In lieu of posting a picture today, we direct our readers to this (new to us) website hosted by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, which has a treasure trove of photos, videos, old newspapers, etc. from Egypt. Unfortunately for our purposes, we haven’t figured out a way to “borrow” photos, as we had planned. Nonetheless it is definitely worth checking out.
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It is not often that TBE has occasion to praise the vision of the government. Someone call the Pointer Sisters, TBE is so excited. We think making downtown a pedestrian area is a capital idea, so much so that we aren’t averse to making cheap puns about it.
A couple caveats: We hope the redevelopment plan, when implemented, creates an open space accessible to all of Cairo’s residents. While we enjoy al-Azhar Park, we sometimes rue the fact that it is almost exclusively the preserve of foreigners, relatively well-to-do locals and groups of schoolchildren on field trips. We also hope that the new downtown is developed with an eye toward easing pollution, not just by banning cars but also through the creation of an “urban lung.”
As for the questions of whether the large sums that will be spent on redeveloping the area would be better spent on easing problems in more downtrodden areas than downtown, the answer is probably yes. That said, we see it as a more worthwhile use of funds than redoing the sidewalks in Zamalek and Garden City, to take a recent example. City or national governments are always going to spend money on prestige projects. This one at least has the potential to benefit all of Egypt’s citizens.
From al-Masry al-Youm’s Sunday, October 18 edition:
Later update: This version of the article delves into more detail about the proposed changes downtown and the process of demarcating Cairo’s borders.
Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif commissioned the Ministry of Housing, representative in the General Authority for Urban Planning, to prepare a comprehensive plan for the development of all Downtown Cairo. Knowledgeable sources said that the plan will be completed within three months, by means of a limited competition, to choose the international firm that will cooperate with an Egyptian firm.
Mustafa al-Madbouli, president of the Urban Planning Authority, said that the plan that he and the prime minister agree on will aim to re-develop downtown Cairo in its entirety. He pointed out that 8 international firms along with Egyptian partners have presented proposals to win the contract.
Al-Madbouli told al-Masri al-Youm, “ A comprehensive vision of the area will primarily rely on the transformation of downtown’s main streets into pedestrian areas, so that it becomes an area of open-air restaurants and spaces.”
He added, “Among the other proposals is to design the area’s prinicipal squares, such as Talaat Harb and Abdel Moneim Riad Squares, in a distinctive way, creating multi-story underground garages, so that most of the traffic remains underground.”
Al-Madbouli also said that the he has agreed to form a ministerial committee, including the Ministries of Housing, Local Development, Culture and the Ministry of State for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and Administrative Development, in addition to parliamentary representatives and some public personalities, to create a draft bill for a new law for the capital, which will determine the scope of the Egyptian capital.
Al-Madbouli said, “The Prime Minister asked the relevant ministries to determine the scope of the capital. The first step in creating a draft law to be presented in the coming session of parliament is to come to an initial agreement. And the first step in the process is demarcating the capital.