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28 April 2015 / marouhhussein

A “New” Capital

In seven years, there will be a ‘new’ new Cairo. The new capital will be built in Egypt’s Eastern desert with new homes, new jobs, new parks, new mosques and churches, new everything. This may sound like a new idea to many people but not to Egyptians. Over the last 5,000 years, Egypt has had 24 capital city changes. Each move has intended to decrease the population in one area and avoid congestion. Despite these same problems occurring again and again, the same solution continues to be given.

Model of Egypt's new capital. Source: The Guardian

Model of Egypt’s new capital. Source: The Guardian

In March 2015, the Egyptian government announced a partnership with a UAE based company to fund the creation of the new capital city. According to the Egyptian government, the purpose of this new city is to ease congestion and “overpopulation” in Cairo over the next 40 years. The new city will create 21 new residential districts that will house 5 million people. The city will also have over 650 hospitals and clinics, 1,250 mosques and churches, hotels, malls and a theme park double the size of Disneyland.

Many people may read this idea and not immediately realize its faults. What’s wrong with building a new city and urbanizing desert land? What’s wrong with decongesting the current capital and spreading out Cairo’s population? What’s wrong with potentially creating more jobs for the lower and middle class citizens? What is wrong is, the plan is unrealistic. What is wrong is, a non-Egyptian private company is ‘buying’ and controlling Egyptian land. What is wrong is, lower and middle class Egyptian citizens will still struggle to live their daily lives.

capital 2

The new capital will be located in Egypt’s Eastern Desert. Source: The Capital Cairo

Cairo has a long history of creating satellite cities in an effort to decongest Cairo. The cities are often left unfinished and deserted. Realistically, if this city is successfully accomplished, it will become an upper class city that is closed off from others. Lower and even middle class citizens will still not be able to afford to live in such a luxurious city. Yes, it may attract tourists and wealthy residents, but what’s the purpose if the same problems remain in “old” Cairo? What’s the purpose of creating a new city that will neglect Egypt’s urban problems and enable the poverty cycle to continue?

Housing prices are no longer affordable for an average citizen living in Egypt and this has caused low-income areas to become pockets of centralized poverty. In order to ease congestion and “overpopulation” in cities like Cairo, the government needs to expand out of the cities by adding housing as an extension to an already existing city, not creating an additional isolated hub. They also need to address the needs of already existing cities.

capital3

The city is designed to be a cultural and economic hub. Source: The Capital Cairo

Instead of building a new city for government buildings and creating an attractive city for tourists, any new city should be focused on elevating the country’s economy and decreasing poverty. The government in Egypt should hire local engineers and Egyptian companies to plan and build the city instead of contracting out to foreign companies. Making the new city a local project will provide jobs to Egyptian citizens and aid to alleviate unemployment and poverty. In addition, more revenue can be generated when cities provide local opportunities to start businesses, buy land and apartments and earn living wages. The dream of making the new city and restoring Egypt’s reputation to the outside world can still happen, but it should involve Egyptians improving their own country, first.

Sarah Elbery is a recent graduate of Rutgers University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Planning & Public Policy and Middle Eastern Studies. She is currently an MPA candidate at Rutgers University with a concentration in International and Regional Development. 

21 April 2015 / marouhhussein

Sidewalk Salon- Now in Arabic!

صالون الرصيف: 1001 كرسي شارع من القاهرة

[Note: Complete text in English below]

حت غطاء التوتر السياسي, المشاكل الاقتصادية والنمو العمراني العشوائي وجدت منار مرسي و دافيد بويج وسيلة

1000 مبتكرة لعرض شكل الحياة بالقاهرة. خلال الثلاث سنوات الماضية تجولت مرسي و بويج في القاهرة ليلتقطوا أكثر من

صورة بولارويد لكراسي الشارع. ملتقتين صورا لكراسي بمناطق مختلفة كل الاختلاف كشوبرا الخيمة, الخليفة

والقاهرة الجديدة, جمع الثنائي الصور ب “صالون الرصيف: 1001 كرسي شارع من القاهرة”. الكتاب يسعى لاظهار

عمليات التصميم المبتكرة التي تحدث على الرصيف وذلك بالتزامن مع التدخلات العشوائية في الفراغ العام الذي يميز

.مدينة القاهرة. النتيجة عبارة عن تصوير صميم لفراغلت و بشر القاهرة

لمشروع مصور في المقام الأول الا أنه يحتوي أيضا على مقابلات مع مجموعة مختارة من ملاك لكراسي الشارع

