Posts tagged activism

The man next to the governor: how a police state ruined a city


In June of 2013 a group of heritage activists, architects, and concerned citizens organized a protest outside the Cairo governorate regarding the speedy deterioration of historic Cairo. The historic city had been suffering for years but since 2011 the process of deterioration had increased to an unprecedented pace with new constructions rising in the small plots between registered buildings and with architectural details disappearing from buildings daily. A historic gate was demolished a month earlier after gaining official demolition permits. The situation was dire, and it continues to be, but there was no response from any of the concerned ministries or the governorate. A protest was urgently needed to bring attention to this pressing issue as the UNESCO status of the historic city could potentially be jeopardized and the historic urban fabric was, and continues to be, fragmented.

To our surprise, the governor came out of the building and interacted with the public. An invitation was extended for the organizers of the protest to return and meet with the governor in a roundtable discussion to communicate our concerns.

A few days later a group of around 10 visited the governorate. The fenced building overlooking Abdeen Square is highly guarded in such a way that makes it foreboding for the general public to approach let alone enter. This is the administrative institution that that is meant to run the city and manage its affairs. Yet the public is not invited to participate in this process of governance, is not able to elect the governor, and is not to have access to town hall meetings open to the public. Our visit to the governorate building must have been an unusual event. We were ushered to a waiting room then to a grand meeting hall and awaited the governor to arrive.

The governor at the time was Osama Kamal, who teaches civil engineering at Banha University. He was a decent man who seemed interested in our concerns. This could have potentially been one of the rare opportunities when Cairo residents sit around the same table with those managing municipal affairs.

Unfortunately, that potential was interrupted because the governor did not come into the meeting alone. To his left was another man, probably in his late sixties if not older, who didn’t introduce himself fully and for the rest of this blog will be referred to as Mr. Security. He spoke with confidence and defiance as if HE was the governor. Mr. Security was in charge of policing the part of the city we are concerned with, wasat district. He interrupted our conversation with the governor by showing a lengthy powerpoint presentation with images showing his men, the police, performing their duty in the historic city, inspecting streets, removing road blocks and arresting street vendors. None of these were our concerns during this meeting. Mr. Security then proceeded to explain that in order for the building law to be enforced and for the construction mafia to be stopped from building illegal buildings amid the historic city that lethal force will be needed. He argued that the mafia is armed and that the police can not show their force now because the security situation has been fragile since the revolution.



[Another historic house was demolished recently. There was no evidence of its poor structural condition. The house is in the heart of Darb al-Ahmar and was an integral part of the urban fabric surrounding it. There is a police station near by which didn’t prevent the destruction of heritage.]

At one point he argued that if an old house is nearing collapse that it would be in his interest, as a police man, to demolish it in order to avoid its collapse over its inhabitants. Mr. Security was sugar coating the destruction of the historic city as an act of protecting lives.

The governorate as an institution has no power to implement or enforce the law, it must always seek security clearances and to request ahead of time the need for a police force. However, in Egypt the police are utilized for political purposes, i.e they are more concerned with rounding up political activists and “trouble makers” than enforcing the law. What that means is, even if we are lucky and we have a governor who cares about a seemingly trivial issue, from the security state’s point of view, such as the protection of a thousand year old city and its buildings, he has no real power without the security apparatus fully supporting him. When it comes to saving two hundred year old house gates and three hundred year old houses, it is unlikely that the security apparatus will mobilize to enforce the law. In the meantime no proper investigations are carried out into who these construction mafias are and who provides them with materials and connects their real estate investments with utilities. For all we know the construction mafia could very well be closely connected with the “security mafia.”

While this meeting was meant to be about concerned citizens speaking to the governor, it turned into Mr. Security’s theatrics of how he is doing his best to control the situation. Every time a question is raised, Mr. Security would jump in to answer, and most of the time the governor was not able to provide more than his opinion on various matters since he is part of a chain of command and he relies on that chain to get information based on which he can sign off on a decision. But what became apparent is that these decisions are already determined by the information he receives from Mr. Security and his team. Even still, a gubernatorial decision will ultimately require approval again from the security apparatus. The governor then, in this structure, seemed to me like little more than a facade for the police state that actually runs the city.

When the “conversation” seemed hopeless in regards to the issue of heritage some of us raised other practical questions about specific problems that need immediate attention. I used this opportunity to bring attention to the pedestrian bridge over Azhar street that had been removed nearly a year earlier, making crossing one of Cairo’s busiest and most historically significant intersections nearly impossible. Not only was the bridge removed, but a fence was erected in the middle of the street diving the two directions of traffic, a physical obstacle for pedestrians crossing the street. I asked a simple question that to me seemed practical, why not place a traffic light and a cross path at this key location? Mr. Security laughed! To him Egyptians are like sheep, hordes, they won’t understand the concept of a crosswalk or a traffic light and that such things only work in “developed countries.” No need for a study to prove such claims, he knows best.

Mr. Security and the apparatus he belongs to seem to have fully embraced colonial mentality with all its racism and classicist outlook. He then said that there is a plan under consideration to erect new pedestrian bridges with escalators across the city in key locations. I was baffled by how such an expensive and unnecessary “solution” was considered when more obvious solutions were being dismissed as laughable. Who decides on the budget of these escalators and what urban study determined that this was the best solution to the problem? Furthermore, what is the bidding process, if there is one, that will determine the contractor who will carryout such a project? Pedestrian bridges are no laughing matter, in fact when they are built (in a city where the majority of inhabitants are pedestrians), they are inaugurated with great fanfare, even the prime minister, the housing minister and the Cairo governor all went last fall to inaugurate a pedestrian bridge, imagine that!


[The inauguration of a pedestrian bridge in December 2013.]

The meeting, which lasted over an hour, ended with no reached conclusions. A woman who runs the new, astonishingly new!, Cairo Heritage Preservation Unit, proposed future meetings. A week later the June 30 protests began, many of us joined, I did, naively thinking that things might change for the better. They didn’t. A new governor was appointed but most likely the man next to him who really holds the keys to running Cairo is still the same. 


[Hayat al-Nofus Palace in Malawy was incrementally destroyed. Its location adjacent to the city’s police headquarters did not protect it from destruction.]

