Imagine going from Maadi directly to Downtown/Zamalek or from Giza to Shubra in fifteen minutes and according to a timetable.
It all depends on how one views the Nile, is it dividing Cairo down the center or is it potentially connecting it?
It is easy to forget the Nile sometimes while living in Cairo. Most of the city stretches into the distance east and west of the river and so the majority of the city and its inhabitants actually have very minimal interaction with the river. This said, the river intersects the city north to south and it can easily act as a connective line between the many dense neighborhoods that flank its banks. While the majority of the waterfront has been sold to private entities or handed over to various professional social clubs and syndicates, taking the river away from the general public, the river itself sits empty most of the time. With the exception of the Faluccas and Disco boats the river, this potential transport route, is unused. Sometime in the 1950s a river bus system was put in place but it hasn’t been developed or updated since. It still costs 25 piasters to take a ride on the few functional lines such as the one that crosses from Imbaba to Zamalek. However the system is hardly realizing the full potential of river transport in Cairo.
[Cairo river bus just off Imbaba]
One of the pleasures of being in Istanbul is moving around the city fairly quickly and cheaply on one of its many official ferries. Seeing Istanbul while crossing the Bosphorus in between site-seeing, or for residents of the city during a commute to work or going back home, provides a different vantage point to experience the city, off the pavement and on the water. Implementing a better river transport system in Cairo could be relatively easy. Unlike Istanbul, for example, where the city is spread out across vast distances on different waterways, Cairo’s river route is relatively compact. There are about six to eight potential river bus hubs in Cairo such as Maadi, Giza, Roda, Downtown, Zamalek, Imbaba and Mazallat. Various lines can be developed to accommodate the most desired connections.
[The Istanbul municipality recently redesigned parts of the waterfront near transport options and added smartly-designed municipality-run kiosks, repaved the surfaces, installed bicycle racks and redid some of the “river bus” terminals.]
Ideally a river transport system in Cairo would be integrated with other modes of transport. Also implementing a river transport system could be a good start to reclaim Cairo’s waterfronts back to the public sphere with proper riverside areas for public use without the pressure of having to patronize a business or belong to an exclusive entity like the judges club or the boarder police club (why does the boarder police have its own waterfront club anyway?).
Needless to say utilizing the river for transport will take some pressure off the roads and if done well it could encourage residents to leave their car at home or park it near one of the river bus stations rather than drive it into the center. Of course for any of this to happen the government needs to stop treating public transport like it is charity for the poor and to realize that for the last fifty years cities across the world have invested in public transport because it significantly raises the quality of life, improves business, boosts development and can even bring in revenue. They also need to realize that a city good to its residents is also one good to its tourists.
Implementing a river transport system isn’t just about cutting travel time, it is also about providing transport alternatives, and making the river accessible to a wider population even as they travel across the city for work, not just during leisure time. A twenty or thirty minute commute while looking at Cairo from the water will certainly be more pleasurable for many commuters than sitting in the back of a minibus for double that amount of time with no view and no pleasure.
If a system was ever implemented what routes would you like it to cover? Share your thoughts in the comment section.
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- oromi said: Would be amazing
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