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4 August 2015 / marouhhussein

[BOOK REVIEW] On Sims’s Egypt’s Desert Dreams: How will Egyptians Dream after 2011?

January 25, 2011 inaugurated a revolution in Egypt not only against the past regime’s 30 years of Emergency Law but also against a military-mindset legacy that dictated social and economic development policy for over 60 years. Starting with the post-colonial dream to build a socialist republic and an equitable economy under Nasser upon the Egyptian Revolution of 1952, and continuing with the liberal and neoliberal political and economic landscapes under Sadat and Mubarak, respectively, a major tenet of Egypt’s legacy has been colonizing the desert as the new frontier of development outside Egypt’s old Nile Valley. The evident spatial outcome of this dream has been vast and sporadic urbanization in the publicly-owned, tabula rasa space of Egypt’s desert against “an ecological-demographic narrative of crisis” in the Valley (65).

Fig. 1 Is the new Capital City project a zone that “render[s] urbanism as a service industry?” [Image source: The Capital Cairo, 2015; read more about zones and extrastatecraft from Keller Easterling in Places Journal, 2014]

Fig. 1 Is the new Capital City project a zone that “render[s] urbanism as a service industry?” [Image source: The Capital Cairo, 2015; read more about zones and extrastatecraft from Keller Easterling in Places Journal, 2014]

In his new book Egypt’s Desert Dreams: Development or Disaster? (AUC Press, 2014), David Sims scrupulously illustrates the many, mostly unsuccessful and unproductive processes of colonizing and developing the desert. He argues that over half a century of envisioning Egypt’s desert as the Promised Land has resulted in a process that is socially, economically and technically unstable and that has disregarded the socio-ecological history and complexity of the Nile Valley (see Figure 1). In return, Sims invites concerned stakeholders to quit on such “megafantasies” (52) and an “Egyptian Dream” (63) that is unbeneficial to a majority of Egyptians (youth graduates, unemployed labor, low-income groups), and he instead poses a series of questions about viable strategies and policies for social, economic, and environmental justice in post-revolution Egypt.

Sims’s long and hands-on planning experience in Egypt is insightful. His book connects different dimensions of social and economic development to spatial expansion policies and practices in the desert: Western, Eastern, and Sinai. It thoroughly and lucidly details how these expansion projects within the sectors of agriculture, urbanization, industry, mining, and tourism negatively affect the desert landscape (incomplete/unsustainable reclamation), public funds (inefficiency, redundancy, and corruption), and future possibilities (non-renewable resources, opportunity lost). The book is a valuable resource as a study that compiles available and accessible statistical data, cartographic and aerial imagery sets, government pronouncements and popular media analysis on the subject. Sims masters a logical and political sense out of the numbers and statistics relevant to objectives of social, economic, and environmental justice. A useful complimentary to this work is Sims’s earlier book Understanding Cairo: The Logic of a City out of Control (AUC Press, 2012).

Fig. 2 “It’s just a bunch of crazy figures,” [Sims] says of the plans for Egypt's new capital. “I think it’s just desperation. It will be interesting to see if anything comes of it, but I rather doubt it.” [Image source: SOM, 2015; read the full feature in Guardian Cities]

Fig. 2 “It’s just a bunch of crazy figures,” [Sims] says of the plans for Egypt’s new capital. “I think it’s just desperation. It will be interesting to see if anything comes of it, but I rather doubt it.” [Image source: SOM, 2015; read the full feature in Guardian Cities]

The book’s policy-oriented approach reflects Sims’s methodology as a planner recognizing spatial urban expansion in the desert as a platform for national, multi-sectoral development. It also focuses on the institutional dimensions of the political economy of desert development where public policies facilitate entrepreneurial initiatives of individual citizens or private corporations, including some informal reclamation of land (wad’ al-yadd). Such a rigorous analysis of public policy and statecraft constitutes an impeccable platform for future research on the role and practices of civil society and citizens in negotiating and/or assimilating public policy, both as partners and/or targeted stakeholders.

