Learning from Cairo seeks to engage the current political and urban transformation unfolding in Cairo as a critical context for examining relevant international case studies and best practices in areas ranging from housing, transportation, public space, and local governance to informality. Learning from Cairo emphasizes a comparative and interdisciplinary approach bringing practitioners, academics, officials and local stakeholders into dialogue, with the objective of generating an ongoing critical urban discourse, and future visions for Cairo.
Friday, April 12th, 2013
Public Plenary sessions
9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Oriental Hall, Palace Building
American University in Cairo
(Arabic and English translation will be provided)
9:00 - 9:30 am Coffee and Registration
9:30 - 10:00 am Opening Remarks
Urban Political Change: Southern Perspectives
10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Khaled Fahmy, Department of History, AUC
Gautam Bhan, Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Delhi
Mokena Makeka, Makeka Design Lab
Mohamed Elshahed, Cairobserver
12:00 - 1:30 pm Lunch and Prayer
Right to the City: Emergent Practices in Latin America
1:30 - 3:30 pm
Heba Raouf Ezzat, Cairo University
Jennifer Bremer, Department of Public Policy and Administration, School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, AUC
Lindsey Sherman, Urban-Think Tank, Caracas/ Zurich
Diane Singerman, Department of Government, American University, Washington D.C.; Tadamun: Cairo Urban Solidarity Initiative
3:30 - 4:00 pm Coffee Break
Cities in Transition: Public Engagement and Civic Design
4:00 - 6:00 pm
David Sims, Author of Understanding Cairo: The Logic of a City Out of Control
Damon Rich, Division of Planning and Community Development, Newark, NJ
Gregers Tang Thomsen and Selva Gürdogan, Superpool, Istanbul
Ayman Ismail, Department of Management, School of Business, AUC
Saturday, April 13th, 2013
(please register for one tour only)
9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
Tour 1. Urban Core
Led by: May Al-Ibrashy, Megawra
Mohamed Elshahed, Cairobserver
Tour 2: Desert Cities
Nabil Elhady, Cairo University
Rick Tutwiler, Desert Development Center, AUC
Tour 3: Informal Settlements
Yahia Shawkat, Shadow Ministry of Housing
Khaled Abdel Halim, Department of Public Policy and Administration, School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, AUC
Kareem Ibrahim, Urban Development Consultant | Co-Founder of Takween ICD
Tours end with a joint lunch in Al-Azhar Park
Sunday, April 14th, 2013
9:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.
Parallel Working Sessions
9:00 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Falaki Academic Center, American University in Cairo
24 El Falaki Street, Bab El Louk
Coffee and Registration:
9:00 a.m.-9:30 a.m.
Morning parallel sessions:
9:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
Session 1. Mapping Informality
Omar Nagati and Beth Stryker, CLUSTER
Gregers Tang Thomsen and Selva Gürdogan, Superpool
Discussant: Mohamed Elshahed, Cairobserver
Session 2. Evictions and Urban Citizenship
Gautam Bhan, Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Delhi
Yahia Shawkat, Shadow Ministry of Housing, Cairo
Discussant: Joseph Schechla, Housing and Land Rights Network, Cairo
Session 3. Design Innovation and Urban Development
Mokena Makeka, Makeka Design Lab, Cape Town
Mohamad Abotera and Ahmed Zaazaa, MADD Platform
Discussant: Amr Abdelkawi, Department of Construction and Architectural Engineering, School of Sciences and Engineering, AUC
12:00 p.m.-1:00 p.m.
Afternoon parallel sessions:
1:00 p.m.-3:30 p.m.
Session 4. Community Activism and Avenues of Participation
Kareem Ibrahim and Diane Singerman, Tadamun
Damon Rich, Chief Urban Designer, Division of Planning & Community Development, Newark, NJ and Founder, Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP)
Discussant: Khaled Abdel Halim, Department of Public Policy and Administration, School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, AUC
Session 5. Security, Segregation and Borders
Aida Elkashef, Filmmaker
Lara Baladi, Artist
Omnia Khalil, Urban Action
Video presentations and panel discussion
Discussant: Samia Mehrez, The Center for Translation Studies, AUC
Session 6. Research/Design Interventions and the Informal City
Lindsey Sherman, Urban-Think Tank, Caracas/Zurich; Chair of Architecture and Urban Design, ETH Zurich
Dina Shehayeb, Shehayeb Consult
Discussant: Magda Mostafa, Department of Construction and Architectural Engineering, School of Sciences and Engineering, AUC
Closing Session, Oriental Hall
Oriental Hall, Palace Building
American University in Cairo
4:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
More information to come.
With support from the Ford Foundation
and the American University of Cairo
Department of Construction and Architectural Engineering, School of Sciences and Engineering
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
School of Global Affairs and Public Policy
School of Business
The Architecture Students Association (AA)
Additional sponsorship by
Ahram Online’s Nada El-Kouny’s report on the one day workshop held last week at CEDEJ on informal urban development and government policies of evictions, among other related topics.
In an attempt to tackle the issue of informal housing in Egypt, primarily following the January 25 Revolution, a joint workshop initiative was held on Monday by the French Centre for Social, Judicial and Economic Documentation (CEDAJ), UN-Habitat and the German Agency for International Cooperation’s (GIZ) Participator Development Programme in Urban Areas.
