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Representing contemporary urban space: Cairo malls in two Egyptian novels

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Abstract Taking into account the expansion of malls as a constitutive element of Egyptian urbanism at the beginning of the twenty-first century, this article analyzes the representation of the mall in two contemporary Egyptian novels. A close reading of Mūsīqā l-mūl by Maḥmūd al-Wardānī and An takūna ʿAbbās al-ʿAbd, by Aḥmad al-ʿĀydī shows that the function of intertextuality in those narratives is central to understand this representation, as well as the sense of alienation or belonging to the contemporary urban space it conveys. Al-Wardānī constructs his novel through intertextuality with a classical Arabic text, contrasting the contemporary space of the mall with the ideal bazaar of a One Thousand and One Nights tale (al-ḥammāl maʿa l-banāt), mapping the latter out as an utopian space versus the hostile, anti-erotic and despotic atmosphere of the mall. Al-ʿĀydī’s approach places the mall at the center of global consumer culture, a space of encounter and refuge, away from the aggressive street environment.

Affiliations: 1: Leiden University


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