I remembered this encounter today because of news that 20, out of a total of 28, new governors who will be appointed are officers, clones of Mr. Security. Millions of dollars go into the budgets of the security apparatus, which does little regarding the security of individuals, of society, or the security of heritage sites and national patrimony. In fact there have been a series of acts of destruction over the past two years in various cities and all of them were in sites directly adjacent to police headquarters with nothing done to prevent such acts nor to conduct proper investigation. For example a historic palace (pictured above) in the southern city of Malawy, adjacent to security headquarters, was incrementally destroyed. The museum of the same city was entirely looted. Another palace in Qena belonging to Makram Ebeid, a national figure, also adjacent to the security headquarters, was incrementally destroyed. And of course there is the bombing outside the police headquarters in Cairo that destroyed the Museum of Islamic Art across the street. In addition to the continued lack of security in many urban districts, these acts of destruction are either evidence of total incompetence or willful collaboration on the part of the security apparatus to erase national heritage, and to keep Cairo and Egypt’s cities comfortably cushioned in their position as third world cities, perpetually, forever.

There continues to be zero accountability. Despite the failures of the police state to perform any of its civic duties the budget of the interior ministry has been increased multiple times under the subsequent governments since 2011.

The first steps towards better cities are obvious: Participatory planning, accountability of public officials, elections of governors and local councils, transparent budgets, and rewarding competence over political loyalty.

These are already colossally difficult tasks. But with people like Mr. Security and his security machine intervening in how cities and spaces of everyday life for millions of Egyptians are shaped and how hundreds of years of historic heritage in cities are recorded and protected, such tasks are simply impossible.


[1949 Cartoon, a police man preventing a man from casting his vote. The police have a long history of political interference rather than civic service.]

Gudran: 13 years of cultural activism in Alexandria



                                                                                  عبد الرحيم يوسف

في عام 2002 قرأت في العدد الثالث من مجلة “أمكنة” مقالا للفنانة التشكيلية “علياء الجريدي” تحكي فيه عن تجربتها ورفيقها الفنان “سامح الحلواني” في العمل الفني التنموي بقرية الصيادين بالمكس غرب الإسكندرية، ولسبب ما ظننتهما فنانين متقدمين في العمر يقومان بعمل لطيف يقضيان به أيامهما الهادئة في تعليم أطفال تلك القرية الرسم. كانت المقالة تحكي عن كيف عاد الفنانان إلى مدينتهما الإسكندرية بعد أن قضيا فترة في العمل مع أطفال بعض المناطق الفقيرة في المنيا والقاهرة، ثم اكتشفا أو أعادا اكتشاف تلك القرية التي يمران بها يوميا في طريقهما من العجمي إلى وسط البلد والعكس. وكيف استطاعا الدخول إلى قلب تلك القرية الفقيرة والمحرومة من كافة الخدمات الثقافية واستطاعا استئجار منزل صغير حيث تمكنا من الاقتراب من أهل القرية وبدء فصول تعليم الرسم مجانا للأطفال. تكلمت المقالة كذلك عن الطبيعة المعمارية الفريدة والفقيرة للقرية التي تطل بأكملها على “خندق” أو مجرى مائي يصب في البحر وتقوم على ضفتيه البيوت التي تقف أمامها مراكب الصيد. وقد كتبت د. ماري تريز عبد المسيح عن هذا المقال في إطار قراءتها لهذا العدد من أمكنة المنشورة في مجلة نزوي قائلة “وعلى الرغم من أن علياء الجريدي وزوجها كانا دخلاء على مجتمع مغاير إلا إنهما اندمجا فيه لتفهمهما معمار علاقاته وتيسر لهم التعامل معه لنجاحهم في تهيئة محيط من التعامل يتلاءم والمحيط القائم. فمدرسة الرسم التي أقاماها وأسلوب تعاملهما مع المتدربين وأهاليهم جعل من المكان مساحة لتبادل التجربة والخبرات وللتعامل مع الآخر بوصفه اختلافا وليس نهجا  قديما  يستحق إقحام معايير جديدة عليه بحجة التحديث. فمدرسة الرسم التي أشرفا عليها  كونت مجرى مائيا .يؤدي إلى بحر واسع من العلاقات الإنسانية العميقة”

وفي عام 2004 عرَّفني الصديق عبد الله ضيف الكاتب والمخرج المسرحي ومدير البرامج بمؤسسة جدران للفنون والتنمية على علياء وسامح ولدهشتي وجدتهما فنانين شابين في أواسط الثلاثينات، وأكمل الاثنان لي بقية الحكاية وكيف تحمس مجموعة من أصدقائهما التشكيليين والموسيقيين والمسرحيين وشاركاهما التجربة التي توسعت لتقدم ورشا فنية مختلفة وفصولا لمحو الأمية ولتعليم السيدات التطريز استفادة من خامات وتراث المنطقة بالإضافة إلى المساهمة في ترميم بيوت القرية وتجميلها بالرسم على جدرانها، وسُجلت في وزارة الشؤون الاجتماعية عام 2003 كمؤسسة أهلية تحمل اسم “جدران للفنون والتنمية”. انضممت لفريق عمل جدران كمعلم متطوع للغة الإنجليزية وكمترجم لمشاريع وتقارير المؤسسة. كنت أذهب مرتين أسبوعيا إلى “بيت المكس” كما كانوا – وما زالوا – يسمون مقر جدران بالقرية والذي اصطلح الأهالي على تسميته بالمكتبة. يتكون البيت من ثلاثة طوابق لا يبدو منها للمار في الشارع غير طابق واحد حيث يرتفع الشارع عن سطح البحر، وحينما زرت البيت في صيف 2004 كان ممتلأ بالأطفال والشباب وبعض السيدات في ورشة التطريز. أذكر حتى الآن كيف رد عليّ أحد الفنانين المتطوعين هناك عندما علقت له على أداء الأطفال الشقي وتعامل الشباب العدائي بعض الشيء “دي منطقة مش عايزة مُصلح .. دي عايزة نبي !”. كان معظم مجموعتي من الفتيات اللاتي يبدين غالبا التزاما وطموحا أكبر، لكن مع الوقت استطعت تكوين علاقات جيدة مع بعض الشباب. كانت القرية المنغلقة على نفسها والمحرومة من كافة الخدمات تعاني كذلك من حصارها بمصانع البتروكيماويات التي تصب مخلفاتها السامة في مياه المجرى المائي فتتسبب في إصابة معظم أهل القرية خاصة الصيادين منهم بالأمراض الجلدية والصدرية، وكانت الحكومة تخطط لإزالة القرية بأكملها ونقل سكانها إلى منطقة نائية في صحراء العامرية. وربما كان لنشاط جدران هناك ومعسكراتها الفنية التي استضافت عددا من الفنانين من مصر وخارجها بعض الفضل في تغيير النظرة الرسمية العدائية للمكان ومساعدة أهل القرية على إيصال صوتهم لبعض الجهات ذات النفوذ. لكن من ناحية أخرى كان للجماعات الدينية الأصولية المسيطرة على قطاع من الأهالي رأي آخر، فانصب هجومها في خطب الجمعة بمساجدها على تلك المؤسسة الممولة من جهات خارجية والتي تنشر الفساد وتعلم الأطفال الفنون وتأتي للقرية بنسوة متبرجات ! أذكر حوارا تم مع أحد الشباب المترددين على المكان والذي صارحني بأزمته المتمثلة في ارتباطه بالمكان الذي يجد فيه متعة وفائدة كبيرة وقلقه من كلام هؤلاء الشيوخ الذين هم “بتوع ربنا”. بمرور الوقت خفت هذه الأزمة وما زال “بيت المكس” مفتوحا يمارس نشاطا أقل مع ندرة تردد الفنانين عليه لكنه الآن يُدار بواسطة مجموعة من شباب المكس أنفسهم الذين كانوا أطفالا يترددون على المكان منذ 13 عاما. وقد حصلت جدران في عام 2010 على جائزة تقديرية من مسابقة حسن فتحي للعمارة عن مشروع قرية الصيادين بالمكس “وذلك لإسهامه في تمكين المجتمع المحلي – عن طريق الفنون الاحتفالية – من المشاركة في تحسين البيئة العمرانية.”