The workshop, held at the French Cultural Centre in Mounira, Cairo, was attended by approximately eighty people, including urban planners, architects, sociologists, economists, and government representatives, all dealing with the issue of informal housing in Egypt.
The ‘Egypt Urban Futures’ workshop tackled the issue of informal housing—more commonly referred to as ashwaiyat (random) settlements—from a number of different perspectives.
Regina Kipper of GIZ said the main objective of the workshop was to launch a new platform on the urban future of Egypt and its challenges since 2011, by promoting dialogue between civil society, private and public institutions and academics in attempting to work towards sustainable development.
Dina Shehayeb of the Housing and Building National Research Centre provided a brief overview of informal housing in Cairo, stating the phenomenon goes back to the 1950s when there was a major wave of urbanisation, mostly due to the dismantling of the agricultural economy and the increased industrialisation.
Shedding light on more recent statistics, urban consultant David Sims, the author of Understanding Cairo: The Logic of a City Out of Control (2011), stressed there had been an exponential increase in the rate of informal housing in Egypt in recent years. For example, in Geziret El-Warraq in Giza the post-revolution rate of population growth has increased four and a half times compared to its pre-revolution rate, Sims said.
Moreover, the encroachment on agricultural land has increased at a much higher rate. In many villages in Egypt’s Nile Delta farmers have found construction more profitable than agriculture. Referring to a telling statistic, Sims stated that according to the Ministry of Agriculture, 29,486 feddans of agricultural land in approximately 700,000 separate cases, had been built on since the January 25 Revolution.
Conflicting outlooks were presented on the mechanisms used to deal with informal and unsafe housing since the January 25 Revolution, which led to some heated discussions.
Nahed Naguib of the General Organisation for Physical Planning said the issue of informal housing was caused by economic and social problems and her organisation’s work focused on containing the growth of informal settlements. New housing units were being created by the Ministry of Housing and municipalities, Naguib added.
Ashraf Mohamed, head of the informal housing department in Cairo, said: “Just like the Aswan High Dam was built to contain the flooding of agricultural land, we have to stop the increase of ashwaiyat.”
Providing a critique of such a view, Yahia Shawkat, architect and informal housing specialist at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), said the biggest threat to such communities “is the state itself.”
Shawkat also noted that the “real entry point to such a debate has to take into account the agency of these self-built communities that will continue to grow.”
He highlighted a number of cases of forced evictions from informal settlements. He mentioned Qorsaya Island, which has recently experienced violent clashes between police and residents who the army attempted to evict by force, claiming ownership of the Island, despite many residents living there for decades.
Likewise, the government has a controversial “Cairo 2050” plan to clear slums and develop the land. An example of this is Ramlet Boulaq behind the Nile Towers, which planners hope will be replaced with more lucrative projects.
Urban planner Omar Nagati provided a more holistic view on the issue:
“While government officials have attempted to reduce informal neighbourhoods and demolish them, it is important to rethink the way we talk about ashwaiyat. Today, all of Egypt is becoming informal, starting with the street vendors, microbuses, toktoks, etc.”
Link to original article: http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/66652.aspx
Cairobserver is looking to share architectural and urban designs by professionals and students.
This student work comes from Professor Nabil Elhady’s Public Buildings Studio at Cairo University. The aim of the studio is a reconsideration of public buildings in Egyptian cities and exploring the ways in which public buildings can have a positive contribution to the improvement of quality of life. Each semester the studio focuses on a very particular urban context, the first time it was taught students had to confront the urban challenges of the Gamaliyya district in historic Cairo, the second time the site was the Continuing Education building at AUC’s Tahrir Square campus and the last the course was taught in cooperation with architect Omar Nagati and brought students to the space separating the so-called formal and infmal parts of the city at Ard el Lewa.
The design problem: to design a public building that responds to the local context, local needs and acts as a link between two seemingly separate parts of the city.
المبانى العامة ستوديو تصميم بدأ منذ حوالى أكثر من سنتين فى الجامعة الأمريكية ثم انتقل هذا العام إلى جامعة القاهرة. و الفكرة الرأيسية فى هذا الاستديو أن إعادة التفكير فى و تصميم المبانى العامة فى المدينة المصرية يمكن أن يؤدى دورا كبيرا فى تحسين نوعية الحياة للمواطنين المصريين بدون الحاجة لعمل تدخلات على مستوى كبير للغاية. و فى كل مرة تنتقل الاستديو ليدرس مبنى عام معين فى سياق عمرانى محدد. و السياق الأول كان القاهرة التاريخية و تم دراسة مركز شباب الجمالية كمشروع يمكن أن يكون حقيقى و السياق الثانى كان و سط القاهرة و تم دراسة مبنى التعليم المستمر بالجامعة الأمريكية كإطار لتطوير المبانى التعليمية الأخرى فى مصر. و هذا العام و بالأشتراك مع المهندس عمر نجاتى قمنا بدراسة السياق العمرانى بالمناطق غير الرسمية و خاصة فى أرض اللواء فى إطار الإحتياجات الحقيقية للمجتمع المحلى مع الأخذ فى الإعتبار العلاقة مع المجتمع المحيط فى المدينة و مايزال هناك الكثير من الجهد المطلوب فى إطار تطوير المبانى العامة سواء من ناحية مفهوم “العام” مقابل الخاص أو من ناحية الوظيفة التى يقوم بها و اعادة بلورتها أو من ناحية دور و استخدام المواطنين له. و يمثل البعد السياسى لهذا النوع من المبانى جانبا رئيسيا نسعى لفهمه بصورة أعمق و تطوير نتائج هذا الفهم فى العمران المقترح.
