I visited the night before with a study group so prepared with a little knowledge, I sat for an hour and observed, peacefully, the comings and goings and follow the lingering incense smoke connecting spirit to spirit.
SuHo Memorial Paper Culture Museum: Founded the Chang Chuen Cotton Paper Plant in 1940 by Chen SuHo and his wife, they were killed 50 years later in a plane crash. Their children opened this paper museum in their memory. Walking through the museum, one examines various paper’s made from a variety of bark and fibers. At the top floor crossing onto the roof of another building is a bamboo traditional house that carves out a quiet place in the midst of the city.
Back on street level, I could not resist the aroma of strong coffee wafting from an open doorway. Chat Coffee. Watching movement on the street and then spotted revolving parking plates: a car drives onto the plate and it turns 45 or 90 or 180 degrees to position the car for a parking space.
Not to be missed are a variety of man-hole covers that decorate the city sidewalks…
Wistaria Tea House located in a Japanese-style 1920 wooden house serves Taiwanese tea in traditional Chinese and Japanese tatami rooms. The service gracious and unassuming, lingering over fine tea and pineapple cakes is a grand way to spend a few thoughtful hours. Afterwards, an art exhibition raising money for a children’s violin group: The Light of Taiwan
Elephant Hill ( aka Nangang District Hiking Trail) rises quickly 400 meters above Taipei. Determination is all that is needed to climb the uneven stone steps to the top of the hill for great views of Taipei skyline and Taipei 101.
Back to the best little hotel in Taipei: Royal Biz Hotel, to greet the friendly staff, sleep on satin sheets in a sparkling clean room, enjoy an extraordinary breakfast located in the heart of the city.
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall during cherry blossoms season
An unfinished tapestry, pushed deep into the unlocked drawer, brought unshed tears to her eyes. After her grandmother’s death, the unowned tapestry was now hers to keep or, perhaps, upkeep.
The granddaughter unjammed the drawer, unwrinkled the unvalued tapestry and tugged at it, slowly, to unravel an unloved memory.
Her grandmother had worn the hijab when she unfortuitously was forced to flee. She was unbearably young, unable to unidentify herself from the only life she had ever known.
She had untangled, untamed dreams. But in her flight, unwontedly flushed with misery, those ungratified desires were undreamt.
It was someone, unremembered, who pushed the cloth and needle into her hands. “Here, stitch and stitch and don’t look up. Unthink what you thought, unclench strings of yesterday.”
Her un-shining needle pricked the un-colorful cloth.
Each day when an unfed child cried, she undecorated the embroidered cake she would never eat.
When the rain unrestrainedly covered the ground, she unstitched the coat she would never wear.
When a mother moaned, she unwrote the poem she would never read and unmeasured the music she would never sing.
When unutterable screams surged through the un-dawned day, she unclimbed the mountain she would never see.
The granddaughter cradled the unfinished tapestry in her arms. Her fingers unexpectedly pulled a thread, undoing one stitch and then another.
Unwinding undreamt; for her grandmother’s true tapestry was sewn with love.
*Undreams ,won an international poetry contest sponsored by Persimmon Tree. Published at http://www.persimmontree.org/v2/summer-2015/international-poets/?utm_source=June+16%2C+2015+-+Final&utm_campaign=June16Final&utm_medium=email.
See American University in Cairo Facebook page:
See American University in Cairo Press website:
On the night of April 14, 2014, over 200 girls were kidnapped from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State, Nigeria, by terrorists.
“Undreams” is for all those imprisoned in exile, forced from their homes, separated from friends and family, their way of life banished—the Palestinians, the Syrians, the Chibok girls and millions more…
Sign Petition to commission monument to remember abduction of women and children in Nigeria. This monument is a constant reminder of human failure to protect the innocent. Not a popular concept for a government or nation but a reminder that might stir actions in the hearts of those able to protect.
*Copyright 2015 by Lesley Lababidi. All rights reserved. To copy or re-produce photography and/or writings, written permission from Lesley Lababidi is required.
To my loyal followers, thank you for your comments, interest, time and shared love for Egypt and Nigeria. To those of who travel through this blog, I hope you enjoy your visit and return soon. To everyone this is my sincere wish for you in 2015:
Wishing you adventurous days and carefree days,
silent days and exciting days,
simple days and triumphant days,
hopeful days and healthy days,
that each day is a precious day.
Making resolutions is a cleansing ritual of self assessment and repentance that demands personal honesty and, ultimately, reinforces humility. Breaking them is part of the cycle. -Eric Zorn
Intellectuals and Public Responsibility
“I think the life of the mind is fundamentally about a sense of awe, wonder, openness, exploration….It’s an adventure in exploring different views and viewpoints, different arguments and perspectives. There’s a certain capaciousness that goes with it, an expansiveness of heart, mind, and soul that has its own exhilarating joy in and of itself, and it is a desirable way of being in the world. It’s still worldly, in the way Edward Said put it. It’s rooted in circumstances, but it has its own intrinsic joy.”
(Hedgehog Review_, v 9, #1 [Spring ’07], p. 87)