Where tourists and locals go in Cairo

One of the great things about open platforms like the internet is that it creates access to data sets that people can play with in all sorts of unexpected ways.  So, using photos that had been uploaded to Flickr, Eric Fischer took the location of where the photo was taken and the place of residence of the photographer and created these incredible maps revealing where tourists and locals go in cities around the world.  Unsurprisingly, the densest data sets are for cities like New York and Paris (see below) that get enormous numbers of Flickr-using visitors: the red areas are for tourists and the blue for locals.  But I found the map of Cairo (above), where I lived for three years, to be especially revealing and to accord pretty closely to my own experience of the city.  There can be few places in the world with such a sharp divide between the areas tourists go — basically limited to the Pyramids, the Egyptian Museum/Tahrir Square area, the Khan el-Khalili souk, and the Citadel — and the city as lived by its 16 million inhabitants.

The map bears this out.  The online version has useful annotation but the scale is too large to interpret if you don’t already know the city, though it’s worth noting that the isolated stain of red (tourist) dots to the far west of the city represent the Pyramids, the Sphinx, and the start of the Giza plateau.  On the detail above (click the image to enlarge) the fan shaped area in the top left is the upper middle class district of Mohandiseen, where Cairenes spend a great deal of time but no one else finds photogenic, apparently.  The concentration of red dots at the center is the Egyptian Museum and Tahrir Square (the map is a year old so one can imagine the latter has gotten a lot more sightseers since it was the center of the revolution in February) though the district they’re in, which is downtown, is immensely popular with Cairenes, which explains the thick yellow bands on the map meaning that the tourist/local origin is undetermined.  The red sections on the right are the souk, top, and the Citadel, bottom, with the little offshoot just to the west of the Citadel being the Ibn Toloun mosque, whose vast open courtyard rivals the Palais Royale in Paris as one of the most tranquil urban spaces in the world.  Meanwhile, the rest of the city is almost completely free of tourists.  I can promise you, there is a lot there to discover.

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Click here to read my post about the architectural symbolism of the revolution’s protest sites in downtown Cairo.

Or here for a related post in response to a later New York Times article on the same subject.

Or here for my article for Travel + Leisure about contemporary art in Cairo.

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