و يمثل المشروع المقدم من الطالبة ربا عزام إحدى المحاولات التى تهدف إلى أيجاد نوعية جديدة من المبانى العامة التى قد تصلح أيضا للتطبيق ( من ناحية الفكرة فقط) فى مناطق أخرى فى المدينة المصرية نبيل الهادى استاذ العمارة جامعة القاهرة
المشروع المقترح هو نوع جديد من المباني ” بأرض اللواء ” يجمع بين احتياجات السكان لمباني وظيفية و هدف اجتماعي يتمثل في اعادة دمجهم في مجتمع المدينة, ليس بصفتهم قوة عاملة وسكان للمنطقة فحسب وانما كمواطنين ومساهمين في هذا المجتمع , فكانت النتيجة مبنى راسي يجمع بين محطة مترو انفاق ممتدة من خط المترو الرابع لتقوم على خدمة منطقتي المهندسين وأرض اللواء, وتمتد المحطة في اتجاه راسي لتتصل بالمركز الثقافي الذى يقوم على خدمة منطقتي المهندسين وأرض اللواء . و يتكون المركز من اربع طوابق فوق سطح الارض تغطي اجزاء منها شاشات تعرض الأنشطة القائمة بالمركز لتخلق أداة للدعاية الثقافية فى المدينة, و هذا المبنى الرأسى يساهم فى المحافظة على الأرض الزراعية القائمة و تطوير جزء منها ليصبح ساحة تجمع للسكان في محاولة لخلق نوع جديد من المباني الراسية ذات نقطة تجمع و مركز إلتقاء و التحام للمزج وتبادل ثقافات المجتمع المصري الواحد .
If you are an architect or student with a project that engages with Cairo’s urban context and social issues and would like to share your project on Cairobserver contact Cairobserver at gmail . com
From February 17 to March 6 the Townhouse Gallery hosted an exhibit titled 900KM Nile City, a project by Atelier Kempe Thill, baukuh, GRAU and edited by Moataz Faissal Farid and Pier Paolo Tamburelli.
The scale of the project is ambitious, it describes in text, video, maps, and photographs the narrow stretch of land from Aswan to Cairo where a series of settlements comprise a Nile City measuring 900KM in length. “It is an accident. There was never the will or the wish to create it; it just happened. The Nile City is a new city type that was formed simply by rapid population growth.”
While Cairo takes the lion’s share of the attention of urbanists interested in Egypt, 900KM Nile City looks the other way, at the urban settlements south of the capital which have mushroomed over the past five decades around previously established towns and villages. It also charts the state’s failed response to urban growth with its “new cities” or “desert cities” built on the edge of the fertile land to house population growth away from the valley and its settlements. It is from these settlements, where the economy has nearly collapsed, that thousands of migrants head to Cairo in search of work opportunities. The new cities built by the state are largely vacant, unused and failed on the social and economic levels to respond to population needs in addition to failing to negotiate the relationship between peasant society, its relationship to the land, agriculture and economy and its transformation into a semi-urbanized society relying less on agriculture as the state favors international importation of basic food stuffs over supporting local farming economies.
900KM Nile City looks at the current situation “with optimism, but without illusion” in an attempt to understand the urban and environmental features of this unique strip of land in order to begin to propose visions for moving forward. This has led the team of researchers to work in collaboration with multiple partners ranging from Assiut University, Berlage Institute, Sohag Governorate, and others to collect data and identify typologies, and existing networks. This data was then translated into readable graphs, diagrams, drawings, and maps. This process of abstraction is one that belongs to the long history of the profession of planning: raw data claiming to reflect reality in numbers must be transformed into legible consumable images and representations. The resulting images and maps are remarkable.
The photographic element of the project includes works by Stefano Graziani, Bas Princen and Giovanna Silva. The photographs range from landscape to street scenes. The accompanying video "It’s Countryside" incorporates commentary from specialists along with interviews by locals and footage from Sohag Governorate, where the project zooms in to capture a piece of the 900KM City.
Beyond documentation, research and visualization, the project also presents a proposal, a way forward on how to mend the situation in anticipation for further growth of populations and continuous loss of agricultural land. The proposed solution consists of urban belts linking existing Nile Valley towns with their desert city counterparts. Although schematic at its current stage, the proposal falls short of providing a nuanced approach to solving the problematic current conditions. There is a certain naiveté of believing that design is capable of solving such complex urban problems, where in fact I would argue what is fundamental to confronting the situation is sound policy, not design.
The voices from the communities heard in the video are proof that the primary complaints and struggles these communities face are rooted in ill-conceived state policies that then impact the designs and appearances of towns and villages and dictate their urban growth.
