Middle East Studies
English edition  
January  2015
416 pp.
85 photographs, 15 maps 
15X23 cm
ISBN 9789774166686
For sale worldwide


Egypt’s Desert Dreams

Development or Disaster? David Sims
Foreword by Timothy Mitchell

A rigorous and comprehensive examination of Egypt’s desert development over the past half-century, the first of its kind, by the author of Understanding Cairo

Egypt has placed its hopes on developing its vast and empty deserts as the ultimate solution to the country’s problems. New cities, new farms, new industrial zones, new tourism resorts, and new development corridors, all have been promoted for over half a century to create a modern Egypt and to pull tens of millions of people away from the increasingly crowded Nile Valley into the desert hinterland. The results, in spite of colossal expenditures and ever-grander government pronouncements, have been meager at best, and today Egypt’s desert is littered with stalled schemes, abandoned projects, and forlorn dreams. It also remains stubbornly uninhabited. Egypt’s Desert Dreams is the first attempt of its kind to look at Egypt’s desert development in its entirety. It recounts the failures of governmental schemes, analyzes why they have failed, and exposes the main winners of Egypt’s desert projects, as well as the underlying narratives and political necessities behind it, even in the post-revolutionary era. It also shows that all is not lost, and that there are alternative paths that Egypt could take.
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David Sims is an economist and urban planner who has been based in Egypt since 1974. As well as having worked in several Arab, Asian and African countries, he has led studies on urban development, industrial estates, tourism, and other aspects of Egypt’s economic geography and spatial development. He is the author of Understanding Cairo: The Logic of a City out of Control (AUC Press, 2010). Timothy Mitchell is professor of Middle Eastern Studies at Columbia University. He is the author of Colonising Egypt, Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-Politics, Modernity, and Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil.

Book Links, News, & Reviews

The desert allows the government and a whole raft of cheerleaders to concentrate on the desert and ignore the reality of existing urban pressures.”—David Sims

Over the years, it grew evident that the desert was becoming a receptacle for dreams.”—David Sims

Here is a recent interview with David Sims about the nightmares of Egypt's desert dreams.




To read an interview with David Sims about his book Understanding Cairo: The Logic of a City Out of Control (AUC Press, 2012), click here.

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“During the final decades of the twentieth century the Egyptian state embarked on a series of desert mega-projects. . . . As David Sims shows in this important book, the wealth that was made from these schemes did not come from meeting the goals of development. . . . , but from the land deals, contracting opportunities, and speculative profits enjoyed by the small group of well-connected entrepreneurs and regime insiders . . . . Egypt’s Desert Dreams is the first book to provide a full-length account of this misappropriation and misuse of the country’s collective resources. But the real value of the book is in connecting recent events with the longer history of desert development."—from the Foreword by Timothy Mitchell<br><br>

“Sims’ detailed critique of Egypt’s desert development is revelatory, constituting an essential addition to the literature on both the politics of development and the politics of Egypt. It shows not just failures in Egypt’s desert 'dreams,' but more generally a distorted political economy that purposefully empowers elites and disempowers most Egyptians.

“ —Anthony Chase, Occidental College<br><br>

“David Sims . . . provides us with a lucid account of the underlying reasons that led Egyptians to pursue a costly strategy of developing large parts of their desert. He explains why such an approach may not have been fully justified, and why it generally did not succeed. This important book is a must-read for planners and others interested in the development of Egypt. Policy makers would do well to listen to his advice.

“—Nezar AlSayyad, University of California, Berkeley<br><br>"A sharp, relentless critique. . . . Egypt’s Desert Dreams — user-friendly and mostly easy to read — should be essential reading for planners, academics, consultants, civil society organizations, international institutions, and laypeople interested in this vital topic, as well as Egyptian politicians."--Los Angeles Review of Books<br><br>

“In Desert Dreams, unlike many urban researchers who examine urban desert expansion, Sims contextualizes urban expansion in the desert within the bigger desert development story. Through his simple and jargon-free writing style, he critiques mega agricultural projects, new urban communities, and mega economic projects, such as the Desert Development Corridor, special economic and industrial zones, and tourism-centric coastal development. This diversity and wealth of information makes the book beneficial beyond the typical audience of urban researchers.”—TADAMUN: The Cairo Urban Solidarity Initiative (on UrbanAfrica.Net)

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Also available by this author

Understanding Cairo ISBN 9789774165535
Understanding Cairo ISBN 9789774164040
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