Ottoman-era street names on the way out in Cairo

Egyptian moves to revise hundreds of Ottoman-era street names are a result of growing nationalism in Egypt and anger at the government of Turkey, Amr Emam wrote in the Arab Weekly.

Inspiring the move to change the street names was an academic who accused the Ottomans of having “colonised” Egypt. 

“The Ottomans made catastrophes during their five centuries of presence in our country,” history Professor Mohamed Sabri al-Dal said. “They left us a dastardly legacy that turns them into criminals, not heroes who deserve to be glorified.”

Authorities in Cairo have ordered that Sultan Selim I street be re-named. Sultan Selim conquered Egypt in the 16th century. 

“It is totally illogical that our streets be called after Ottoman figures when our country has people who deserve this honour much more,” said Deputy Cairo Governor Mohamed Ayman. 

A street naming committee is to present to the government recommendations to change the names of hundreds of Ottoman-era streets as well as non-Egyptian sounding names. 

“The dispute over Cairo’s street names comes as Egypt’s relations with Turkey deteriorate. Relations worsened after the Egyptian Army backed a popular uprising against Islamist President Muhammad Morsi in 2013,” Emam wrote.  

It coincides with rising nationalism in Egypt since Morsi gained power. Ayman said that changing Ottoman street names had more to do with Egyptian attempts to express patriotism than frosty Turkish-Egyptian relations.

However, not everyone supports the moves to change the names. 

“We might differ on the legacy of some of the figures after whom the streets are named, but this difference should not open the door for changing facts about these figures,” said Ahmed al-Sherbini, a modern history professor at Cairo University.