The state with all its hegemonic power over matters of economy and development intervenes minimally and often relies on “experts” and consultants to legitimize its top-down plans and proposals. During the panel discussion accompanying this important project the state was not represented nor does it seem to care.
The panel discussion held at the Goethe Institute was a lively event where the project was presented by its creators who also invited Cairobserver and Professor Nabil Elhady of Cairo University to present a critical point of view. The project, exhibition and panel created an opportunity for an important discussion to take place about the role of architects and planners and their relationship to society and the state, as well as about the specificity and peculiarities of the Nile Valley urban condition, and many other topics this ambitious project sheds light on.
Visit the website of the 900KM Nile City where much of the project’s content is available.
*scroll down for English
الورشة ستعزز من الحوار الفعال بين المؤسسات الحكومية والمجتمع المدنى والنشطاء والقطاع الخاص ومنظمات التنمية والباحثين وستعمل كذلك على فتح مجال للتعاون والتحالفات الإستراتيجية لبناء مستقبل حضرى مستدام فى مصر.
الورشة من إعداد مركز الدراسات والوثائق الإقتصادية والقانونية والإجتماعية CEDEJ وبرنامج الموئل التابع للأمم المتحدة UNHABITAT والتعاون الإنمائى الألمانى GIZ
الورشة ستقام بالمعهد الفرنسى بالمنيرة يوم الأثنين 11 مارس
“Informal Areas after 25 January 2011”taking place on 11 March 2013 at the French Institute in Cairo, Egypt.
The Workshop Series EGYPT URBAN FUTURES is initiated to build a platform for exchanging approaches, experiences, best practices, and opinions on issues and strategies concerning urban development for all stakeholders engaged in the field.
The first session of the series addresses the future of informal areas in Egypt after the January 2011 uprising, hosting a wide range of national and international speakers and participants.
The workshop is a joint initiative by the CEDEJ, UN-HABITAT and GIZ (Participatory Development Programme in Urban Areas – PDP) and a continuation of the Expert Discussion Meetings on urban development that have been carried out monthly since 2008.
French Institute Egypt
1, Madrasset El Huquq El Frinsiya Street
For more information, click here.
[Initiative of cleaning the area’s entrance by young residents of neighboring districts in partnership with young residents from the area.]
Based on fieldwork conducted in March 2011, this article presents a snapshot view of the period immediately after the start of the revolution and how those events and political shifts affected the residents of one of Cairo’s ‘ashwa’eyat (Informal urban areas). The article first appeared in ArchiAfrika Newsletter in July 2012.
By Hassan el Mouelhi
“‘Aish, horreya, ‘adalah egtema’eyah”
Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians kept on chanting (Bread, freedom, social justice) in the main squares all over Egypt for 18 days. People from different classes, different education levels, and different generations were there. Things are changing! And tomorrow will be better! This feeling was spread between Cairo inhabitants, especially the youth, regardless where they are living.
Relation to government: Police is a part of “El-H’okouma,” meaning, the government. Youth in Ezbet El Haggana (referred to as EH in the remainder of the article) developed a negative relationship with the police (fear, mistrust, hate) because they feel discriminated against only because of where they live. During the last 3 months of each year (when police officers are expected to meet their quotas in the number of arrests), it is advisable not to go outside the EH area alone late at night. If someone from EH was stopped by the police somewhere in Cairo, and was asked to show his I.D., and they recognized that he is from EH, chances are high for him to be treated disrespectfully, even if he had not done anything wrong. Two youth told me their stories with the police in the streets outside the EH area: when two young males were stopped by police and asked to show identification, the one with his place of residence in Heliopolis was set free, while his friend with a place of residence in the strangely named KM 4.5 (kilo arba3a we nos, the official name of EH) was arrested. The police give the youth of EH special treatment based on the perceptions of this particular part of Cairo.
When residents moved to KM 4.5 or EH area, they often refused to officially change their addresses as to avoid hassle by the authorities. This was the case with Mohamed El Fallah, who moved to KM 4.5 from El-Wayly (a historic district) nearly 12 years ago. Mohamed’s ID still lists El-Wayly as his area of residence.
As a reaction, this level of discrimination has caused the youth of EH to develop a feeling of hatred towards the police in general. The youth here were happy after the defeat of the police on 28th January and their draw back and disappearance from Cairo streets, as this meant to them that they were free of the systematic discrimination that was part of their daily life. From their point of view, they thought that this was one of the most positive consequences of the revolution.
‘Ashwa’eyat image in Egyptian Media:
Through the semi-structured interviews, I tried to find out what the residents of the area think about different recent Egyptian films that discussed life in “’Ashwa’eyat.” Ashraf said: “such crimes or illegal immoral activities like drug dealing and prostitution are shown in the movies as if we are all like that. While in reality, yes they exist, but spread in different streets, and in a very personal individualistic scale.”
Interviewees agreed that films and other media propagate negative attitudes towards places represented on the screen that they identify as “home.” Khalifa commented on how the media shows Ashwa’eyat residents as criminals and drug dealers:“We have bad people in our area, but in a certain small spot, not everywhere!”
[During the celebration of the revolution, March 2011]
Revolution and political transformation:
It was clear from my interviews with residents that they started to feel empowered after the revolution, feeling that their future might be better, hoping for more justice, especially social justice.
