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The battle of the Camel: revolution, transition and tourism in Cairo

Wynne-Hughes, Elisa ORCID: 2021. The battle of the Camel: revolution, transition and tourism in Cairo. Political Geography 91 , 102491. 10.1016/j.polgeo.2021.102491
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This article asks how the 25 January 2011 revolution in Egypt led to the entrenchment of existing forms of privilege and marginality. To answer this question, critical scholars have taken for granted the revolution's linear temporality and focused largely on institutional processes at the state level following the fall of President Hosni Mubarak. In contrast, I provide an original take on this question through extensive ethnographic engagement, focusing on moments of rupture and urban spaces of contestation at the time of the revolution and beyond. More specifically, I trace the significance of an understudied moment during the revolution: the ‘Battle of the Camel’, when horse/camel drivers who sell rides to tourists at the Pyramids charged at protestors in Tahrir Square. An ethnography of this moment allows me to draw out the complex temporalities of the revolution by recognizing diverse moments of contestation by marginalized subjects at its different ‘stages’. This article traces how these alternative temporalities were driven but also obscured by longer-term patterns of tourism and urban development. It finds that relations of power and marginality were reproduced through tourism and elite Egyptian visions of temporality and authenticity in the key urban spaces relevant to this battle – the Pyramids of Giza and Tahrir Square. These sites were positioned as spaces of Egypt's ‘authentic’ past and future respectively, reinforcing a colonial and neoliberal narrative of development that made possible the protection of tourism and elite priorities and the remarginalization of ‘underdeveloped’ camel drivers and street vendors in these sites.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Department of Politics and International Relations (POLIR)
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0962-6298
Funders: ORSAS, SSHRC, Bristol University
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 1 September 2021
Date of Acceptance: 18 August 2021
Last Modified: 23 Nov 2022 17:57

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