في عام 2005 بدأت جدران مرحلة جديدة في الخروج من بيت المكس وممارسة نشاطها في أماكن أخرى بالإسكندرية، بدأت ببعض المقاهي في وسط البلد حتى تم افتتاح “الدكان” عام 2008. والدكان هو بالفعل محل صغير من طابقين في ممر بين شارعي أديب إسحق وممر السنترال بالمنشية. أعادت جدران تصميم الدكان ليصبح ذا طابقين: الأول منه والمفتوح على الشارع مساحة للمعارض الفنية والورش والقراءات الأدبية والعروض السينمائية والمسرحية التي تتلاءم مع شكل المكان، والطابق الثاني جاليري يعرض أعمالا في التصوير والنحت لفنانين شباب بجانب منتجات ورش المكس. كما استغلت جدران مساحة الممر الممتد أمام الدكان لتملأ جدرانه برسوم الجرافيتي لفنانين أصبحوا اليوم من أشهر فنانين الجرافيتي في مصر مثل جنزير وآية طارق. وفي 2009 نظمت جدران معسكرا فنيا دوليا حمل اسم “زينة” عمل على استكمال ترميم الدكان وممره بالإضافة إلى الرسم بطول جدران حارة الأقباط المتفرعة من شارع محمود عزمي والتي تركتها أعمال الحفر الحكومية في حالة صعبة وتم صنع مكتبة كبيرة في نهاية الحارة وإمدادها بعدد ضخم من الكتب وإهداؤها لعم عربي صاحب أقدم كشك في الحارة ليشرف عليها مع مساعدته بتنظيم بعض الورش الفنية لأطفال الحارة والفاعليات الموسيقية من آن لآخر

في عام 2010 بدأ التعاون بين جدران وشركة “إينوسيس لإدارة المطاعم” بالإسكندرية ومديرها “نيقولا كاتسبيريس” لاستغلال مبنى صغير مهجور خلف سينما ريالتو بشارع صفية زغلول بمنطقة محطة الرمل في الإسكندرية تستأجره الشركة من البطريركية اليونانية (التي تملك الكثير من المباني هناك) كمخزن. كان المبنى في الأصل جزءا من السينما استخدمته في الماضي كمقر لماكينات التكييف الضخمة ولم تعد في حاجة إليه بعد تطور أجهزة التكييف فتركته للبطريركية بعد أن استخرجت ماكينات التكييف القديمة، ويبدو أن جزءا من المبنى الصغير تهدم أثناء عملية الخروج تلك. كانت الفكرة من التعاون هي إعادة ترميم وتصميم المكان ليصبح مركزا ثقافيا وفنيا يحمل اسم “الكابينة” ويتكون من قسمين رئيسيين: استديو للبروفات الموسيقية مفتوح للفرق الموسيقية المستقلة والحديثة التي تقدم ما يُعرف بالموسيقى الأندرجراوند، ومكتبة للاستعارة والقراءة وإقامة الفاعليات الأدبية والعروض السينمائية. وقد بدأ العمل في الكابينة في ربيع 2010 ومع تقدم العمل كانت الفاعليات الفنية تُقدَّم في المكان بحالته تحت اسم “منطقة عمل” في إطار محاولة لجعل الجمهور متابعا لتطور العمل والمكان منذ البداية. ومع نهاية مايو 2011 أصبح المكان مستعدا لبدء فاعلياته التي اتخذت شكل برنامج شهري يحتوي فاعليات أدبية وسينمائية وموسيقية حملت أسماء كبيرة مثل الكُتاَّب: صنع الله إبراهيم وإبراهيم عبد المجيد وأهداف سويف وعز الدين شكري وخالد الخميسي وإبراهيم رضوان وغيرهم من الأسماء الهامة من مختلف الأجيال، وعلى مدى عامين نظم القسم الموسيقي من الكابينة مهرجانا موسيقيا حمل اسم “أفقي” قدم الكثير من الفرق الموسيقية المستقلة والشابة مع عروض لأفلام موسيقية وندوات ومحاضرات قام بها الموسيقيون المشاركون. وأصبح المكان الآن أحد أنشط الأماكن الثقافية بالإسكندرية