Ezbet El Haggana follows “Madinet Nasr” in the parliament elections. Madinet Nasr, in contrast with EH, is a formal planned district for middle-high class residents, known for its sufficiency of services. Parliament candidates usually start their campaigns in EH giving promises for providing more services to the area, more job opportunities and improving the quality of life in the area. In addition, those candidates who do not belong to the area distribute money and food bags to buy the votes of poor residents. Residents confirmed these practices continuing during recent election campaigns when politicians hire local middlemen to buy votes of the area’s most vulnerable residents.
EH residents are vulnerable to vote buying because of their desperate economic situation. Nagwa Raouf, architect, Emaret El-Ensan foundation- Founder/President board of trustees, witnessed drastic changes in the behaviors of the residents and the way they deal with corruption in the early days of the revolution. She commented on the first days of the revolution and its impact on the area: “…there is a lack of money in the area, because most residents earn their money on daily bases in the field of construction, which has almost stopped during and the days after the revolution till now (March 2011)”
The general economic recession, and especially in the field of construction that followed the revolution was reflected on the whole EH community. But it wasn’t only those working in construction who were affected. Mahmoud, a 25-year-old café waiter originally from a village in “Fayoum,” commented on the costumers of the coffee shop where he works:“The revolution is a disaster, everything in the country stopped, no work and no police. The coffee shop is suffering, as for the customer who was used to drink 5-6 cups of tea a day before the events, now, he drinks just one, if he comes at all! The truck owners who were used to have 5-6 transfers per day, now, its only once or even nothing!”
[Amir fel Tahrir: Amir, 21, from Ezbet El Haggana area, sharing in the demonstrations in Tahrir square, Feb 2011]
Sustaining changes in attitudes:
Nagwa told me some stories that show how this community could confront problems, based on their solidarity and good communal relations:
1. Gas tubes got to be very expensive (50 L.E. each) while normally it costs 10 L.E! This led some youth to face this phenomenon, and they gathered the empty tubes from the neighbors, gathered 10 pounds from each of the neighbors, rented a car, and went to the main storage, paid 5 pounds for each, and 5 pounds for the car rent, and returned and distributed the tubes on the neighbors again.
2. The quantity of bread produced by local bakeries was not enough of because of flour shortages. Flour for local bakeries, which is subsidized by the government, was sold to private bakeries for maximum profit. Some residents decided to face this policing bakeries and preventing owners from selling subsidized flour to private bakeries. Inhabitants pressured local bakeries to meet the demand for bread by negotiating additional work shifts.
3. young residents initiated street cleaning campaigns resembling what happened in Tehrir Square. It was repeated in different EH neighborhoods, and was joined by children.
When cleaning the streets, 17-year-old Sara experienced some difficulties because of the stigma associated with the act of collecting garbage. Eventhough she was cleaning her community some of her neighbors, particularly older generations, made light of her activity. She wondered “… are they used to live within garbage, and can not live with a clean street?!” Her group of friends supported each other until they completed the task.
Some links were established with neighboring richer communities. Cleaning the entrance of the area was arranged by “Al Seddik” mosque youth NGO located in “Massaken Sheraton” which is considered part of Heliopolis, a middle/high class district. On Friday 4.3.2011, about 150 boys and girls, aging from 16-26 years old gathered from different surrounding districts (Heliopolis, Nasr City, Al Rehab, El Tagamo’). They swept the streets, removed garbage, and painted fences. Youth from both genders from districts of varying economics worked together, made friends, exchanged stories and perhaps established for themselves a newfound community of active citizens.
Another resident, Ashraf spoke of the impact of the revolution on the attitudes of the daily labor. It happened just after some weeks from the start of the revolution and inspired by it, the concrete workers had a protest, asking for raises in daily fees from 60 to 65 L.E; it took them 2 days to get what they asked for. Hany (20 years) said about the revolution:
“…We want to eliminate corruption (Ezz, Adly, Shafik). Finding a job needs connections, and treatment in Police station was unfair. It will take some time, change won’t happen overnight.”
Three of the young residents accompanied me to Tahrir Square on one of the large Friday demonstrations in March 2011, a couple of weeks after the stepping down of Mubarak. They were proud of being there and of taking part in the process of changing the political reality of Egypt. I knew from them that they (among others) wanted to go to Tahrir Square again for other demonstrations. However, by late March 2011 the media had started to use terms such as “looters” and “thugs” and they were afraid of being mistaken for criminals, only because they live in KM 4.5 (EH). This shows that the mistrust problem between EH residents, especially the younger generation, and the government is still unresolved.
To conclude, the Egyptian scene in the last year following the revolution has witnessed monumental change in Egyptians’ aspirations and dreams. This has had a felt impact on the behaviors and attitudes of Egyptians in urban spaces, particularly previously disadvantaged residents such as those from EH. Their awareness regarding their right to the city has increased. The question now: How can this newly found right to the city be secured through the subsequent political process?
