Cairo, the thousand year old city victorious underwent radical urban renewal in the second half of the 19th century, under the Khedive Ismail Pasha. When the French educated Ismail assumed the throne in 1863, Egypt was still a semi-autonomous province of the Ottoman Empire. But also de facto an independent state. Whereas, the city of Alexandria was part of a thriving cosmopolitan Mediterranean economic and cultural network, Cairo was a city still dominated by medieval construction and building. The Khedive's' modernization program aimed to bring the medieval city into the modern age by building canals, reclaiming land and implementing a sewerage system. The new quarter known as Ismailya became the administrative and cultural center of modern Cairo. As the Khedive stated, my country is no longer in Africa; we are now a part of Europe it is therefore natural for us to abandon our former ways and to adopt a new system adapted to our social conditions. Around the Ezbekiyah Gardens, old palaces and adjacent buildings were demolished to make way for roads, thoroughfares and public buildings; and theaters. Three of which were inaugurated during 1869 for the opening of the Suez Canal. Over the years more public buildings were added, so that by the end of the century the opera house was part of an ensemble. Comprising the Cairo stock exchange, the law courts, the telegraph office and various luxury hotels and banks. The first theatrical construction financed by the Khedive, was the Théâtre de la Comédie. A wooden building comprised of stalls and boxes intended to accommodate visiting French theater companies. The theater was designed to present drama, operetta, and vaudeville. It was followed by the construction of a hippodrome for circus entertainment. And finally, a fully equipped opera house known as the Khedivial Opera House. The premiere of Verdi's opera Aida was performed there in 1871. This building came to play a central role in disseminating theatre, not just in Egypt, but in the Arab world. Unfortunately for the Khedive, his modernization program bankrupted the country and Egypt became a de facto British colony. The opera house continued to operate and more theatres were built. By the 1920s, Cairo had a theatrical culture catering for several different publics. Arab, but also English, French, Italian, and Greek. Most importantly, it became the central hub for the distribution of Arab theater. West towards the Maghreb, and east to Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon, a role it continues to play today. The Khédive Isma'il, I think, was fascinated by the French civilization and fascinated by the opera and by theater. So definitely, theater migrated also from, other parts of Syria and Beirut to Cairo. And Marun Nakash, I remember, you know, from my readings that he started already in Lebanon but then the family migrated to Cairo. In other words, Cairo was really a sort of capital of the, cultural capital of the Arab world and also it was like the gate to modernity and the gate to the western culture at that time. And then with the colonial enterprise, I think, the other cultural hubs, as you said, emerged in the Middle East and in North Africa. Not only Cairo, but also, you know, in Tunisia, we have also another capital. And then Algiers. Algiers, because Algeria was colonized by the French for more than 130 years. So Algeria was really, and Algiers, particularly, the city of Algiers was really one of the most important cultural capitals, also. And Tangiers, because Tangiers at the beginning of the century, the 20th century, was somehow an international zone. And it was really a gate of modernity as, as such because it was ruled by different powers. Eight international powers. And because of the proximity to Europe only 14 kilometers. The first theater to be built in Morocco was there. Teatro Cervantes, now in Morocco. >> Which still stands? >> Which still stands. >> Yeah. >> But as ruins. But what is important, in Morocco now they are celebrating 100 years. But they are celebrating 100 years of modern theater, but definitely [also] of the building itself. Teatro Cervantes that was built by the Spanish. So yeah, we have Cairo as I said, we have Beirut and also we have other cultural capitals in North Africa which were somehow marginalized. Basically I'm talking about Tunisia, and Algiers, and also Tangier. >> So were there strong interconnections, say, between, a city like Cairo and, cities like Tangiers or Algiers, or are they sort of disconnected regional centers? >> Well, during the colonial period, they were really powerfully connected. And, that's because of the dynamics of, first of all, Pan-Arabism and even before that, the reformist movements, nationalist movements, because the movements and the anti-colonial movement were all, you know, calling for sort of, you know, unification of the Arab and the Islamic world. So, and this is how we have intellectuals coming from Cairo to North Africa, for example, in order to to speak about, you know, the nationalist agendas and of course anticolonial agendas.