Cairo is a constantly expanding and changing megalopolis, whose residents negotiate the binary oppositions of centre/periphery, development/poverty, and local/global. This paper investigates the literary representation of the Egyptian capital in four novels by Shalabī and Abū Julayyil published between 1981 and 2008. Firstly, it overviews recent scholarship about the literary geography of Cairo. Then, it examines the narrative techniques employed by Shalabī and Abū Julayyil to portray semi-official spaces, such as historical palaces now in decline, hash dens, shantytowns, and buildings on the verge of collapse. I argue that these spaces interact with the rest of the city, while developing a highly local culture, embodied by eccentric humorous characters.
Egyptian novel. Old Cairo. Travelogue. Hash den. Shantytowns. Microcosm. Humour.