جزء من محتوي معرض (العمران .. موقف) لامنية خليل والمقام بالقاهرة في الفترة بين ٧ - ١٩ يوليو ٢٠١٢ في جاليري اوان للفنون المعاصرة
٤ شارع هدي شعراوي - متفرع من شارع طلعت حرب - باب اللوق - وسط البلد - القاهرة
يحتوي المعرض صور وخرائط وفيلم تسجيلي عن وضع العشوائيات في مصر ونقد لسياسات الحكومة في حل المشكلة .. اتمني ان تشرفوني بحضوركم
ان مسئوليتنا كمعماريين وعمرانيين ليس تحويل طبقة من مستوي اقتصادي لآخر ، ولا نحلم بقاهرة باريسية أو نيويوركية ، ولكننا نبحث كمواطنين تحكمنا انسانيتنا لتحقيق حياة اكرم وافضل للشريحة المجتمعية الاكثر تهميشاً ، واظهار مجهودات سكانها بل وتفعيل الامكانات الكامنة والايجابية لديهم . وداخل هذا المفهوم نحو مجتمع أفضل ، ترد مبادرتنا “العمران..موقف” علي الادعاءات المتكررة : (القضاء علي العشوائيات) و(ثورة الجياع) و(البلطجية) … وإيهام مختلف طبقات الشعب بخطرهؤلاء (ممن يقطنون العشوائيات) ؛ وتبقي التساؤلات
هل يجد هؤلاء الوسائل لتطوير سبل حياتهم؟
هل توفر الدولة السبل لمعيشتهم واحتياجاتهم؟
هل يكفي توفير وحدة سكنية لهم في مناطق نائية لا تتوافر بها سبل الحياة؟ ..
مبادرة ومعرض العمران .. موقف ..
المعرض بدعم من المركز الثقافي البريطاني بالقاهرة ومركز طارق والي ويوجد قاعتين ، تحتوي احدهما علي تحليلات عمرانية بالصور والخرائط نرصد فيها بعض حالات التدهور العمراني واقتراح للحلول ببعض المناطق بالقاهرة الكبري ، وتعرض بالقاعة الاخري مجموعة افلام وثائقية قصيرة (25 دقيقة) تعرض عرض مستمر ، يطرح فيها سكان الاحياء مشاكلهم العمرانية وايضا يطرحون الحلول. ..
تأتي فعاليات المعرض في المواعيد التالية:
يوم ٧ يوليو : افتتاح المعرض في السابعة مساءا
يوم ٨ يوليو : نقاش حول مشاريع نفذت في القاهرة - يتحدث فيها
خليل شعت - دينا شهيب - هاني المنياوي
يوم ١٥ يوليو : نقاش حول سياسات الحكومة نحو التدهور العمراني - يتحدث فيها
منال الطيبي - محمد عبد العظيم
وستفتح النقاشات يومي ٨ و ١٥ يوليو ٢٠١٢ بنفس قاعة العرض
للاستفسارات يرجي مراسلتي علي
Our responsibility as architects and urban planners is not transforming or changing the economic status of residents. We do not dream of a Parisian Cairo or another version of New York. But as citizens in this society we are governed by our humanity principals to seek an appropriate and improved life for the neglected sector, and also help to expose the hidden potentials and positive actions within those communities. According to the aim of seeking better a society our initiative Egyptian Urban Action tackles such stereotypes as “Eliminating informal areas”, “the uprising of the hungry ones” and “Thugs”… and the state’s attempts to convince the rest of the population of dangers from ” the informal area residents”, the questions remain …
Do residents of informal areas have the means to develop their own living conditions?
Does the state provide for their basic living rights?
Does providing housing units in a far remote area, Enough?
The initiative and exhibition of Egyptian Urban Action is funded by The British Council, Cairo and Tarek Waly Center. And consists of two halls; the first contains urban analysis manifested in images and maps where we observe cases of urban deterioration with some suggestions, and the second hall will be showing a series of short documentaries (25 minutes) where local residents of such areas express their problems and suggest alternatives.
The scheduled events of the exhibition are:
7th July 2012 Exhibition Opening - 7.00 pm
8th July: Discussions day 1: 7.00 pm
Action planning projects’ experiences in Cairo, Speakers:
Khalil Shaat - Dina Shehayeb - Hany Miniawy
15 July: Discussions day 2 : 7.00 pm
The state policy towards informal areas, speakers:
Manal Tibe - Mohamed Abdel Azim
Open discussions will be in 8th and 15th of July – in the main exhibition hall
For any inquires or questions, please e-mail
email@example.com - 0100 125 2473
Partial work of the initiative, published in 31st March 2012
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”.
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.
Nebny Foundation has been working in Manshiet Nasser. The densely populated area is described by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in the following lines (in relation to a separate development project for the area):
The squatter settlement of Manshiet Nasser has the most extreme concentration of poverty of any urban area in Egypt, but far from being a ‘slum of despair’ it is a dynamic place with a population of 500’000 who sustain thousands of businesses. Engaging this population in decision-making has been vital to the success of this project, which to date has improved access to water and wastewater for c 200’000 inhabitants, provided public services such as a community centre, outdoor theatre and park, built a cluster of 120 workshop units, trained workers (including 60 female staff for kindergartens) and identified sites for public schools.
