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28 January 2015 / NHamilton

Get your own copy of Our Urban Futures

Our Urban Futures - Ideas Competition Publication

Our Urban Futures – Ideas Competition Publication

We are excited to announce you can now view (free on Scribd) or purchase (USD $10.00 on Amazon) a copy of Cairo from Below’s publication “Our Urban Futures.”  This volume explores the ideas for urban transformation held by young professionals and urban advocates in Egypt and documents the process and ideas generated through Cairo from Below’s 2013 “Our Urban Futures” Ideas Competition.

The entries range from pragmatic to fanciful. Some are based upon a close read of site-specific context while others are more conceptual and aimed at challenging convention planning paradigms. Together they are a testament to the creativity, talent and passion of many young Egyptians who dare to imagine a new urban future.  We hope this competition inspires others to initiate their own projects that encourage debate, develop creative ideas and build capacity.

Learn more about the competition here: Cairo from Below’s 2013 “Our Urban Futures” Ideas Competition.

5 November 2014 / NHamilton

Cairo from Below – NYC Event – Thursday Nov 6

UPDATE:Flyer

Cairo from Below is holding a special event this Thursday November 6th to celebrate the launch of our publication “Our Urban Futures – Ideas Competition” and announce a second ideas competition!  The event is open to all (over 21), please join us and spread the word among those in NYC who have an interest in urban development and Cairo.

New: we are honored to be joined by special guests Janice Perlman and Jacqueline Klopp. Janice Perlman is Founder & President of the Mega-Cities Project, author of the recent publication, Favela  and groundbreaking leader in issues of urban poverty since introduction of The Myth of Marginality: Urban Politics and Poverty in Rio de Janeiro in 1976.  Jacqueline Klopp is the Associate Research Scholar at the Center for Sustainable Urban Development at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, the author of many publications on urbanization and politics in Kenya and a key collaborator on the Digital Matatus project, a first of a kind initiative to map the informal transportation system for millions of Nairobi residents.

Cairo from Below is thankful to be collaborating and co-hosting Thursday’s event with NYC’s Urban Sustainability Meetup’s Happy Hour event, which aims to bring together urban enthusiasts from all over NYC for a few hours of brainstorming, knowledge sharing and networking. Come connect with people passionate about Egyptian urban development, get a copy of Our Urban Futures publication, and support the upcoming Cairo from Below competition.

Please register on the meetup page and be sure to like us on FB and follow us on twitter.

Donations to Cairo from Below will be accepted but are not required.

When: 6:00 to 8:00 PM Thursday, November 6th, 2014

Where: Three Sheets Saloon  (upstairs now downstairs), 134 W 3rd St, New York, NY 10012

(b/t Avenue Of The Americas & Mac Dougal St), Greenwich Village

Look for event hosts: Nick Hamilton, Heba ElGawish and Liz Marcello.

29 October 2014 / marouhhussein

CFB News: “Our Urban Features- Ideas Competition” Publication Launch Party

CFB and the NYC Urban Sustainability Happy Hour are holding a special event Thursday November 6th!  The event will be held to celebrate the launch of our publication “Our Urban Futures – Ideas Competition” and an announcement of the second ideas competition.

NYC’s Urban Sustainability Happy Hours aim to bring together urban enthusiasts from all over NYC for a few hours of brainstorming, knowledge sharing and networking. Come connect with people passionate about Egyptian urban development, get a copy of Our Urban Futures publication, and support the upcoming competition.

Donations to Cairo from Below will be accepted but are not required.

When: 6:00 to 8:00 PM Thursday, November 6th, 2014
Where: Three Sheets Saloon  (upstairs), 134 W 3rd St, New York, NY 10012

(b/t Avenue Of The Americas & Mac Dougal St), Greenwich Village

Look for event hosts: Nick Hamilton, Heba ElGawish and Liz Marcello.

Flyer

20 October 2014 / NHamilton

CfB News: A Second Ideas Competition, Cairo from Below Publication, New Co-Director Heba ElGawish

The Cairo from Below team has some exciting news to share with you and a special request!