مع نهايات 2012 اكتملت ملامح مشروع جديد لجدران بالتعاون مع السيد “بازيلي بِهنا” وهو مشروع “وكالة بِهنا” الذي سيركز على السينما والفنون البصرية. تقع الوكالة داخل سوق الورق في منطقة المنشية، وهي منطقة مجموعة من أكبر الأسواق الشعبية المتنوعة، وفي أحد المباني التراثية ذات الطراز المعماري المميز. وتبلغ مساحة المكان حوالي 528 مترا مربعا مقسمة لاثنتى عشرة غرفة، وملحق بها مخزنان أسفل الشقة بمساحة 80 مترا مربعا. تعود ملكية وكالة بِهنا لشركة “منتخبات بهنا فيلم” والتي تم تأسيسها على يد الأخوان بهنا في 1931 حيث عملت الشركة بمجال توزيع الأفلام، وإن كانت قد أنتجت فيلم ” أنشودة الفؤاد” وهو أول فيلم موسيقي مصري وثاني فيلم ناطق في تاريخ السينما المصرية. إلا أنها فيما بعد ركزت في مجال التوزيع لتكون أكبر موزع للأفلام في مصر وإفريقيا والشرق الأوسط

وفي 1963 وبعد التغييرات السياسية في يوليو 1952 تم وضع الشركة تحت الحراسة، إلى أن استردها مالكوها في 2010. وتمتلك الشركة في مكتبها الرئيسي الضخم بميدان المنشية بالإسكندرية آلاف الوثائق عن مئات الأفلام المصرية وعن سوق التوزيع والإنتاج الفني في تلك الفترة. وتقوم جدران حاليا بعملية ترميم شاملة للمكان الذي طالته يد الإهمال طوال سنوات التأميم فسقطت الكثير من أرضياته وحوائطه، ويهدف المشروع الذي سيتم افتتاحه بنهاية 2013 إلى وجود أرشيف يحوي وثائق وأوراق الشركة، وقاعة لعرض الأفلام وقاعة لوحدة مونتاج وقاعات لعرض الفنون البصرية

وسط واقع غائم وسياسات ثقافية متخبطة وتقلبات هائلة في المشهد السياسي والاجتماعي بشكل عام، تبدو محاولة البقاء ومساحة العمل التي تخلقها المؤسسات الأهلية والمبادرات الشخصية أملا أخيرا لصنع أثر ووجود فني وثقافي حقيقي للفنانين والمبدعين في محيطهم الاجتماعي ولتعريف المجتمع وتوصيل أعضائه بالأشكال الإبداعية المعاصرة والقادرة على تنمية وعيهم وذوقهم ورؤيتهم لماضيهم وواقعهم ومستقبلهم

 عبد الرحيم يوسف شاعر ومترجم يعمل مدرسا ومنسقا فنيا بمؤسسة جدران للفنون والتنمية

Revolution Museum

Cairobserver was commissioned to create a video response to “protest” as an urban trend as part of Participatory City: 100 Urban Trends from the BMW Guggenheim Lab, on view at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum from October 11, 2013 - Jan 5, 2014.

Video made at the premises of Mosireen, special thanks to Omar Robert Hamilton.

10 must watch videos to understand Egypt’s urban challenges

Right to Housing is an initiative that aims to link contemporary urban challenges with the notion of the “right to housing” which if that right is constitutionally protected and guaranteed, urban activists argue, it could lead to the drafting of policies that will respond to the many negative aspects of urban and rural life in Egypt. The project was initiated by Yahia Shawkat, author of the Shadow Ministry of Housing urban blog. A foundational aspect of the initiative is to document and make the main challenges to urban Egypt legible and accessible to a wider public, including politicians. The documentation is intended as an entry point for real debate on issues that shape and affect the lives of millions of inhabitants which include unsafe built environments and lack of services. Available studies produced by various development and aid agencies are utilized to support the observations made in the initiative’s documentation. In addition, the initiative aims to highlight the role of civil society and community initiatives in responding to the state’s neglectful rule. To learn more about the Right to Housing initiative, click here.

One of the outcomes of the initiative is a series of videos (usually under 10 minutes) each focusing on an urban issue or challenge as a way to illustrate the problems clearly to a wide audience. These urban challenges impacting the lives of millions on a daily basis have not been the concern of any of Egypt’s public debates since January 2011 including those around the constitution of 2012 nor the current constitutional debates to amend it. Instead, abstract and polemical issues such as how to constitutionally prescribe an Egyptian identity have taken center-stage distracting the public from what actually impacts their lives daily. The right to housing initiative is among the supporters of the “Urban Constitution,” a document proposed by a collective of eight groups including Tadamun containing eleven proposed rights to be constitutionally protected such as “right to participatory planning and urban management,” “right to information” which would be related to accessing information such as municipal budgets, “right to heritage,” and “right to municipal services” which are currently not accessible to a sizable percentage of the urban population and an even larger percentage of Egypt’s rural population with no constitutional obligation for the state to do much about it. To review and sign the “Urban Constitution,” click here.

The military is focused on interfering in political life to protect its privileges (including its ability to sell land to international private investors without civilian oversight). International agencies such as the World Bank and UNDP pat themselves on the back for their work which has limited impact and never leads to meaningful policy change on the part of the Egyptian state. Egypt’s political elite before or after Jan 25 2011, June 30 2012 or July 3 2013 are busy playing cheap politics rather than look effectively into ways for understanding and solving everyday challenges to Egypt’s urban and rural populations. In the meantime, civil society, with initiatives such as Right to Housing, with limited resources have been able to map, document and identify main challenges, key issues and players and potential approaches towards solutions.

Right to Housing initiative has completed 10 videos (Arabic with English subtitles) which together run for about one hour and twenty minutes. Each video focuses on an issue and is shot on location with residents speaking for themselves about their challenges. In making the videos Yahia Shawkat was assisted by urban activists such as Sherief Gaber of Mosireen, Jenny Montasir, Lamia Hassan, and Mohamed Al Sawi. Here are the ten videos, please take the time to view all of them as they not only provide a clear outline of urban Egypt’s major challenges but also offer insights from residents into how to confront them.

[Addendum 9 November] Please note that not all the videos have English subtitles, if you want to volunteer to complete the subtitles for the videos please contact Yahia Shawkat at Shadow Ministry of Housing.

