Guides have been written to the city of Cairo for generations. Whether they’re for foreigners who’ve come to the city or its residents. However, it might be safe to say that A Field Guide to the Street Names of Central Cairo
(American University in Cairo Press, 2018) is a beast unto itself. It takes the names of streets in Central Cairo and uses them as a basis for its telling of Cairo’s urban history. Structured like a dictionary of sorts, it is the kind of book that can be read cover-to-cover or in snatches here and there. In this interview, we cover the origins of the project, how it was written, and ultimately what shapes the city of Cairo itself.
Humphrey Davies is the translator of a number of Arabic novels, including The Yacoubian Building
by Alaa Al Aswany (AUC Press, 2004) and Leg Over Leg
by Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq (NYU Press 2014), in addition to novels by Naguib Mahfouz and Gamal al-Ghitani. He has twice been awarded the Saif Ghobash–Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation.
Lesley Lababidi is the author of Cairo Practical Guide
(AUC Press, 2011, 17th ed.), Cairo’s Street Stories: Exploring the City’s Statues, Squares, Bridges, Gardens, and Sidewalk Cafés
(AUC Press, 2008), Cairo: The Family Guide
(AUC Press, 4th ed., 2010), and Silent No More: Special Needs People in Egypt
(AUC Press, 2005). An active and well-traveled blogger, she currently lives between Cairo, Beirut, and Lagos.
Nadirah Mansour is a graduate student at Princeton University’s Department of Near Eastern Studies working on the global intellectual history of the Arabic-language press. She tweets @NAMansour26 and produces another Middle-East and North Africa-related podcast: Reintroducing.