“All roads lead to New Giza”, “Cleaner, safer, and more beautiful environments”, “The life you always dreamed of”. The gigantic billboards alongside Cairo’s Ring Road are overflowing with English slogans that attempt to sell a dream that virtually nobody in the city is able to afford. The Egyptian upper classes instigated an urban exodus, moving away from traditionally popular areas in the old city centre into an artificial environment, secluded from the world. The promises that are made when acquiring a home in one of these communities focus on a series of privileges that are usually impossible to find in an overpopulated city: privacy, green landscapes, space, and safety. To prevent these carefully constructed bubbles from bursting, the communities are all surrounded by a vast network of walls, cameras and an army of security personnel that guard the virtually impenetrable access gates.

Zaza accessed this hidden world of extremes. Her images show beautiful girls that are searching, attempting to construct an identity in the artificial, surreal world they live in. The landscapes of the – often under construction – micro cities reflect a certain loneliness that the photographer also recognizes in the portraited girls. An almost eerie emptiness appears to pervade the images. It seems as if this perfect world is not capable to actually fulfill the hopes and dreams these girls have.

(Ruth Vandewalle)