How communities cope with the state’s failures to provide services

Urban hazards and unsafe built environments

Local governance

Drinking water



Self-built communities or “popular urbanism”

New cities or “state urbanism”

Forced eviction

Transport and the right to mobility in the city

Event: Symposium on social accountability, government responsibility and municipal management


هل تعرف تكلفة رصف الطرق وإضاءة الشوارع وصيانة الحدائق بمنطقتك؟ هل تعرف مين الجهات الحكومية المسئولة عن تمويل بناء الوحدة صحية أو مركز الشباب؟ مين بيحدد أولويات الخدمات التي تحتاجها منطقتك؟ مين بيراقب تكلفة هذه الخدمات العامة وبيتأكد من جودتها؟ لو عايز يبقى ليك دور في تحسين منطقتك ومسائلة الأجهزة الحكومية عن مستوى الخدمات فيها ممكن تعمل ده من خلال “المسائلة المجتمعية”

تنظم مبادرة التضامُن العمراني بالقاهرة، وقسم السياسة العامة والإدارة بكلية الشئون الدولية والسياسات العامة بالجامعة الأمريكية بالقاهرة، ندوة عن آليات “المسائلة المجتمعية” كأحد وسائل رفع كفاءة الخدمات المقدمة من الجهات الحكومية للمواطنين في مجال العمران، وضمان عدالة توزيع هذه الخدمات بين مناطق وأحياء المدينة المختلفة. وتتطرق الندوة لجوانب أخرى مرتبطة بآليات المسائلة المجتمعية مثل الشفافية وحق المواطنين في الوصول للمعلومات وبالأخص في مجال العمران.

وتتعرض الندوة لجهود بعض الجهات الحكومية وغير الحكومية العاملة في هذا المجال في مصر، كذلك بعض التجارب الدولية التي طبقت مفاهيم المسائلة المجتمعية بصورة ناجحة ومؤثرة. وتنتهي الندوة بنقاش مفتوح.

برنامج الندوة

الجلسة الأولى
- قسم السياسية العامة والإدارة، كلية الشئون الدولية والسياسات العامة، الجامعة الأمريكية بالقاهرة
- مركز العقد الاجتماعي
- هيئة كير مصر

الجلسة الثانية
- مبادرة التضامُن العمراني بالقاهرة
- المركز المصري للإصلاح المدني والتشريعي
- نقاش مفتوح

تقام الندوة بالقاعة الشرقية، بمقر الجامعة الأمريكية بميدان التحرير، القاهرة (الدخول من شارع محمد محمود)

الندوة باللغة العربية، والدعوة عامة

الرجاء تأكيد الحضور على:

Do you know who pays for paving the roads, fixing the street lighting or maintaining green spaces in your neighborhood? Do you know which governmental agency is responsible for building your Healthcare Unit or your Youth Club? Who decides the priorities of public services needed in your area? Do you know who monitors the cost of these public services and ensures their quality? If you want to have a role in improving your neighborhood and to hold governmental agencies accountable for the efficiency and quality of public services in your area, you can do that through “Social Accountability”.

TADAMUN: the Cairo Urban Solidarity Initiative and the Department of Public Policy and Administration, School of Global Affairs and Public Policy (AUC) organize a public Symposium with the aim to develop a better understanding of social accountability mechanisms to explore their potential role as a tool to improve the standards of public service provision and ensure the equitable distribution of services across the city. The Symposium also addresses the importance of government transparency and the right to access to information to enable citizens to hold the government accountable for its urban planning policies, its implementation of urban development projects, and its management of urban areas.

To this effect, the Symposium will illustrate the recent efforts of some governmental and non-governmental agencies active in this field in Egypt. It will also demonstrate some successful and effective international practices concerning social accountability. The Symposium will conclude with an open discussion to facilitate strategic action.


Session I:
- Department of Public Policy and Administration, School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, AUC
- The Social Contract Center
- CARE Egypt

Session II:
- TADAMUN: the Cairo Urban Solidarity Initiative
- The Egyptian Center for Civil and Legislative Reform
- Open Discussion

Time: June 26 at 6-9pm

Location: The Oriental Hall, AUC Campus, Tahrir Square, Cairo (Please enter from Mohamed Mahmoud Street)

The Symposium is open to the public and will be in Arabic


For more info on the event click here.

Event: Protest at the Cairo Governorate 19 June 5pm


(scroll down for English)

القاهرة بتتهد…. القاهرة بتضيع

وقفة 19 يونيو 2013 بميدان عابدين

بيان صحفى

تدعوكم مجموعة إنقاذ القاهرة للمشاركة فى وقفة يوم الأربعاء 19 يونيو فى تمام الساعة الخامسة، أمام محافظة القاهرة، فى ميدان عابدين، إحتجاجا على التدمير الممنهج للتراث المعمارى للمدينة، وانتشار البناء بطريقة عشوائية فى جميع أحياء المدينة.

وتتسبب هذه الظاهرة في تبديد النسيج العمراني وفقدان مباني المدينة التاريخية. عانت القاهرة من سوء التخطيط على مدى عقود ووصلت لحالة من الفوضى التامة خلال العامين الماضيين، فنجد الأبراج الشاهقة غير الآمنة تنتشر بسرعة البرق فى الحارات الضيقة على حساب مستقبل مدينتنا وتاريخها.

تأتي هذه الوقفة كخطوة أولى للتعبير عن غضبنا نحن محبى القاهرة من ما يحدث في جميع احيائها، نحن مهتمون بالقاهرة ككل، ولكن وقفتنا اليوم تركز على ما وصلت إليه الأوضاع في القاهرة التاريخية.

تعد القاهرة التاريخية مثالاً حياً لتاريخ إنسانى متواصل، فقيمتها لاتكمن فقط فى عدد أثار هائل يتخلل نسيجها العمرانى المتماسك بل في إحتفاظها بروحها وحرفها وشوارعها وعاداتها وتقاليدها التي تحدث عنها المؤرخون. ولذا أدرجت منظمة اليونسكو القاهرة التاريخية كمدينة - وليس كمجموعة آثار متفرقة - ضمن قائمة التراث العالمي في عام 1979. ولكن للأسف يتم الآن تدمير النسيج العمراني لهذه المدينة القديمة التى سحرت كل زائريها على مدار العصور وأصبح وضعها على القائمة مهدد ومتوقع نقلها إلى قائمة المدن المهددة اذا استمر معدل الهدم والبناء العشوائي الحالي.