Our Urban Futures - Ideas Competition Publication

Our Urban Futures – Ideas Competition Publication

Our Urban Futures – Publication

We are publishing the results and discussion of the process from the Cairo from Below “Our Urban Futures” ideas competition.  Very soon you will be able to download a PDF of our publication for free or purchase a hard copy on Amazon for only $10.00 USD.  This volume explores the ideas for urban transformation held by young professionals and urban advocates in Egypt. These pages document the process and ideas generated through Cairo from Below’s 2013 “Our Urban Futures” Ideas Competition. The entries range from pragmatic to fanciful. Some are based upon a close read of site-specific context while others are more conceptual and aimed at challenging convention planning paradigms. Together they are a testament to the creativity, talent and passion of many young Egyptians who dare to imagine a new urban future.  Political developments in Egypt continue to remind us of the critical importance of robust institutions and civic capacity. We hope this competition inspires others to initiate their own projects that encourage debate, develop creative ideas and build capacity.

Our Urban Futures Ideas Competition

Our Urban Futures Ideas Competition

A New ‘Our Urban Futures’ Competition

We are gearing up for a second competition and would like to get your feedback on ideas and themes.  What urban challenges facing Cairo/ Egypt should the competition address?  What did you like about the first competition and what would you prefer be modified?  Please share with us any ideas about how to make this competition most impactful.  You can make suggestions via comment feature below, on our facebook page or send us a suggestion via twitter @CairofromBelow with hashtag #oururbanfutures.

 

Welcome to new Cairo from Below Co-Director Heba ElGawish

Welcome to new Cairo from Below Co-Director Heba ElGawish

A Welcome to Heba ElGawish, our new Co-Director

Allow us to introduce our new Co-Director, Heba ElGawish. Heba got involved with Cairo from Below as a competition participant with her “Cair-Vélo” submission, check out a blog post on her entry here.  A Cairo native herself, she has a bachelor degree in Architecture from the Faculty of Fine Arts in Alexandria, and  is now studying in NYC for her Master’s degree in Urban Design at NYIT.

Heba has been actively involved since the first Our Urban Futures competition and has been a core contributor ever since, adding her expertise and ideas in the design of Cairo from Below’s activities notably the editing and formatting of the Our Urban Futures competition publication for publication via Amazon.  Heba is interested in designing healthy communities and believes that the impact the built environment has on our health can be a positive one!

13 July 2014 / dkardo

Why Loiter?

This post was originally published on FAVEL issues, a blog on urban informality and urban development. CairofromBelow thanks FAVEL issues and author Anna Wachtmeister for sharing with us!
Composer1 *

Why Loiter? (1) 

I love to loiter (being in a PUBLIC space without a purpose) but instead I often find myself walking through the city. Loitering is only possible when I am a 100% comfortable. As an independent, determined and curious woman I take my own risks and make a point of walking at will through all cities I encounter. Drifting (walking through public space without a purpose) is usually possible, but not always and it is definitely not for all. Far from every woman has the right to take their own risks, and women more than men seem to need a reason to be in a public place.  Worse still is that women, instead of the perpetrator, are more than often blamed if something happens. “What was she doing there at that hour?” “Didn’t you see what she was wearing, no wonder!” (2)

Why I love to Loiter, Drift and Loose myself to the City

To begin with, I get great enjoyment from wonderingly wander through the streets. My senses peeled to grasp the overall ATMOSPHERE. My seeing, hearing and smell register my surrounding, the built, the invisible and the doings of the people, animals and systems within it. As I let go and I give myself over the city, my bodily levels of awareness rise due to the excitement of the looming adventure.

Secondly, my heartfelt autoethnographical APPROACH to practice means that the raw and unedited experiences I have while meandering through the cities are my largest informants. By drifting I allow the city to get under my skin to enlighten my urban practice. Not only does it allow me to ponder over what I could mean for a city’s development, my bodily and sensory levels of awareness guide my professional decisions.

But in post – earthquake Port au Prince, we were restricted by our employer from walking on the streets as part of a security protocol we had to follow. Ironically the situation made me feel very insecure as I became reliant on other people driving me through the city. This way the city could not host me and we remained unknown to each other. MORE significantly, how could I support the reconstruction efforts of the city when I had no access to it?