In the same light, Sims’s work opens up avenues for a number of theoretical questions, such as: what about the failure of the Modernist nationalist project in Egypt, the notion of sovereignty and landed-citizens in a post-colonial geography, the rise and fall of the welfare state, socialist and post-socialist property relations, governance under Military and Emergency Law, and path-dependent development legacies? One important extension of this work would be a dual comparative perspective of Egypt’s desert dreams during the second half of the 20th century: one with oil-based desert development in East Asia and Africa, and another with security-based economic competition with the modern emergence of the state of Israel in the region.

Egypt’s Desert Dreams is a valuable and timely analysis of Egypt as a country and a nation-state, and of the status of planning and institutional governance in the Arab region. Most importantly. Sims’s main question “what is social justice to public land management” (277) remains an urgent priority for public policy in Egypt and the world.

Fig. 3 Aerial sections of Egypt’s Nile Valley and Delta show “rhizomatic” socio-ecological complexity of social, urban, technological and environmental networks that cannot be simply relocated to remote and disconnected desert areas [Image source: Google Earth, 2015 – compiled by author; read more on large complex urban systems by Anil Bawa-Cavia at Urbagram: Microplexes, 2010]

Fig. 3 Aerial sections of Egypt’s Nile Valley and Delta show “rhizomatic” socio-ecological complexity of social, urban, technological and environmental networks that cannot be simply relocated to remote and disconnected desert areas [Image source: Google Earth, 2015 – compiled by author; read more on large complex urban systems by Anil Bawa-Cavia at Urbagram: Microplexes, 2010]

Fadi Shayya is an urbanist and design strategist. He is editor of At the Edge of the City and advisor with Visualizing Palestine; he previously held senior positions with Dar Group and UN-ESCWA.

13 July 2015 / marouhhussein

The City- Whose Responsibility?

المدينة مسئولية…؟

أحمد برهام

مصمم معماري ممارس وباحث عمراني مستقل

مدينتي مسئوليتي” لفت نظري عنوان هذه الجلسة من جلسات المنتدى المصري الحضري الأول. كانت الجلسة في حديقة الازهر بالدراسة. في الطريق الى هناك وخلال طريق صلاح سالم المزدحم عند التقاطع مع شارع أحمد سعيد بدأ سائق التاكسي في الحديث عن وجهة نظره لحل هذا الاختناق المروري. كان يرى أن الحل يكمن في فصل حركة الذاهبين الى صلاح سالم عن الذاهبين الى نفق الازهر عن طريق شارع أخمد سعيد. بغض النظر عما إذا كان هذا الاقتراح قد ينجح ام لا فالشاهد هنا هو قوله بان من يمضي وقته كله سائقاً في الطرق المصرية قد يملك بعض الحلول الواقعية لمشاكل المرور والتي قد تغيب عن الكثير من المخططين.

وصلت الى الخيمة المقام بها الجلسة والتي تنظمها حملة “World Urban Campaign” أو الحملة الحضرية العالمية وهي منصة تدعو للشراكة من أجل المدن في القرن الحادي والعشرين. تهدف الحملة الى وضع جدول الأعمال الحضري على أعلى مستوى في سياسات التنمية. الحملة ينسقها موئل الأمم المتحدة ويقودها عدد كبير من الشركاء الملتزمين من مختلف أنحاء العالم. “أنا أغير المدينة” هو عنوان الدعوة للحملة الحضري العالمي حيث الهدف رفع مستوى الوعي حول التغير الحضري الإيجابي من خلال إشراك المواطنين في التعبير عن قضايا وحلول لتغيير المجتمعات الحضرية.

كان الهدف من هذه الجلسة هو إطلاق حملة محلية، من المتوقع أن يعلن عنها خلال الفاعليات الختامية للمنتدى، كجزء من الحملة العالمية. دارت النقاشات في سبيل الوصول لخارطة طريق تحدد معالم الحملة المحلية حول محورين أساسيين. أحدهما كان حول الفاعليات الممكنة لجذب المواطن للانخراط في القضايا العمرانية التي هو أهم طرف فيها.