Manshiet Nasser has attracted the attention of several universities and international development organizations in the past few years. The German Technical Cooperation (GIZ) has produced some material to encourage the government to participate in the development of the area by empowering its residents rather than adopting its typical approach of razing communities and relocating them to mass-housing blocks on the city’s finges.
In this context comes the intervention of Nebny Foundation, a group established by young Egyptians inspired by the potential for a better Egypt that the 25 January uprising promised. The group has been active in bringing felt change to communities such as Manshiet Nasser where it has been working on upgrading Luxor Street (pictured above). The first phase of the project has been complete. The upgrade is not limited to surface treatments and facade upgrades but also takes into account services and building systems. Luxor Street, when completed, will be a model that Nebny Foundation hopes to replicate in other areas in Manshiet Nasser and across Cairo. For more information about Nebny check their Facebook page.
The following video (in English) produced by GIZ introduces Manshiet Nasser and the GIZ’s participatory planning initiative.
العيش و العشوائيات: العلاقة بين رغيف العيش و النمو العمراني في المدن المصرية
Egypt, once the breadbasket of the Mediterranean, is the world’s biggest importer of wheat and grains. Egyptians are the world’s biggest consumers of bread per capita. Over the years Egypt’s dependency on imported wheat has steadily increased with no sign of reversal.
Egypt’s population , currently 81 million, is growing at 2 percent a year. By 2025, its population could reach 104 million, and by 2050 it population could be close to 140 million, an increase of 70 percent.
Rising population will mean less land available for agriculture, and if upstream usage of Nile river water increases, as appears likely, there could be less water for Egyptian farmers in the years ahead. Egypt’s dependence on imported food will likely grow.
This population growth also means more need for housing, and more need for land to urbanize. The informal urbanizing process, which mostly follows the patterns of agricultural lands rather than follow plans devised by urban planners, resulted from government misguided planning policies but also a decrease of value in agricultural land. Some of the world’s most fertile land is worth ten times more if urbanized than if farmed. This imbalance in land value is directly related to the state’s subsidization of imports and inclination to import a foreign product rather than invest in local farming. Thus there is a direct relationship between the simple loaf of bread and the urban growth of Egypt’s cities, particularly Cairo.
The speed of urbanization of agricultural land is not only due to the decreasing value of agricultural land but also due to the lack of a real market dynamic in the Egyptian real estate business. The market is constantly looking to “exculsivize” development leaving behind large segments of the population who are left to their own devices. Because there are no real market dynamics, populations constantly create their own new market, so to speak, by urbanizing land that was previously unavailable for building (agricultural land). This means that as the market supplies less and less properties accessible to the majority of the population, that population will simply create its own properties on already devalued agricultural land. Thus Egypt is loosing large swaths of its precious agricultural land while the real estate market and cities suffer from this ad hoc and uncontrolled speculative process. The result is a bizarre situation where there is a housing crisis, there is massive speculation and building, the majority of the population lives in self-initiated/self-built so-called informal areas and there are hundreds of thousands (a conservative estimate) of empty developments including state planned desert communities (empty because the government still doesn’t understand that planning doesn’t simply mean building a few concrete towers in the middle of nowhere).
Flying over the Nile Delta, one is shocked by the ratio or urban to agricultural land. Once small rural villages and farming communities deeply entrenched in an agricultural tradition are urbanizing at a fast pace to maintain a livelihood. Middle class urban values that were once the material for 1980s and 1990s soap operas have become the life standard by which millions of rural Egyptians wish to emulate.
There are many intermingled issues here such as governance, land ownership, national policy, zoning laws, housing policies and administrative boundaries (the fact that Cairo can keep growing virtually for tens of miles and still be considered Cairo). However, There are two main issues: 1. The low value of agricultural land due to importation and government subsidies of imported wheat and grains. 2. The lack of real market values that determine what gets built where, for how much, etc.
1. The high dependency on imported wheat and grains made agricultural land worth ten times more if it was urbanized than if it was farmed. This one to ten value ratio, the product of government policies, makes it increasingly difficult for rural communities to hold on to their farms in the face of creeping urbanization. A process of reversal is needed immediately to wean Egypt off imported basic food stuffs and to preserve the country’s irreplaceable agricultural land and the culture, economy, society that comes with it. Considering Cairo is surrounded to the north and south with agricultural land, this reversal will funnel development, formal and informal in the East-West axis into the desert (which is already the direction of the rather exclusive developments, but not the low income ones). The reason agricultural land is easier to develop informally is because it is already plugged into basic infrastructure (water and electricity), whereas desert developments need governmental large scale planning to extend such services for future developments (except this is only done for high end developments).
2. Real Estate market: The market in Cairo is a total mess. Typically the value of real estate is tied to location, amenities, transport options, near by park/public space, distance to shopping options, etc., in addition to factors pertaining to the actual property: quality of construction, functionality of utilities, cultural/heritage value. With this logic, a building on Talaat Harb Street and Huda Shaarawi in downtown (close your eyes and imagine if this was the real world: there is a park near by at Azbakiyya, a big open square at Tahrir, charming historic buildings, metro stops within ten minute walk, shops, cinemas, museums… wow, this must be the most expensive real estate!).. WRONG! This logic may work in New York, London, Paris, Tokyo, Rome. Here, the burgeoning middle class with their petty bourgeois values have actually reduced the value of the “real thing” and raised the value of the bad attempt at copying it superficially (gated communities with faux classical stumpy buildings with no transport options, no cultural venues, no public space and no community).