Drifting as a Practice in Urbanism

In addition to have been given the right to take my own risk, while studying architecture, I was thoroughly schooled in the theories of the stroll, the dèrive, transient walks, … with the Situationalist International (Guy Debord), Stalker, and Michel de Certeau, etc as our mentors. We were actively encouraged, even required, to map the city through walking for hours and at any hour of the day or night.

CHOOSE to evaluate my presence in the city rather than constructing a professional distance. As someone for whom displacement and travel is the norm, I try to deliberately focus on my presence rather than focus on my temporality as maybe a tourist to the city would. My way to get intimate with the city is to stroll indiscriminately through every part of it without any particular reason except to get close.

The spaces we inhabit are constructed; people make spaces as much as spaces makes people (3) and women are particularly affected in the way they are connected to the bodies we inhabit. Men and women experience places differently, making spaces integrally gendered. (4)

The Required Tools

Even though I might meander more comfortable than other women into ‘male spaces’ and will make a point of not being restricted, I need tools to do so, just like all women have their ways to deal with this inequality.

In Kurdistan where women had little access to the PUBLIC domain, women had crafted an accepted way of loitering on their street. Here women would appear from behind the tall walls and stand just in front of the gate with the hosepipe. They disguised their loitering with the important task of ‘watering the street’ in order to keep the desert dust at bay. Then they watered the street for a long time.

Even with my advantages (able bodied, willing, backed by my culture / theories), I too had to develop tools to be able to (semi) comfortably drift through any city. Different tools are developed to redress the limitations of the various societies that I find my self in.

If I feel unsafe while drifting, I slow down and home in on someone who I feel I can trust who in turn MORE than often would screen the situation for me. Then advice me ‘Don’t walk down that street!’ I rely on the others to look out for me. On the contrary I have also become very good at still engaging with the urban situation while looking straight through the people that I don’t like the look of.

I find that discretion can open many doors and therefore I often CHOOSE to adhere to purdah. These are the religious and social practice of female seclusion, prevalent in the conservative cities of Erbil and Cairo where I have lived. I would hide my female body’s shape with modest clothing, but as ‘a 3rd gender’ (a foreign women), the physical segregation didn’t always comply allowing me to enter both female only and largely male spaces.

Fancy a Walk?

Walking engraves the city over and over again, often in insubordination of established urban order. The Situationalist International’s critiqued the dehumanized capitalist city through the every day act of walking. This act of appropriation leads to change. Just like in the call for re-imaging the city for children in the post of Juan Manuel Restrepo , can you re-imagine your city with women walk down any street in the world for no other reason than pleasure and then relaxingly loiter at any street corner they encounter all by themselves. If it cannot be imagined, it is not realisable: so lets dream a little!

 

(1)  While drifting through Chennai last week, i read the BOOK ‘Why Loiter? Women & Risk on Mumbai Streets’ by Shilpa Phadke, Sameera Khan and Shilpa Ranade, Penguin Books India, 2011.  It inspired me to writing about women and being a women.

(2) ‘Why Loiter? Women & Risk on Mumbai Streets’ by Shilpa Phadke, Sameera Khan and Shilpa Ranade.

(3) Henri Lefebvre, The production of space, 1974

(4) Grosz 1995, Massey 1994, Rose 1993, Spain 1992

 

2 April 2014 / dkardo

Water Security and Rural Sanitation in Egypt, A Revolution Awaits its Hero: Current Status Part 2

pic1

 

 

NOTE: This is the second part of a 2-part post. For your reference, here is the author’s first post: Part 1

 

 

 

There are two different approaches to solving the rural sanitation issue in Egypt are that are being introduced.  The first is the traditional service clustered sanitation system. This strategy depends on planning as a basis to specify how to implement the aforementioned seven tasks and hence achieving the goals. This will be done by dividing rural Egypt into sanitation service clusters(SSC), defined from both geographical and institutional prospective as follows:

Geographical Prospective: SSC is a geographical area including a group of villages, which the planner makes sure is the optimum solution from technical, economic, environmental, and institutional points of view.