خلال هذا السياق عرضت لتجربة سابقة كانت قد نظمتها مبادرة عمرانية تسمى”Cairo from Below القاهرة من الأساس” (الكاتب عضو مؤسس بها) وهي تنظيم مسابقة أفكار بعنوان مستقبلنا العمراني متاحة لغير المتخصصين لتقديم اقتراحات حلول حول المشاكل العمرانية التي تعاني منها المدينة. كانت المسابقة، والتي من المزمع إطلاق الجزء الثاني منها قريبا، تدور حول محاور أساسية منها البنية التحتية، المواصلات العامة، التراث المعماري والمساحة العامة. الملفت للنظر أن غالبية من شاركوا في هذه المسابقة كانوا من غير المتخصصين في مجال العمارة والتخطيط وكان المشاركات في تناولها لهذه المحاور تتراوح بين حلول رؤيوية على مستوى استراتيجي وبين حلول واقعية لمشاكل بعينها في أحياء بعينها.  تلك المسابقة وغيرها من الفاعليات المقترحة ليس هدفها فقط رفع مستوى وعي المواطن بالقضايا العمرانية وليس فقط اشراكه في عمليات اتخاذ القرار ولكن الاستفادة من خبراته التي اكتسبها ليس بالدراسة ولكن بالتعامل اليومي المُضّني مع المدينة.

وهذا يقودنا للمحور الاخر للنقاش في هذه الجلسة ألا وهو اسم الحملة حيث كان المقترح المبدئي هو “مدينتي مسئوليتي”. هذا الاسم أثار تساؤلات من نوع مدينة من؟ ومن هو المسئول عنها وأي نوع من المسئولية؟ فهل هي مدينة المواطن وهو المسئول عنها مما يعفي المسئول الحكومي عنها أم هي مدينة المصمم والمخطط وهو يتحمل كل المسئولية عنها أم تراها تكون مسئولية صانع القرار فهو في آخر الامر يعيش في هذه المدينة حتى ولو كان ذلك في مجتمعات مسورة على أطرافها.

ذهبت علّي أجد ما انشده من مشاركة فعلية للمواطن غير المتخصص. وبالفعل وجدت حضور جيد من فئات متعددة لا زال الغالب عليها المتخصصين من أجيال مختلفة ولكن الملفت وجود مواطنين غير متخصصين سواء كانت سيدة بسيطة من قرية مصرية أو رجل منخرط في مبادرات تنموية عديدة في قريته او حتى مواطنين متحمسين لعرض أفكارهم حتى وان كانوا غير منخرطين في أية مبادرات على الأرض. خلافاً لما توقعته ادلى المواطنين بآرائهم ولكني لم أرى مسئول حكومي أو صانع قرار واحد في الجلسة ليستمع لهم أو يناقشهم.

في طريق العودة إذ بي أجد سائق تاكسي آخر يناقشني حول اوتوبيسات النقل العام وهل كان من الاجدى ان تقترض الحكومة اتوبيسات جديدة من الدول الشقيقة ام كان من الافضل عمل صيانة دورية للأوتوبيسات القديمة حتى لا تبلى بل كان من الاجدى استغلال تكلفة الاتوبيسات الجديدة، والتي توقع أنها سوف تعامل نفس معاملة سابقاتها، في تجديد ورش الصيانة نفسها كحل أكثر استدامة. عند وصلنا مدينة نصر ذكر الترام الذي كان وكيف أن دول العالم تتجه نحو تقليل استخدام السيارات الخاصة ودعم المواصلات العامة فاذا بالحكومة بدون سابق انذار تنتزع بنية تحتية غالية الثمن لتحولها الى خردة بدعوى انشاء مترو سريع يربط مدينة نصر بالقاهرة الجديدة بدلا من صيانة عربات الترام القديمة بنفس الكلفة لتظل تربط مدينة نصر بمصر الجدية وحتى رمسيس. وتساءل هل تخصيص مكان الترام القديم كطريق خاص للأوتوبيسات العامة فعلا يعتبر حقيقة تحسين للأداء والخدمة أم هو حل قاصر ينتهي مفعوله بانتهاء الطريق على حدود مدينة نصر لينخرط الاتوبيس براكبيه مرة أخرى في زحام المدينة!