,وأشعار وكتابات خيالية مستوحاة من كراسي الشارع. قائمة الكتاب المختارة تضم ياسر عبد اللطيف, طاهر الشرقاوي

.ماجد زاهر, محمد الفخراني و أميرة حنفي

سيكون “صالون الشارع” متوفرا للبيع في صيف 2015. من أجل توفير مصاريف الطباعة تقوم 1001 كرسي بحملة

.جمع أموال لمدة 40 يوم على موقع انديجوجو بدأ من يوم 24 فبراير. للتبرع للحملة برجاء الضغط هنا

:مزيد من المعلومات عن 1001 كرسي من القاهرة, يمكنكم زيارة الموقع

http://www.sidewalksaloncairo.com/

Beneath the headlines of political unrest, economic struggles and ad hoc urban growth, Manar Moursi and David Puig have found a unique way to display life in Cairo. Over the past 3 years Moursi and Puig have traveled across Cairo collecting over 1000 Polaroid images of street chairs. Capturing chairs in neighborhoods as diverse as Shubra El Kheima, Khalifa and New Cairo, the duo has compiled the photos into Sidewalk Salon: 1001 Street Chairs of Cairo; the book seeks to present the creative practices of design that occur on sidewalks along with the unplanned interventions in public space that give Cairo its distinctive character. The result is an intimate portrayal of Cairo’s space and people. sidewalksalon2

The project is primarily visual but also includes interviews with select street chair owners and fictional pieces of poetry and literature inspired by street chairs. Contributing authors include Yasser Abd El Latif, Taher al Sharqawy, Maged Zaher, Mohamed Al Fakhrani and Amira Hanafy.

Sidewalk Salon will be available for purchase in Summer 2015. In order to raise money for printing costs 1001 Chairs is running a 40-day Indiegogo Campaign starting February 24th. To contribute to the campaign, click here.sidewalksalon3

For more information about 1001 Chairs of Cairo, you can visit their website http://www.sidewalksaloncairo.com/.

14 April 2015 / marouhhussein

Lessons from Cairo: How Small Scale Urban Initiatives can Improve a City

The following is an excerpt from Abdelbaseer Mohamed’s “Lessons from Cairo: How Small Scale Urban Initiatives can Improve a City” article. Follow the link below the text for the full article.

Cairo, like many cities, is deeply wounded by fragmentation and heterogeneity. It is a complex city with a broken public realm. And while policymakers use lack of money as an excuse for not making substantial improvements, money has no relation with innovation and creativity. Inexpensive, short-term actions can give people the confidence that something is taking place. coloring-cairo-2 

Imagine a city as an urban envelope made up of floors, walls, roofs, and dwellers. How can these simple components, with limited capacity, make change?

Some recent small-scale Egyptian urban initiatives, when compared with the government’s expensive plans, are powerful in drawing people into spaces. These following initiatives are good ‘urban acupunctures’ that might heal Cairo. 

Click here for the full article: http://thisbigcity.net/lessons-from-cairo-how-small-scale-urban-initiatives-can-improve-a-city/

Abdelbaseer A. Mohamed is an architect and urban planner. Mohamed received his MSc in Urban planning and Design from Ain Shams University, where he is currently working on his PhD. He is mainly interested in studying the influence of urban space on society adopting a configurational approach, space syntax. Mohamed is currently a Carnegie fellow at American University in Washington.

24 March 2015 / marouhhussein

The DNA of Cities

The following is an excerpt from Abdelbaseer Mohamed’s “The DNA of Cities” article. Follow the link below the text for the full article.

cityDNA

 

The built environment is a product of socio-economic, cultural, and political forces. Every urban system has its own ‘genetic code’, expressed in architectural and spatial forms that reflect a community’s values and identity. Each community chooses certain physical characteristics, producing the unique character of its city. This ‘communal eye’ exemplifies the city’s architectural legacy and gives a sense of place.

For example, in old Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, unique buildings decorated with geometric patterns create a distinctive visual character unique to the city (pictured above). Another example is Egypt’s Nubian village (below) where the building materials and colors are unique and reflect the vernacular architecture of the region.