Institutional Prospective: SSC is an administrative unit of rural wastewater sector, which is a part of the organizational structure of HCWW companies. This approach ensures the provision of integrated services and hence achieving objectives of this strategy, since it realizes both a technical and an environmental dimension. By establishing a system that accommodates wastewater collected from sewered villages, to be treated in a central treatment plant. This plant would be able to receive the four possible types of polluted water that be generated from unserved villages. Since failure in solving the rural solid waste problem may lead to a shortage to achieve or not achieving the main objectives of the rural sanitation strategy; this strategy should accommodate solid wastes.

The second approach is the unclustered, decentralized sanitation approach. It was revealed that isolation of existing initiatives and lack of commitment by government agencies are significant factors preventing wide-scale replication. None of the approaches tested so far have been institutionalized. So far, the sector is in a vicious cycle as isolated initiatives remain prototypes and, as such, are not cost-effective, do not receive the attention required, are considered too expensive and/or prone to failure, and therefore are not replicated. It is clear that HCWW and its Affiliates must play a pivotal role in the development and management of small-scale sanitation.

Experience has showed that fully community-based approaches do not work in the Egyptian context. A clear strategy is needed, including other sector stakeholders (Ministries, communities, NGOs, researchers, private service providers). In particular, the solution implies a closer collaboration with the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation (MWRI), a significant stakeholder of rural sanitation that manages both important surfaces of land and receiving water bodies. The strategy should enable the implementation of financial and management schemes, which guarantee full-cost recovery. Otherwise, small-scale systems risk not to be maintained properly, as the O&M of big centralized schemes is in itself currently a problem. The only way to proceed until water tariffs guarantee cost recovery is to adapt the legal and regulatory framework to allow tailor-made financing schemes, which may include contributions from concerned communities.

Wide-scale replication implies standardization. In this approach it is recommended to devise & adopt a mass-production strategy for small-scale sanitation and explore the concept of locally produced prefabricated units. Standardization of small-scale sanitation systems is needed to allow economies of scale, reduction of costs, reduction of time needed for project preparation and implementation and increase the infrastructure quality. Quality of the work done by consultants and contractors, as well as delays and cost overruns during implementation, are major issues, which standardization is best able to tackle. Many strongly advocate for the adoption of a business approach and the opening of a market for prefabricated treatment units. Such units could easily be manufactured in Egypt. There is a potentially huge market in the country and beyond. Small-scale sanitation could create a lot of job opportunities in production and implementation. Public-private partnerships (PPP) could be developed to stimulate such a process. A clear governmental strategy and leadership is required to support such a standardization process.

Finally, even if often considered as a must in Egypt, chlorination of the effluent is not recommended at all. It is almost never done properly and leads to environmental damage rather than preservation, in an environment where the quality of the receiving water body is often much worse than the non-chlorinated effluent. What is more, a shortage of chlorine makes it difficult for both water and wastewater plants to meet their supply needs (Chemonics Egypt 2009). Focus on preliminary assessment Thorough preliminary assessments, leading to realistic design parameters, are a key cost-effectiveness factor, as they allow dimensioning as close as possible to the needs. “Soft components” (e.g. preliminary interview of stakeholders and management schemes) must become an integral part of each design.

Animal manure and effluent of dairy factories need to be considered as parts of the sanitation system. In the past, faulty dimensioning of infrastructure, due to the lack of consideration of the actual situation on the ground, has cost a significant amount of money in capital and operational costs, and threatened the replication of small-scale systems. Besides, treatment facilities that are over-dimensioned risk reaching the full life expectancy (especially specific components like pumps) far before they reach their design capacity. Over-dimensioning may also lead to reduced performance. In parallel, a good forward planning is necessary, in order to anticipate future developments and design the system accordingly. It is unrealistic to plan for a 2050 horizon for such small settlements. The development of ezbas is highly heterogeneous and depends on a number of factors that are difficult to forecast, leading to large variations in growth. Modular, flexible systems need to be privileged in order to cope with the high uncertainty of future developments. Realistically, in this context, infrastructure development should be limited to a maximal 15 year planning horizon. However, space for future extension should be planned from the beginning; infrastructure can then be extended when and if needed. Take a look at this clip of the UNDP Lake Manzala Engineered Wetland Project, which investigated the suitability of using artificial wetlands as a low-cost alternative for treating sewage from cities, towns, and villages located on the fringes of the Nile Valley and Delta.

