Sidewalk Salon is a multidisciplinary book which explores the urban spaces of Cairo and their dynamics through the lens of its overlooked and banal street chairs. These far from perfect, used chairs, which populate the city’s sidewalks, speak of Cairo from below. Acting at times as zoom and as wide-angle lenses, we use them as tools to explore intimate details and collective aspects of the city. If strictly speaking Sidewalk Salon is a photographic documentation of original chairs from the streets, in a larger sense it deals with the material and human dimensions of a layer of Cairo. Combining photography and text, we present in this book creative practices of design that occur on the sidewalk along with the unplanned interventions in the public space that give Cairo its distinctive character. Out of more than fifty walks realized over 3 years, we highlight the paths of 3 walks pinning to their location on a map the chairs photographed. Those walks cover the neighborhoods of Shobra-Shobra El Kheima,
Old Cairo-Dar El Salam-Maadi-Khalifa and New Cairo. The choice of those areas reflects the diverse urban fabrics we encountered in a city that revealed itself as a surprising collage made of green islands, cliff-side settlements, cemeteries transformed to residential areas, old neighborhoods in the Islamic quarters of the city, rows of red brick buildings developed along the tight alleys of former agricultural land, and gated communities with malls and highways coming out of the desert in the outskirts.
Invisible in the images, users of the street chairs are present through the pages of this volume. Interviews with chair owners gives voice to the people that spend time in the sidewalk everyday. Fiction and poetry commissioned to leading Egyptian authors, presents street chairs and their owners from another angle. A long essay written by David Puig and Manar Moursi uses the prism of street chairs to expand on these reflections and to examine socio-economic, gender, design and political dynamics in relation with the uses of chairs in the public spaces in the city.
This project is a collaboration with David Puig and is supported by the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, the British Council in Cairo and the Embassy of the Netherlands in Egypt. It was published in September 2015 by Onomatopee in Holland and Kotob Khan in Cairo.
The book can be purchased online via Onomatopee's site:
For more info, visit the project site at: www.sidewalksaloncairo.com