من الواضح أن المواطن يشعر فعلاً بمسئوليته تجاه مدينته لكن السؤال هو متى يستمع له صانع القرار شريكه في المسئولية ويأخذ وجهة نظره في الحسبان قبل المضي في تنفيذ قرارات لا طائل من ورائها يتراجع عنها في كثير من الأحيان والشواهد على ذلك كثيرة قد نتعرض لها في مقالات أخرى. كنت أرى في هذا المنتدى الفرصة لهذا اللقاء.

The City – Whose responsibility?

“My City, My responsibility” was a topic that attracted my attention during one of the sessions at the first ever Egyptian Urban Forum. The forum took place at Al-Azhar Park in El Darrasah. On the way there, while in a cab on the busy Salah Salem Street near its intersection with Ahmed Said Street, the driver began to tell me his solution to this intersection’s frequent traffic congestion. He thinks the solution is to separate the traffic of those drivers going to Salah Salem from those going to Azhar tunnel through Ahmed Said street. Regardless of whether the driver’s suggestion would work or not, what I took with me from this conversation is that perhaps the people who  spend all of their time on these streets could offer some new realistic solutions to traffic and other urban problems, that many planners may not think of.


Poster for Egypt’s first ever Urban Forum.

I arrived at the tent where the session – organized by the World Urban Campaign, a platform aimed at promoting collaboration among cities in the 21st century, – was taking place. The campaign also aims at giving the urban agenda a higher priority in development policies. The campaign is coordinated by the UN and led by a large number of stakeholders from all around the globe. The World Urban Campaign’s initiative titled “I’m a City changer,” was launched to promote awareness of positive urban change and to encourage citizen participation in expressing issues, as well as recommending solutions to issues in urban communities. As part of the global campaign, the goal of the session I attended was to launch a local campaign in Egypt, which is expected to be announced during the closing ceremony of the Forum. Discussions were held to create a road map that defines the local campaign through two main axes. One axis focused on possible methods of encouraging citizens, the most important stakeholders in urban development, to get involved in urban issues.

The World Urban Campaign's

The World Urban Campaign’s “I’m a City Changer” initiative aims to encourage civic participation in urban development.

During the session, a project by the urban initiative Cairo From Below was presented. The project titled “Our Urban Future” was an ideas competition for non-professionals to present design solutions to what they believed to be Cairo’s most pressing urban problem. The competition, of which the second phase is planned to be launched soon, revolves around main points such as infrastructure, public transportation, architectural heritage and public space. Remarkably, most of those who participated were non-professionals in the fields of architecture and planning and their submissions to address those points varied between expansive strategic visions and realistic solutions to very specific problems in specific neighborhoods. This competition and other similar ones suggest initiatives that seek not only to raise awareness on urban issues and involve citizens in policy making but also to utilize unique citizen expertise that cannot be gained through academia but only through daily interactions with the city.

Our Urban Futures - Ideas Competition Publication

Our Urban Futures – Ideas Competition Publication by Cairo from Below

This leads us to the other axis of discussions in this session, which is the name of the campaign: “My city, my responsibility”. This suggestion led to questions such as “Whose city?”; “Who’s responsible for it?”; “What kind of responsibility does this include?”. If it’s the citizens’ city and they are responsible for it, does this relieve government representatives from their responsibility or is it the designer’s and planners’ city and they are wholly responsible for it? Or is the city the responsibility of the policy maker’s who technically “lives” in it, even if it is in a gated community on its peripheries? I went to the Forum hoping to find true participation from the non-professional citizen. Indeed I found a remarkable audience of non-professionals, such as a simple lady from an Egyptian village and a man involved in multiple development initiatives in his village. Even enthusiastic citizens who are not currently involved in on the ground initiatives came to present their ideas. Unfortunately, I did not see a single government representative or policy maker present to listen to their ideas.

