El Haara (The Alley)
About El Haara:
Project El Haara focused on discovering dense areas in the middle of the city, precisely narrow streets that are known in Egypt as “Haaraat,” or, alleys. Given the centrality of the “Haara” in Arab culture, most Arab cities consist of an older network of alleys with the city’s modern framework growing around it. People seem to discard the significance of the Haara in our modern lives, however, the renowned Egyptian novelist Naguib Mafhouz observed that the social and economical transformations that took place in contemporary Egypt did so through the nature of social interaction that was facilitated precisely by the Egyptian alleys.
When we hear the word “Haara,” or, alley, numerous memories come to mind and ideas spur our imaginations. This is the meaning of the Haara, that which influenced our personal upbringings and shared heritage, not only on a city level but the Arab urban culture as a whole. Thus the alley plays a critical role in our constantly changing culture. From this special space came forth a middle class which helped shape the cultural values of our society as a whole.
Therefore this project focused on discovering a group of alleys inside the cluttered streets of Alexandria in order to form within them artistic projects aimed toward social transformation. Our project was based on developing cultural and artistic activities in certain alleys whose residents agreed to participate with Gudran. These activities worked to shed light on the culture of those places in an effort to revive the values of the middle class. As a space that permitted artists to work directly in the streets rather than confined inside traditional art galleries, project El Haara sought to open members of the society to contemporary art and artistically develop areas to sharpen the collective imagination of the residents of those alleys. El Haara also aimed to draw attention to the alleys as ideal spaces for youth organizations and artistic initiatives to push for social change in today’s cities.