تتعرض القاهرة التاريخية اليوم لأضعاف ما تتعرض له باقي المدينة من تشويه. فعمليات الهدم الواسعة تصل أحيانا لهدم المباني المسجلة كآثار وكثيرا من المباني ذات الطراز المعماري المتميز. أما المباني حديثة الإنشاء فهى عبارة عن أبراج" يتخطى إرتفاعها إرتفاع مآذن مدينة الألف مأذنة" و يطغى عليها القبح. والأخطر من ذاك هو أن تلك الأبراج غير آمنة إنشائياً فهى كالقنابل الموقوتة تنتظر إنفجارها في أى وقت على رؤوس قاطنيها لتقتل البشر وتدمر الآثار التي حولها - مشاكل متوارثة ولكنها تفاقمت تحت الظروف التي نعيشها الآن بين الإنفلات الأمني والغياب التام لكل الجهات المنوط بها تنفيذ القوانين والتصدي للمخالفين، وكذلك جشع قلة من المواطنين وكثرة من المقاولين و تواطؤ أو اهمال مسؤولي الأحياء.ويضاف اليها ظاهرة سرقة الآثار التي استفحلت في الآونة الأخيرة.

وعلى ما تقدم فاننا نطالب محافظ القاهرة بالاتي:

أولا: تجميد تراخيص الهدم والبناء فى القاهرة التاريخية لمدة عام.

ثانيا: إزالة الادوار المخالفة ومنع منعا باتا من توصيل المرافق من ماء وكهرباء للعقارات المخالفة

ثالثا: تكوين غرفة عمليات يكون من اختصاصها:

  1. تقييم ودراسة الوضع الحالى.

  2. حصر المخالفات.

  3. تفعيل قوانين البناء والحفاظ واقتراح التعديلات إن لزم الأمر.

  4. إيجاد حلول عن طريق عملية تشاركية تشمل المجتمع المحلي والمجتمع المدنى وجميع الجهات المعنية.

رابعا: تطوير خطط طويلة المدى تهدف إلى تحسين الأوضاع المعيشية والاقتصادية بالأحياء التاريخية.


“Cairo is being demolished….Cairo is vanishing”

June 19th, 2013 Vigil in Abdin Square

Save Cairo Group calls upon you to participate in a stand next Wednesday, June 19h, 2013 at 5:00 pm in front of Cairo Governorate in Abdin Square to protest against the organized destruction of the citys’ architectural heritage and the ongoing random and often illegal construction plaguing all its neighborhoods. This phenomenon is a basis for eliminating Cairos’ urban fabric and losing its historic buildings for ever. Cairo has been suffering from bad planning for quite some time, but during these last two years, it has reached a state of complete chaos. We witness unsafe tall building towers mushrooming rapidly in its narrow alleyways at the expense of our city and its history. This stand is a necessary first step to express our anger and anguish, we Cairenes, feel towards what’s happening throughout the whole of Historic Cairo. We care about the entire city but our stand today is focused on the miserable state of affairs in Historic Cairo.


Historic Cairo is a living organism providing a continuum of human history, civilization and habitat. Its value does not only lie in the wealth and sheer number of monuments within a sophisticated urban fabric, but also its common ethos, its traditional arts and crafts, its streets and alleyways and its norms and traditions that have amazed travellers and historians alike. Hence Historic Cairo was recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site in 1979 due to its irreplaceable urban fabric and not only its monuments. Sadly, this unique urban fabric is currently being destroyed by the minute to the point where UNESCO has threatened to move it to the list of cities under threat if the rate demolishing its old buildings and construction of new “ugly” replacements doesn’t halt immediately.


Historic Cairo is under severe attack compared to the rest of the city as large scale demolition often reaches registered monuments and many older buildings with exquisite architectural styles. They are replaced by newly erected menacing towers that belittle the elegant minarets of “the city of 1000 minarets”. More importantly, these towers are often structurally unsafe which transforms them into dangerous timed bombs ready to explode and kill inhabitants as well as destroy priceless buildings in their vicinity.  These are some of the inherent problems of Historic Cairo which are accentuated now by the appalling lack of security and the total dysfunction of pertinent government bodies mandated with the responsibility of implementing the laws and dealing with its offenders. Also, greed of a minority of citizens and a majority of contractors coupled with neglect or connivance of government officials as well as the increasingly systematic looting of Cairos’ monuments have become malignant problems.


Therefore we, Save Cairo Group, demand the following from the Egyptian Government represented by the Cairo Governor:

I. Freeze the issuing of all building and demolition permits in Historic Cairo for one year.

II. Immediate demolition of extra stories and abstention from supplying new buildings with their utilities.

III. Create an Operation Room to mandate the following:

1. Evaluate and study the current situation. 2. Survey building violations.

3. Implement construction and preservation laws and make amendments if necessary.

4. Finding plausible solutions through a participatory process that involves local communities, civil society and any other relevant party.

IV. Develop a long term plan to enhance the living conditions of historic Cairo through reviving its economy.

Event: Parallel Practice


Panel Discussion at the Arab Academy for Science & Technology, Architecture Department. “Parallel Practice” includes speakers Omnia Khlail and Ahmed Zaazaa. Wednesday May 15 at 4:30pm in Gamal Mokhtar Hall (Building A). 

"ممارسة موازية" محاضرة و مناقشة تضم امنية خليل و احمد زعزع. الاكاديمية العربية للعلوم و التكنولوجيا، قسم عمارة. يوم ١٥ مايو الساعة ٤،٣٠. قاعة جمال مختار (مبني آ). 1 شارع المشير أحمد إسماعيل، مساكن الشيراتون

Take a coffee with your heritage!

Bottom up approach to communicate heritage: a project in Downtown Cairo


How would it be possible to link the everyday users of the historical city with the tangible values of the building heritage?