On my way home another taxi driver discussed the issue of public buses. The driver and I discussed a number of options. Would it be more effective for the government to borrow new buses from donor countries or is it better to regularly service the old buses to prevent their deterioration? Would it not have been even better to use the expenses for the new buses – which he expected to be treated like the old ones – to renew the service centers themselves as a more sustainable solution? Upon arrival in Nasr City he mentioned the old tram, commenting that most countries seek to decrease the usage of private cars and support public transportation. The Egyptian government had suddenly and without prior notice removed the tram, a valuable infrastructure, to transform it to scrap metal arguing that instead a fast metro is needed to connect Nasr City with New Cairo, instead of servicing and maintaining the old tram wagons to continue connecting Nasr City with Heliopolis and all the way to Ramses Square. He further questioned the transformation of the old tram path to exclusive lanes for public buses and whether this change was really an improvement in the system and service provision or  actually  a short-visioned solution which fails as soon as the road reaches the end of Nasr City and the bus again gets stuck in city traffic!

It is obvious that Cairo’s citizens feel a responsibility for their city but the question that remains is if policy makers will treat citizens as their partners in this responsibility and take their views into account before making decisions. Egypt’s first Urban Forum presented a preview as to what opportunities this type of partnership could present.

Ahmad Borham is a practicing design architect and a teaching assistant at the American University in Cairo and the Arab Academy of Science and Technology. He has a Masters of Science in environmental design titled Resilient Rules: Culture and Computation in Traditional Built Environments. He is co-director of the Cairo from Below initiative and co-founder of Madd Platform, which communicates with the public through local initiatives that pull together threads of ideas, proposals and willing expertise that all share the same participatory principles to form a pool for the implementation of actions on the ground. He also maintains the Drawing Parallels blog where he draws comparisons between urban conditions in Cairo and other cities in search for emergent patterns.

1 July 2015 / marouhhussein

From Seoul to Cairo: Public Space Projects and the Socially Sustainable City

The following is an excerpt from Abdelbaseer Mohamed’s “From Seoul to Cairo: Public Space Projects and the Socially Sustainable City” article. Follow the link below the text for the full article.

Cairo, a mega city, is facing a range of socio-economic, cultural and environmental problems. The city is a collection of separated socio-spatial patterns and diverse ideologies, with insufficient public realm to bring together different community groups. Privatization of the Nile waterfront as well as the lack of green urban spaces in Cairo (1.5 square meters per capita) highlight the urgent need for a project that encourages togetherness and adds to the urban assets of the city. So, how can we integrate different groups with one another? Or how can people be encouraged to cross their ‘borders’? Reading the history of some parts of the city as well as reviewing global best practice might reveal some opportunities.port-said-cairo-2

The Transformation of Port Said Street

Port Said Street, formerly Shari’ Al Khalij al Masri, was the canal that was ceremoniously opened during annual floods to allow river water to run through the city. It had connected the Nile with the Red Sea since ancient Egypt, pharaonic times. However, centuries of instability saw the canal closed, reopened and renamed. Despite this, the city grew significantly, encouraged by a range of factors including theKhalij canal itself as well as bridge construction. However, this growth was not experienced equally, with some districts neighbouring the canal remaining nearly uninhabited until the 18th century.

In the Mamluk period in 1744, this began to change, with patches of new communities rapidly starting to emerge. Pleasure boats were navigating the Khalij, like a little Venice today. Villas were constructed along the Khalij, with the view of water and gardens and the cool breeze starting to attract a large number of emirs, who established palaces on both sides of the Canal as places of summer residence. The Khalij as well as the Nasiri Canal supplemented each other in feeding the ponds and in irrigating gardens. And despite the presence of emirs, the Khalij became a corridor of leisure and entertainment not only for the upper class but also for the public.

