Monday, July 2, 2012

Cairo’s Informal Areas Between Urban Challenges and Hidden Potentials

by Regina Kipper and Marion Fischer (ed.)

Cairo is a chaotic megalopolis where life is characterized by extremes, both of tradition and of modernity. When people are asked what the city means to them, individual answers vary tremendously, depending on a person’s relationship to the place. Tourists, for example, or those who have not been there, may think of the pyramids, the pharaohs, the Nile, Islamic Cairo, or perhaps a generalized image of ‘the Orient.’ The responses of Cairenes, however, tend to describe aspects of their everyday lives, problems such as “traffic jams,” “pollution,” “noise,” or “crowdedness.” Today’s Cairo, like any city of comparable size, can be a frustrating place for both residents and visitors alike. But Cairo is also a place where people find many occasions to celebrate together, and where visitors are welcomed with sincere openness. In short, Cairo is a diverse city of stark contrasts.
The importance of Cairo, the capital of Egypt, is highlighted by the city’s several names—al-Qahirah (‘the Victorious’), Umm al-Dunia (‘Mother of the World’), or simply Masr (the Arabic name for the nation as a whole). Cairo is by far the largest city in the country, and its dominance is underlined by the fact that Alexandria, the second most populous city, is only one-third of the capital’s size.
According to the 2006 census, around a quarter of Egypt’s approximately 73 million inhabitants live in Cairo, amounting to nearly half the country’s urban population. Egypt’s other cities seem almost provincial by comparison.
It is not simply its physical size or the number of its inhabitants that account for Cairo’s status as Egypt’s principal city. The country’s economic and political life is also concentrated there. Most of Egyptian industry, as well as many jobs in the secondary (manufacturing) and tertiary (services) sectors, are located in the capital. In the past, this centralization of jobs has led to a massive migration of rural populations to Cairo in search of jobs and an improved living situation. In terms of investment and development, Egypt can be seen as a country of two speeds, with a huge gap between the fast-paced city and the much slower rural and peri-urban areas. Everything in Cairo is faster than in other parts of Egypt: the growth rate of the city, the traffic, and the pace of life in general.
Cairo is also a historic city. Among the earliest settlements along the Nile was Memphis, capital of the ancient, united pharaonic kingdom, southwest of the future location of Cairo. Although little remains of this site, much of its stone was reused to build what is today known as Islamic Cairo. Because of the vast urban sprawl of Greater Cairo, the city now reaches to the very feet of the pyramids. Egypt’s ancient heritage can be seen in various locations throughout the city, but air pollution frequently obscures the view of these large and most famous monuments. Islamic settlement in the area of Cairo can be dated to 643 AD and the foundation of Fustat. The city known as Cairo was founded in the 10th century, and the monuments of the Fatimid and Mameluk dynasties can be found in the area that once comprised this medieval quarter. In fact, Islamic Cairo is said to have the highest concentration of historical sites per square kilometer in the world:
in an area of three square kilometers there are 500 registered historic monuments. Although some of these are in very poor condition, there are initiatives aiming at the restoration of historical areas and buildings. These areas—with their numerous mosques, minarets, and mausoleums—are surpassingly beautiful.
Cairo is a tourist city, as well. Because of its many monuments and sites, it is among the most popular destinations in Egypt. The most frequently visited are the ancient pharaonic monuments, as well as the Egyptian Museum. The Khan al-Khalili souq (bazaar) is also very entertaining for tourists. Often, tourists combine a visit to Cairo with a vacation on the Red Sea, perhaps only staying in Cairo for a couple of days. As the trip may be fully organized, they rarely have free time to discover Cairo on their own and so leave the city with a very limited impression of it. Cairo, however, has far more to offer than the official tourist highlights.

Panorama of old Cairo Cairo's Slums The Age of Extremes

more about the Middle East:

Abadan: planning and architecture under the Anglo- Iranian Oil Company

Good Governance, (as promoting in decision-making process) and its influence on urban strategic plans

Urbanization and Natural Disasters in the Mediterranean Population Growth and Climate Change in the 21st Century Case Studies on Izmit, Algiers and Alexandria



Analyzing the State and Pattern of Urban Growth and City Planning in Amman Using Satellite Images and GIS

Revolutionary graffitis in the streets of Cairo, Egypt

The Middle Eastern Islamic City: Type and Morphology

No comments:

Post a Comment