Mobility and Ambivalences: Negotiating Architectural Identities during Khedive Ismail’s Reign (1863–79) | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 3, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2045-5895
  • E-ISSN: 2045-5909



This article explores the role of human mobility in the reconfiguration of Egypt’s modern identity in the nineteenth century. It connects James Clifford’s Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century (1997) with Homi Bhabha’s The Location of Culture (1994) to interpret the construction of identities during the reign of Khedive Ismail (1863–79). The argument focuses on Ismail’s attempts to modernize the country passed through discursive ‘routes’ that were manifested in socio-political systems and architectural practices. While the Suez Canal represents the new routes advocated by the Khedive, its inauguration in 1869 manifests the notion of ambivalence between imperialism and anti-imperialism. This ambivalence materialized in the hybrid designs of both the Gezira Palace (1863–68) and the ‘Abdin Palace (1863–74), and in the emulation of the Haussmann Plan – which resulted in, this article argues, a ‘contact zone’ or ‘interstitial’ spaces in which political coalitions with global powers were prefigured. This material history cannot be dismissed as exotic follies, accidental hybrids or romantic Occidentalism.


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