Click here for the full article:

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.

15 May 2015 / marouhhussein

Utilizing Lost Space in Cairo

There are almost 70 flyovers in Cairo that have been built to alleviate the city’s chronic traffic problem. These structures are often strong physical barriers or giant holes that disrupt the overall continuity of the city’s physical form. Furthermore, most of the spaces under these elevated freeways and roadways are left underused, dirty, dark, ugly, unattractive, deteriorating and frightening. They become wasted outdoor spaces that are ignored and neglected . They also become in-between spaces or ‘non-places’ that divide territories within the city. But what if these spaces could work as unifying and integrating objects, rather than dividing waste land? How can we transform negative spaces, devoid of life, in Cairo into fun, safe places open to all?

Flyover in Cairo. Source: Marwan Abdel Rahman

Flyover in Cairo. Source: Marwan Abdel Rahman

Many neighborhoods in Cairo are characterized by a lack of public amenities and space. For these neighborhoods under-bridge spaces offer a precious opportunity for local communities. Instead of being used for criminal activity or outdoor landfills, these dead spaces can be transformed into fantastic venues for various community facilities and outdoors activities such as pop-up libraries, public events, art galleries, canteens, and recreation. These kinds of anti-territorial projects could work as entertainment hubs and provide an inviting place where different groups of people can interact with one another. Imagine another kind of Cairo, a city whose physical environmental helps locals and passers-by to engage in open for cultural and social functions.

Empty and underused spaces under bridges in Cairo. Source: author

Empty and underused spaces under bridges in Cairo. Source: author

Empty and underused spaces under bridges in Cairo. Source: author

Empty and underused spaces under bridges in Cairo. Source: author

There are many already existing urban initiatives that aim to improve the landscape and townscape of Cairo. Cluster’s Cairo Downtown Passages aims to redesign underused downtown passageways, while the Coloring a Gray City campaign was launched to add brightness and color to Cairo’s staircases and walls. I believe it is time to launch an ‘Under Bridge’ initiative to utilize areas beneath flyovers.

A prime example of the potential for actively using areas under bridges can be seen in Caracas, Venezuela where books are being sold under the Av Fuerzas Armadas flyover. The space under the bridge has become a hangout spot for many people and provides a space for recreation, including public games of chess.

The street chess players under the bridge on Fuerzas Armadas avenue. Source:

The street chess players under the bridge on
Fuerzas Armadas avenue. Source:

The second hand book market under Av Fuerzas Armadas. Source:

The second hand book market under Av Fuerzas Armadas. Source:

Another iconic example of action is Burnside Skate Park in Portland, Oregon, USA. The park is located under the Burnside Bridge on the east side of the Willamette River. Even though the skatepark was built by skaters without permission, the idea has inspired similar action in under bridge areas in many American cities.

More examples of successful under-bridge projects can be seen around the world from Toronto, to Slovakia , London, Wisconsin, Zaanstad and more.

Burnside Skate Park. Source: Rufus Kevin Guy via Flickr

Burnside Skate Park. Source: Rufus Kevin Guy via Flickr

Southbank skate park under Hungerford Bridge, London. Source:

Southbank skate park under Hungerford Bridge, London. Source:

The transformation of these neglected areas won’t happen overnight. In order to redesign lost spaces in Cairo, the government must first conduct a thorough study of the usability of outdoor spaces, especially the wasteland beneath overpasses. Reclaiming these lost spaces will add thousands of square meters of valuable land for the benefit of cultural, economic and social projects. If designed properly, these urban spaces could provide a unifying framework to challenge the fragmented form of modern Cairo. Lastly, involving local people in the urban transformation process of these forgotten spaces will be key to creating popular public spaces that will be utilized and cared for by the surrounding residents.

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.

