To answer the key question, what to conserve, we should begin by deciding which aspects of historic Cairo possess such important values and significance that they deserve the highest priority for safeguarding and upgrading. The components of the old city's fabric are distinguished not only by their physical character, but also by their current functions. Some districts in the wider modern urban fabric are currently perceived as historic areas. Though once complete and independent settlements, they have changed greatly in meaning and status. Their contemporary meanings need to be interpreted mainly by their occupants but also by the residents of other districts, or of other cities, or even by concerned outsiders from different cultures who make claims on such historic areas.
In seeking a contemporary meaning for historic areas, we should avoid nostalgia. Moreover, we must take a comprehensive approach, so that we can attend not only to the physical aspects but also to the cultural, social, economic, and political influences that shape each historic area. (p.2)