Social Life in Cairo in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century
ابراهيم، سمير عمر. الحياة الاجتماعية في مدينة القاهرة خلال النصف الأول من القرن التاسع عشر. القاهرة: الهيئة المصرية العامة للكتاب،١٩٩٢، ٢٩٩ص

Ibrahim, Samir ‘Umar. Al-Hayat al-’Ijtima‘iyyah fi Madinat al-Qahira: Khilala al-Nisf al-Awwal min al-Qarn al-Tasi‘ ‘Ashar. Cairo: al-Hayʾah al-Misriyyah al-ʻAmmah lil-Kitab, 1992, 299pp.


Social Life in Cairo in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century

الحياة الاجتماعية في مدينة القاهرة خلال النصف الأول من القرن التاسع عشر

The book addresses social life in Cairo between 1800 and 1850 – a period, the author suggests, characterised by social change as a result of the direct encounter with modern Europe, as well as the reign of Mohammed Ali and his project for modernising the country.

The work explores the topic in five chapters. It deals first with the demographic composition of the city’s inhabitants, reviewing the size and conditions of different occupational sectors and of the main religious, ethnic, and national clusters, such as Copts, Jews, Arabs, Europeans, Turks, and slaves. 

It provides a description of the major features of Cairo’s changing urban environment, including streets, markets, major building projects, and touches upon the use of mail and telegraph and health planning. The book addresses cultural life and reviews the main educational institutions, the social backgrounds of their students and how they impacted on Cairo’s society. The habits and traditions in the city including styles of dressing, food and drink, the spread of cafés and of different art forms are also discussed. 

The author observes the development of printing, journalism, and translation and the different roles they played. At the end he presents the changes that were introduced by Mohammed Ali to the judicial system and legislation in Egypt, as well as his efforts to enforce security. 

The importance of the book stems from addressing the social aspect of an important period in the history of the Middle East in general, and Egypt in particular – an aspect that usually fails to attract due attention in the Arabic literature in comparison with the political aspects of the same period. However, the book tends to be overly descriptive and fails to problematise the issues it reviews. Also, it does not sufficiently address the position of women during this period of change in Cairo. 

Reham Samy Hassan
Reham Samy Hassan. '"English abstract of 'The Literary Movement in Damascus 1800-1918'". Translated by Reham Samy Hassan. In Cities as Built and Lived Environments: Scholarship from Muslim Contexts, 1875 to 2011, by Aptin Khanbaghi, 48. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014.
Muslim Civilisations Abstracts - The Aga Khan University
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