Downtown Cairo is the district developed under the Khedive Ismail at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. The city plan was inspired by the streets and squares pattern introduced by Haussmann in Paris, and several European (and Egyptian) architects built palaces and apartment buildings using a rich stylistic vocabulary. Nowadays Downtown is the main lively heart of the city, hosting small shops, offices, houses, cafes and restaurants in a complex social, religious and functional equilibrium. A general lack of regulations regarding how to deal with the heritage and an old rental system are the main reasons for the neglect of the architecture and numerous demolitions of the old Ismaelia buildings. Some studies and projects started surveying and analysing the architecture and the intangible heritage (oral histories) of Downtown, but the main problem still remain the lack of interactions and communication between these scientific works and the inhabitants of the historical buildings:

The first step for the conservation is knowledge.

This project has the main purpose to start and encourage the communication between specialists and inhabitants in both directions, developing and supporting the awareness of everybody towards the architecture of Downtown. The coffee shop in Mohamed Mahmoud Street was selected to introduce small modification in the objects of daily use with a corporate design based on images of buildings and information about Downtown. It becomes the location for activities related to the architecture of the area. On the other hand, the project team is collecting the memories and stories of the inhabitants related to the places to document and to share the link between the tangible and the intangible heritage of Downtown.


The Downtown project is initiated by Vittoria Capresi and Barbara Pampe - Architecture and Urban Design Program GUC - and financed by the German Academic Exchange Service DAAD.

More info:

UPDATE November 22, 2012: The launch event on November 27th has been canceled.

UPDATE December 13, 2012: “Take a coffee with your heritage” launches TODAY!


Athar Lina: connecting people with heritage

Whose Monument: Participatory Design Project for Monument-Street Buffer Zones

A collaboration between the Ministry of Antiquities and the Danish Egyptian Dialogue Institute. The project is a series of workshops, debates and meetings to discuss the relationship between the monument and the surrounding neighborhood, the entities responsible for it and those with a vested interest in it or even those inconvenienced by it. We discuss who owns it, who protects it and improves it and who puts it at risk. The objective is to provide a environment of communication of the different points of view of the three main stakeholders: residents, government and civil society. 

In participatory design all stakeholders are involved in the decision making process in all its details and stages. This is to narrow the gap between the monument and the community and allow it to assume ownership of the monument and to protect it through use. 

This general issue is discussed through a specific case-study; the monument-street buffer zone and in a specific area; al-Khalifa Street between the mosque of Ahmad ibn Tulun and the shrine of al-Sayyida Nafisa.

The project consists of five phases, to find out more details visit the project website.


This scene photographed above may not last much longer if the state does not act to protect it. The ministries of interior, tourism, environmental protection, antiquities must act immediately

The following is an open letter posted by Youssef Abagui of The Sycamore - Al Gemeza eco lodge retreat and self study center

The Minister of Tourism
Mr. Hisham Zaazou
Subject : Dahshur - A World Heritage site.

Dahshur is not only an important heritage site constituting three of the oldest pyramids - prior to the Giza pyramids - The Royal lake - an ancient water reservoir that has remained so far as a one of the last vestiges of Egypt’s agricultural ingenuity - and until recently a spawning ground for migratory birds. The antiquity of this area is one of the least officially explored sites and contains some of the crucial clues to Egypt’s past. All this is surrounded by superb palm grove countryside.

In the absence of security forces and lawlessness the area lately has seen drastic changes. Mass antiquity thefts of the plateau east of the Pyramids by local sponsored gangs and in broad daylight. The ease of usurping non guarded antiquities land; by digging wells and planting trees on what could potentially be of paramount importance hence left to oblivion.

In addition, the degradation of the countryside by local land prospectors is in agreement with local officials who have little or no foresight, except for individual profit at the cost of the ruination of pristine irreplaceable nature.

The lake too, that once filled in September - a paradise for bird watchers, has been left fowl for three years as part of a plot to ruin it, then buy it as land for an imaginary tourist project - thus ending a six thousand year old tradition of migratory birds that found it an ideal winter home.

This rapidly degrading situation brought about in the name of ‘tourism’, is associated by unchecked corruption of some of the local officials - the neglect of the police, or the turning of a blind eye to infringements, and not to go so far as aid.

The situation has become drastic, as acres are being torn down actually, for two roads that are least needed; these will accelerate ecologic degradation. Local sand and stone quarries nearby are beneficiary - and they have increased profusely in the area too close to the monuments - causing a vast amount of trucks to pass and damage the ecosystem of such a special place. In fact it was the lack of large roads, and traffic, that had kept Dahshur beautiful and clean.

Roads have lead to obsolete gas stations in the midst of greenery that gradually ruin the land around them like a cancer - and giving a pretext to more of the thousands of tire shops and car mechanics - least needed in that area supposedly a World heritage site.

In the past decades - the state’s attempts to “over sophisticate” tourism sites has had contrary effects - the ruination of those very sites. The continuation of heavy handed tourism is no longer compatible with this day and age - especially that such examples are already set and hard to compete with. On the contrary - a more eco friendly tourism is paramount - a gentle approach - where Egypt’s image is that of a romantic journey in time - something few countries can offer, but certainly not one that has great roads or concrete hotels.

We the inhabitants of the area, see the urgency of an action to stop all works immediately, and to send an independent investigative team - that can see for itself the transgressions - and thus bring the issue to your close attention.

The prime assets we have as a nation are our ecology and our heritage, and to preserve those we need the full cooperation of all state ministries for that crucial purpose.

As a quarter of a century inhabitant of Dahshur - facing the lake - having passionately loved the place, and known it intimately - I can’t begin to tell you what we are on the verge of losing as a nation - ‘Magical mysterious Egypt’.

Surely no one should take that chance - therefore we the undersigned, will stand hand in hand with all local authorities as responsible citizens to preserve our heritage from extinction.

Youssef Abagui - 16th of October 2012.

Share this and spread till the authorities know we and the tourists watch nature not concrete.

Dahshur Lake in Flood

Right to Housing initiative

عشوائية؟ لا يا بيه دي مجهودات ذاتية

الفيلم هو أول حلقة من سلسلة ترصد المشاكل والتحديات العمرانية التي يعيشها غالبية مواطنينا في مُدننا وقرانا حيث يواجهون أخطار انهيارات المباني أو التلوث أو الفيضانات، وحرمان من أساسيات المعيشة مثل المياه وأسطوانات البوتاجاز والكهرباء والمواصلات، وكيف أن سياسات الدولة أدت بطريقة مباشرة لهذا القصور. الغرض من السلسلة هو تحديد عدة مطالب يتم الضغط السياسي من أجلها لتحقيق مبدأ الحق في السكن.