Finally, a long debate is on going between the supporters of both techniques and through different levels. Although, deeper and more extensive comparison must be made in order to pre-select the optimal approach to be implemented nationwide or at least identify the geographical location where each approach could be implemented in needed. Yet, the on-going economic crisis Egypt suffers and the on-going threat to a contest water share of the Nile river should encourage The Government of Egypt, which is increasingly aware of the rural sanitation problem, to immediately be committed to implement a National Program for Rural Sanitation in Egypt, the scale of the program should be national, and program interventions are expected to touch nearly every village and household in the Nile Valley and Delta. A well-conceived strategy based on an informed analysis of problems, participants, objectives, and alternatives is needed to ensure that the limited program resources, plus additional resources leveraged by the program, achieve the program’s objective; as the hazards of this problem do not affect only the environment and public health, but also the objectives of water resources management strategy in Egypt. Such a strategy comprises inclusively strategic tasks relevant to the solution of solid waste problem (domestic wastes and agricultural residues) in villages because solid wastes are currently considered one of the important factors causing pollution of residential areas, agricultural drains, and waterways in rural Egypt. The role of local administration and public private partnership should also be activated.

 

Ayman Ramadan Mohamed Ayad is an engineer and Water Resources Advisor at National Water Resources Plan (NWRP-CP), and has been involved in the future vision for Alexandria integrated water urban development.  He also teaches  applied hydraulics at Alexandria Universities, and serves as the Egyptian Coordinator for NAYD (Network of African Youth for Development).

3 March 2014 / dkardo

On Ibrahim Mahlab’s Appointment as Prime Minister

Former CEO of construction giant Arab Contractors and official in deposed President Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party (NDP), Ibrahim Mahlab, has been appointed Egypt’s new Prime Minister by Adly Mansour – the army-appointed president who has been in office since Morsi’s removal in July. This came after interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi resigned last Monday February 24th.

Daily News Egypt

via Daily News Egypt

Mahlab is Egypt’s outgoing housing minister, and given his retrograde stance as housing minister, his record in this role is explored below as an indication of the potential direction he might hope to take the country. According to the Guardian’s announcement of the news, under Mahlab’s watch as housing minister, 1,200 families were forcibly evicted from their Cairo homes, and their houses demolished (Amnesty International cited).

In January, Mahlab “in an attempt to prevent the spread of slum areas and facilitate construction procedures” issued Ministerial Decree 67/2014 to amend Egypt’s Construction Law regarding land divisions. The decree requires only 25% of land area to be set aside for roads and gardens, down from the previous share of 33%. The intentions behind his amendment are meant to ease burdens for real estate developers, and not citizens, falling in line with the status quo under previous administrations. 

Further, at the annual CityScape real estate forum in early February, Mahlab announced that disputes between real estate developers and the New Urban Communities Authority (NUCA) have been settled, with developers being offered a new incentive bundle to facilitate investment in the market.

Mahlab’s actions as Housing Minister appear to echo Mubarak era policies in the housing sector, placing the desire to attract foreign direct investment ahead of much needed substantive reform of the systems that govern real estate development.

Mahlab’s new role as Egypt’s interim Prime Minister may prove to follow suit. It has been reported that while Mahlab would return most ministers to their former posts in the next couple of days, he is expected to stack his Cabinet largely with remnants of the old regime. On Thursday February 27th, it was reported that Mahlab  appointed former finance ministry official Hany Dimian as finance minister in the new government and former technical director of the General Organization for Physical Planning (GOPP) – architects of Cairo 2050 –  Mostafa Madbouly as the new housing minister

What are your thoughts on this topic? Please share your comments and reactions with Cairo from Below in the comments, on Facebook or twitter.

NOTE: for more on Madbouly’s record as housing minister: http://www1.youm7.com/News.asp?NewsID=1530165#.UxTNYzbkt8H (Arabic).

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