For 1400 years the biggest metropolis in Africa and the Middle East has grown within the same narrow borders, giving rise to one of the densest urban spaces on earth. For the past decade, 20 million people – more than the entire populations of Libya, Lebanon and Jordan combined – have been sandwiched into the shadows of the pyramids, grafted onto a steadily-crumbling infrastructure of public services and denied access to the most basic of political freedoms.

In recent years the spatial and psychological contours of Cairo have been radically redrawn – with profound political consequences. Deep within the desert that surrounds the capital, columns of concrete have risen from the sand, heralding the start of a project that aims one day to replace the very city that spawned it.

Photos by Jason Larkin
Editing by Panos Pictures