Therefore the center despite where it should be (at the top of desirable real estate) had there been real market dynamics is devalued. Then there is the informal ring then the highly-valued disconnected dystopias. This imbalance in the market is partly due to the possibility for the city to expand forever, into the desert or into agricultural land. Frontier urbanism, where the closer one is to the ring road, rather than the center, the more value. Hence government plans to build an even bigger ring road (to add value of land speculation and potentially destroy massive amounts of agricultural land north of Cairo due to development). But also this market imbalance is due to opaque deals and mysterious land ownership contracts, and irregular corrupt government. The army and the rail road company, for example, own massive swaths of land in and around the city and they may dispense of those lands as they wish. In order to raise the value of such lands massive infrastructure may be put in place such as a highway connection.
In short, there is a direct relationship between the bread we eat and the city we live in. policy towards more self-sustained agriculture will have a positive impact on the dynamics of urban growth and development within a city that must be defined with fixed boundaries.
Historically, there has been a symbiotic relationship between Egypt’s urban and rural economies. One simple example of that relatively successful relationship was the Awqaf system, where profits from agricultural land, which fed both urban and rural societies, were used to maintain urban properties. All the land on Cairo’s west bank (Giza) was Awqaf land that paid for the maintenance of Cairo on the other side. That system has been canceled since the 1952 regime took over and new urban areas were planned on that land such as Muhandeseen. With the right global and local politics Egypt has the potential to feed itself and at the same time control its urban development patterns.
The constant need for more agricultural land and the need for more housing means that planners and politicians need to devise an urban model built on density that allows maximum number of people to occupy less land. This can be done in ways that do not replicate the sometimes unhealthy extreme high density conditions found in some of the informal areas. However all current government planning is aimed at creating extreme low density (sub)urban environments, a model that has failed around the world and which is not sustainable considering Cairo’s population growth. High density environments not only reduce the amount of “waste land” but also have proven to provide safer living (safety in numbers, consider the fact that during the Jan 28 release of prisoners and thugs to frighten populations, low density areas were more prone to attacks and theft than high density ones) but also healthier social networks. High density urban planning also requires planners to consider mass transit, another essential that is overlooked by Cairo’s planners. In Egypt’s conditions, high density planning is the most sustainable environmentally, economically and socially, and it will help preserve much needed agricultural land to feed the population. (In addition to the endless potential for urban agriculture/rooftop farming, which can easily be implemented in Cairo if politicians know what they are doing)
Decentralization of Egypt’s development, investment and population is essential. Less imports, more planning, more transparency in real estate markets and trade deals.
Note: except for the first image, all images are screenshots from Yousef Chahine’s short film, Cairo/Le Caire/القاهرة منورة بأهلها
A true transition to democracy should lead to strong local and municipal governments not reproduce a centralized system led by a strong president or even parliament.
Will Egypt’s parliamentary elections bring the change needed or simply rebuild a defunct system of government?
Cairo is a city of 20 million without a mayor, without a municipality and without an effective city government that represents its inhabitants. At the final metro stop on the Giza line is an informal neighborhood sandwiched between the metro tracks and a water canal. Mounib was once a village outside Giza on the road heading south towards Aswan.
Today, Mounib is part of the informal urban sprawl spawned by government negligence and lack of planning. In some respects, Mounib is a relatively successful informal area: The buildings are well built with a maximum of six levels allowing sun and air to penetrate most residences, and there is a tightly-knit community. Living here is not cheap; the average home costs its owners nearly 50,000 Egyptian pounds (about $8,370), yet residents lead a precarious life and their fate is uncertain. Inhabitants in informal areas live at the mercy of the construction mafia, who build illegally with the discreet approval of bribed local government officials.
Running through this dense urban area is the Zumor Canal, which once irrigated rich agricultural land. No longer used for irrigation, water has become stagnant, and with the government’s refusal to manage waste in areas such as Mounib, the canal has transformed into a trash dump and a source of disease and infestation. Further north, where the canal passes through middle-class neighborhoods, it has been filled and transformed into a green spine. Here, like the majority of Cairo, residents police themselves. A total informal way of life pervades that includes schooling, healthcare, food supply and social services. People here are friendly and welcoming and they know what needs to be done to better their community, but there are no channels for them to officially take part in civil society and government. Although this area is part of the capital and is reached by metro, it is at the periphery of the regime’s concerns. In Mounib, nothing has improved since Hosni Mubarak passed his presidential powers to the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF).
The local government officials responsible for this area are the same as before the January 25 revolution that deposed Mubarak, despite a recent court ruling to dissolve local councils. Residents consider local government as window dressing rather than an effective mechanism to better their lives, and the government institution as a whole is viewed as better avoided. Those local government officials form the base of an administrative pyramid that leads to a presidentially appointed governor at the top. Administratively, Cairo is a divided city split into three governorates each with a governor and an army of bureaucracy below him. Governor posts are reserved to former army and police officers, typically at the age of retirement.
Read rest of the Op-ed on AlJazeera, here.