7 May 2015 / marouhhussein

The State of Solar in Egypt

Come 7:00 A.M., more than 3,000 men and women like, Engi Hassaan and Mariz Doss, will tumble out of their apartments to jog atop the concrete of Cairo. They rise early to dodge the city’s 22 million residents, the four million automobiles and their one-hour commutes, and the insidious “black cloud” of carcinogenic smog that hangs over the city every autumn. They run to escape the craziness of Cairo, a capital city nearing its expiration date, where hyper-urbanization has consigned some 20 to 40 percent of Greater Cairo to cheap white bread and broken sewer pipes. But look up! The sun, that orb that bakes rural Egypt and generates the fearsome khamaseen wind, has come to save Cairo.

Imagine if the satellites that cover Cairo's rooftops were replaced with solar. Source: Wikicommons

Imagine if the satellites that cover Cairo’s rooftops were replaced with solar. Source: Wikicommons

In April 2014, the Egyptian government pledged $1 billion USD to develop several nationwide solar power projects. The vow came just two months after former electricity minister Ahmed Emam announced that the country planned to increase its share of renewable energy to 20 percent by 2020. Along with a generous feed-in tariff announced in September, Egypt intends to procure 4,300 megawatts of renewable energy. If all goes as planned, Egypt will be following many other countries, such as the United States, Sweden and France, on the road to making renewable energy more available. Six months later, the government of Egypt shook hands with SkyPower Global and International Gulf Development for a $5 billion investment to create 3,000 megawatts of utility-scale solar projects. The project aims to create 75,000 jobs and put a dent in the country’s 13.4 percent unemployment rate. The partnership was signed at the Economic Development Conference held at Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh resort in March 2015. Delegates representing more than 112 countries attended the conference, where Egypt played its cards to attract some $60 billion in foreign investment. By the third day of the conference, Egypt’s Minister of Investment, Ashraf Salman, could boast that the country had procured $38.2 billion in signed agreements. By the conclusion, Egypt had raked in $92 billion in Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs). About 24 percent of that went to the electricity and power generation sector. Egypt’s Economic Development Conference was part of a greater plan released by the Egypt Solar Industry Association (Egypt-SIA) in March 2015 titled, ” Egypt’s Solar Energy Market – FiT Program and Beyond 2015.” Masdar, SkyPower Global, ACWA Power, Terra Sola and 174 more, flew like eager flies to Egypt’s honey-dripping promises of feed-in tariffs and

A solar panel in Marla, Cirque de Mafate, Réunion. Source: Wikicommons

A solar panel in Marla, Cirque de Mafate, Réunion. Source: Wikicommons

merchant IPP schemes. The first round of accepted projects will generate 20 megawatts, almost one-tenth of the 2,300 megawatts of solar power that Egypt hopes to develop by 2017. A few of the investments are large-scale public works projects and giant photovoltaic solar farms connected to Cairo’s electrical grid, such as Terra Solar’s 800-megawatt “solar park.” Other projects will contribute through smaller solar arrays, technical research, manufacturing and training. Some organizations, however, have chosen to work outside of Egypt-SIA’s FiT program. A grassroots example is Solar Cities, which installs solar hot water heaters in the neighborhood of Manshiet Nasr. Additionally, The National Bank of Egypt and Banque Misr both plan to finance rooftop solar systems by providing loans with 4-8 percent interest rates. Rooftop solar units will help wean the country off its overworked grid that has become increasingly dependent on natural gas. The failure of that grid is felt the worst in the slums of Greater Cairo. The natural gas burned to sustain that grid has dirtied the Cairo atmosphere with air pollution that some experts liken to smoking a pack of cigarettes daily. Egypt’s budding love affair with solar power could lift the country off its reliance on non-renewable and polluting energy sources, as well as ignite interest in other Middle East countries, particularly the Gulf States. If successful, Egypt could be leading a new type of photosynthesis, where the country basks in sunlight collected by PV parks, and in turn its poor neighborhoods blossom like lotus flowers.

Maria Ramos is a freelance writer currently living in Chicago. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a minor in Communication. She blogs about environmentally friendly tips, technological advancements, and healthy, active lifestyles.

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.


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

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


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