However, current architectural practices, in almost every city in the world, do not respect the past identities and traditions of our cities. Most projects bear little or no relationship to neither the surrounding urban context nor the city’s genetic code. Architects only follow international architectural movements such as “Modern architecture”, “Postmodernism”, “High-Technology”, and “Deconstructionism”. The result is a fragmented and discontinuous dialogue among buildings, destroying a city’s communal memory.

Street art and graffiti have been filling this gap, explaining the conflict between the traditional culture and contemporary sociopolitical issues of cities. Street artists are repurposing city walls to highlight heritage, history and identity and, in some cases, to humanize this struggle.

Click here for the full article: http://thisbigcity.net/the-dna-of-cities/

Abdelbaseer A. Mohamed is an architect and urban planner. Mohamed received his MSc in Urban planning and Design from Ain Shams University, where he is currently working on his PhD. He is mainly interested in studying the influence of urban space on society adopting a configurational approach, space syntax. Mohamed is currently a Carnegie fellow at American University in Washington.

17 March 2015 / marouhhussein

Giza 2030: From Deterioration to Gentrification?

The following is an excerpt from Abdelbaseer Mohamed’s “Giza 2030: From Deterioration to Gentrification?” article. Follow the link below the text for the full article.

 

giza

 

Blessed or cursed shall you be in a city. Although cities are exciting places where facilities and workplaces are usually available, living in a big city can have major disadvantages such as pollution, noise, and lack of safety. In Egypt, countless studies have outlined local issues and visions for our urban future. Such studies, which cost the state millions of pounds, are gathering dust in the drawers of governmental institutions. A closer look shows that it is a blessing that the schemes and projects of the proposed visions did not see the light of the day.

A major example of that is the Giza 2030 strategic plan that the Egyptian government proposed in 2008 as a vision for the city’s future. In a 185-slide PowerPoint presentation, the General Organization for Physical Planning (GOPP) showed some extremely ambitious projects. According to the GOPP, the vision for Giza is to become the most unique city in the world, transformed to beautifully combine heritage and modernity within a time span of twenty years, and with no care about cost implications. The proposed scheme, in my view, is a good model for a camouflaged corruption.

In this vision for Giza, the future expansion of the city (2730 hectares) will be on an adjacent agricultural land, while islands on the river Nile (861 hectares) would be developed by private investors into private parks and residential zones. Moreover, there will be mega-projects such as Sphinx Village, Khufu plaza, new hotels, open museums, new green housing in addition to a forest of 294 hectares. There will also be rapid transit systems as well as a freeway of 75 meters (246 feet) width cutting through the heart of the city. That is not the whole story. There are also specialised hospitals, schools and other urban facilities planned. All poor areas are to be removed and the city in general would be a paradise on earth. But what about social resistance?

Click here for the full article: http://thisbigcity.net/giza-2030-from-deterioration-to-gentrification/

Abdelbaseer A. Mohamed is an architect and urban planner. Mohamed received his MSc in Urban planning and Design from Ain Shams University, where he is currently working on his PhD. He is mainly interested in studying the influence of urban space on society adopting a configurational approach, space syntax. Mohamed is currently a Carnegie fellow at American University in Washington.

10 March 2015 / marouhhussein

Solar Cities: A Greener Cairo

Photo credit: Banan Abdelrahman

Photo credit: Banan Abdelrahman

With its nearly 20 million inhabitants, Cairo, can seem to be lacking any aspect of a green city–but for those looking hard, the green shoots of sustainability are everywhere.  In fact, dense, urban living is probably the best thing humans can do to make a more sustainable world and advance themselves economically.  Yet within those efforts lay lessons about the challenges and opportunities of making Cairo a greener city.

The hustle and bustle of everyday life, along with high levels of extreme poverty, often discourages people from thinking green and taking positive initiatives, as they often struggle just to get by. According to the Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), poverty throughout Egypt is now at 26.3% and continues to increase. Due to the extraordinary levels of poverty across Egypt, many people have been forced to find ways to make a living in fast, inexpensive means, often at a cost to long term health and environmental conditions. An example of this can be found in the neighborhood of Manshiet Nasr in Cairo. Its original inhabitants known as the “Zabaleen” (garbage pickers) have as part of their entrepreneurial strategy, incorporated into their neighborhood a variety of different kinds of compost, recycling materials, garbage, etc. in order to make a living. The items are collected from across Cairo and used to create unique inventions in their homes that they can sell or to burn for gas because the neighborhood is not connected to Cairo’s gas network.  While this has clear long term health and environmental repercussions, it should be pointed out that numerous studies have shown the result of this system is one of the most efficient, and lowest-waste systems in the world.

