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Community / Public space

In Pictures: In Cairo, the streets are your sitting room

In Cairo, huddles of people lounging outside shops or on street corners are a common sight. For those whose jobs require it – doormen, street sellers, guards – or for those who don’t work, sitting outdoors takes up the majority of their day (when they’re not stuck in traffic, anyway). 


Crucial to this outdoor economy is the city’s collection of outdoor chairs. Sometimes, these belong to shops or cafes. Others were abandoned long ago and have simply become part of the public street furniture. Fascinated by the sheer number and variety of chairs, and what they tell us about the city and its residents, a pair of Cairophiles spent three years documenting the chairs and their users, and now are turning their efforts into a book, 1001 Street Chairs of Cairo.

The authors, Manar Moursi, an urbanist and designer, and translator, diplomat and publisher David Puig, told Pop-Up City that they feel the chairs play an important role in city life:

The shift of social life from indoors to outdoors is more of a practical matter (small, crammed apartments and rare public spaces and jobs that require being outside).

Moreover, it also has a good effect on the side — the fact that there are always people outside contributes to the security of the city. Jane Jacobs would be happy to hear so! 

The book also includes 11 interviews with the occupants of some of these chairs. One is with a man named Mohammed, who works as a designer of “artistic games”. 

Here’s an excerpt:

Interviewer: Do you sit here often?

Mohammed: My work is here, and my friends are here. 

I: How long do you sit here with them?

M: For work, maybe nine hours… If there’s nothing I need to do, I sit here outside and drink Pepsi or something.

I: What’s the most impressive thing that happened, or that you saw while sitting here?

M: A wonderful surprise is that I fell in love with my wife on this street – I met her here. She was walking by. 

Below are a selection of photos from the book. Some chairs, like this model, are hybrids, produced from two or more broken ones:

While this one uses a handy nearby tree to make up for its lack of a backrest:

These folks seem to really be enjoying their street chairs:

While this one seems to have its own filing system:

And, just for the LOLs, here are some more chairs.

You can find more information on the project and book here, and order it here.
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