فيلم “عشوائية؟ لا يا بيه دي مجهودات ذاتية” هو مقدمة هذه السلسلة حيث أنه يرصد تجارب سكان عدة مجتمعات في مصر وما يواجهونه من عقبات في حياتهم اليومية لغياب الحق في السكن وكيف لجأ بعضهم لمجهوداتهم الذاتية لتوفير حياة كريمة لأنفسهم.

سلسلة “الحق في السكن” مفتوحة للتداول بين الجميع  والمبادرة تشجع عرض الأفلام في أي مكان سواء كان شارع أو محاضرة أو قناة تليفزيونية حيث ستتوفر الأفلام  مع إطلاق الحملة على موقع المدونة وذلك مباشرة بعد العرض الأول.

المبادرة في سطور
تهدف مبادرة “الحق في السكن، مجتمعات عادلة ومستدامة” لربط قضايا العمران ومشاكله بالحق في السكن. فإن تم احترام هذا الحق الأساسي في الدستور والقوانين التابعة وذات صلة بالعمران، سيتم إيجاد حلول واقعية لغالبية السلبيات التي يتأثر منها المواطنين في مدننا وقرانا من خلال رسم سياسات عمرانية تعكس احتياجات المواطنين.

عن شركاء المبادرة
تضم المبادرة مدونة “وزارة الإسكان الظل”، التي تعمل على طرح ومناقشة قضايا العمران المصري وحركة “مصُرين” للصحافة الشعبية، كما أن يتم دعمها  من “مؤسسة التعبير الرقمي العربي - أضِف”.

مصادر المعلومات المذكورة بالفيلم: 

43.5% من الوحدات السكنية بمصر غير متصلة بالصرف الصحى

2% من الوحدات السكنية بالحضر بها شروخ إنشائية
نحو 6% من أسر الحضر يستخدمون دورات مياه مشتركة
نحو 4.5% من أسر الحضر يسكنون بوحدات من غرفة واحدة
القطاع شبه الرسمى (المكروباصات) يوفر نحو 35% من إحتياجات المواصلات بالقاهرة
نحو 76% من الأسر المصرية معتمدة على أنابيب الغاز كمصدر لطاقة الطهى

 نسبة إنقطاع المياه بالقاهرة ليوم أو أكثر: 37%
نسبة الفاقد فى شبكة المياه على مستوى الجمهورية: 50%
المركز المصرى لحقوق السكن، كارثة مياه الشرب، 2007

للتواصل ولمزيد من المعلومات
مدونة وزارة الإسكان الظل


"No sir these are self-built communities”.

The film is the first of a series of shorts that document the problems and challenges that the majority of Egyptians face in their built environment. These include hazards such as collapsing buildings, pollution and floods, as well as deprivation from basic infrastructure such as water, energy and public transport. The series also links these problems with the state’s policies that are directly or indirectly linked to the built environment, stating a set of demands to pressure policy change that falls in line with the right to housing.

“Ashwaeyat? la ya beih, dih maghoudat dthateyya”,  is merely the introduction to the series as it sets out to document the day to day experiences of a range of different communities in the absence of the right to housing and how most of them have been forced to resort to self-reliance to provide adequate shelter and build a functioning community.

The Right to Housing series is open source and we encourage the distribution and showing of the films be it on the street, in a lecture hall or on tv. The first film will be made available on youtube for download and commenting just after the launch and the rest of the films will follow.
The initiative in brief
The Right to Housing, a Socially Just and Sustainable Built Environment aims to link the challenges of our built environment with the Right to Housing. If the Right to Housing were to become a constitutional right and associated laws, appropriate and sustainable solutions to these challenges would be pursued in the form of drastic change in built environment related policy that would reflect the actual needs of our communities.

The initiative is divided into a number of phases, the main three are:
Phase One: General documentation through film and interviews of a range of challenges faced by communities in their built environment. These films will be shown in places that provoke dialogue either between communities and themselves or between communities and built environment professionals and policy makers.
Phase Two: More detailed mapping of a set number of built environment challenges and sorting them into categories, proposing a set of generalized solutions. The outcome would be presented in the form of a booklet and a series of seminars.
Phase Three: Accurate mapping of the most pertinent category and the proposal of a set of solutions.

Phase One of the initiative includes Shadow Ministry of Housing, a blog that critiques built environment policy and Mosireen, a citizen-journalism collective, and is supported by the Arab Digital Expression Foundation, ADEF.

Twitter: @shadowmoh

Cinema Tahrir returns

Public space and the sharing of information (videos and images) have been key to Egypt’s uprising. Cinema Tahrir brings independent citizen journalism to the square with projections of videos and documentaries. During the month-long sit-in that commenced on July 8th last summer, Cinema Tahrir attracted hundreds of viewers nightly to watch videos that maybe available online but aren’t accessible to all Egyptians, most of whom still get their information from state television, radio and newspapers. When the military cracked down on the sit-in and ended it Cinema Tahrir too was gone. In anticipation for next Friday’s protest and sit-in Cinema Tahrir returned to the square with new material curated by the Mosireen collaborative. Below is an excerpt from an article on Al Masry Al Youm about the project:

“One of the hallmarks of this revolution is that it has been filmed by its people,” Abdalla told Al-Masry Al-Youm, during a break from his activities in the square.

“Part of the whole initiative is a feeling of possession. There is a big difference between watching TV and seeing something that has been filmed by someone just like you.”

This sense of possession was clear at a recent screening at Tahrir Cinema. Throughout the screening, came moments of personal recognition, when one audience member would whisper to a neighbor or yell to the whole crowd, “I was there.”

Watching the films, the crowd responded in turns with laughter, cheers, and gasps of anger. The atmosphere was one of a group, remembering and reliving a shared experience.

“It brings us back to the memory of the revolution,” said audience member Osama Ahmed. “Now I have the same feeling I had on 28 January.”

Read full article on Al Masry Al Youm, here.