Despite the bleak health and living conditions in Manshiet Nasr, one organization, Solar Cities, is working to improve living conditions. In 2012, native resident of Manshiet Nasr, Hanna Fathy, worked with her partner and social entrepreneur, Thomas Culhane, to develop solar heaters for the neighborhood’s residents. Solar heating systems use energy collected from the sun to produce heating and hot water for use in residential, commercial and industrial facilities. Solar heating systems are commonly found in developed urban and suburban areas but can be difficult to find in areas like Manshiet Nasr and other poor, neglected urban areas. Beginning with a single solar heating system, Solar Cities has gone on to obtain funding for 13 more solar heaters throughout Manshiet Nasr and Darb-al-Ahmar, another poor urban area in Cairo.

Photo credit: Banan Abdelrahman

Photo credit: Banan Abdelrahman

Unfortunately, as worthy as the work of Solar Cities has been, solar heating has not gained many supporters in other poor urban areas for several reasons. The first and most common reason is because of start-up costs. On average it costs $3,500 Egyptian Pounds ($650 USD) for one system. For the majority of Cairo urban inhabitants, this is an extremely unreasonable and expensive cost. Other reasons include the fear of change and misconceptions about the effects of having a solar heater in the home. Due to the rarity of solar heaters in the Cairo’s poor areas, many fear that using solar energy for heat could cause diseases and other negative consequences for those living in the home. Many of the inhabitants of Manshiet Nasr were not familiar or educated about solar heaters and rejected the idea because of the “unknown.”

It is easy to say that sustainable projects like solar heaters are imperative to properly redeveloping poor urban areas throughout Cairo, however, it is important to consider several factors when doing so. The majority of Egyptians living in poor urban areas have not been educated about the benefits of innovations such as this, and do not have the financial means to support new innovations for their community and home. Due to these factors, there are a series of necessary steps that must be taken when promoting sustainable projects in Cairo’s poor urban areas:

  • Affordable or even free options must be available for poor inhabitants;
  • Residents must be educated about the advantages of adding and/or developing new sustainable innovations;
  • Residents should be involved in the creation or implementation of projects, for example building solar heaters, or other sustainable options for them;
  • Residents need other incentives to support sustainable changes, such as income generation.

“Green economy is the best means to attract more investment and create more job opportunities. Many developed and developing countries set a good example,” said Helmi Abul-Eish, chairman of the Egyptian National Competitiveness Council (ENCC). Unfortunately, supporting an economy that aims for sustainable development without degrading the environment has not become a priority of how projects are conceived or implemented in Egypt. Egypt must start looking for modern sustainable innovations when developing, especially in poor urban societies.  Not only will this avoid future health, environment and physical issues, but it can also be cost efficient.

 

Sarah Elbery is a recent graduate of Rutgers University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Planning & Public Policy and Middle Eastern Studies. She is currently an MPA candidate at Rutgers University with a concentration in International and Regional Development. 

4 March 2015 / marouhhussein

Sidewalk Salon: 1001 Street Chairs of Cairo

sidewalksalon1Beneath the headlines of political unrest, economic struggles and ad hoc urban growth, Manar Moursi and David Puig have found a unique way to display life in Cairo. Over the past 3 years Moursi and Puig have traveled across Cairo collecting over 1000 Polaroid images of street chairs. Capturing chairs in neighborhoods as diverse as Shubra El Kheima, Khalifa and New Cairo, the duo has compiled the photos into Sidewalk Salon: 1001 Street Chairs of Cairo; the book seeks to present the creative practices of design that occur on sidewalks along with the unplanned interventions in public space that give Cairo its distinctive character. The result is an intimate portrayal of Cairo’s space and people. sidewalksalon2

The project is primarily visual but also includes interviews with select street chair owners and fictional pieces of poetry and literature inspired by street chairs. Contributing authors include Yasser Abd El Latif, Taher al Sharqawy, Maged Zaher, Mohamed Al Fakhrani and Amira Hanafy.

Sidewalk Salon will be available for purchase in Summer 2015. In order to raise money for printing costs 1001 Chairs is running a 40-day Indiegogo Campaign starting February 24th. To contribute to the campaign, click here.sidewalksalon3

For more information about 1001 Chairs of Cairo, you can visit their website http://www.sidewalksaloncairo.com/.

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