Much of the informal housing around the identified by an aesthetic that is often seen as unsightly and uncontrolled, as it is one of constant change and pure utility in many cases. And yet, in the eyes of many, particularly those who hold power, these neighborhoods often represent areas that need to be "controlled". Some recent efforts in Cairo highlight the differences in two approaches. One approach highlighted is in this article from the New York Times, where President Sisi is wanting all buildings along the way to the pyramids to be painted, so they will look better from the main road, with the expectation that buildings owners would pay for it.
When I drove along the road to the pyramids many years ago, I was astounded by the scale and pace of the farmland being converted into housing, much of it unregulated in Giza. And yet, in the midst of it, people have already been using paint to stake their claim and identify their spaces in these new buildings.
The other approach highlighted is an expansive mural painted on buildings in Manshiet Nasser, a neighborhood in Cairo, where residents collect and process much of city's garbage. They actually use their houses to store and process the garbage. And while the mural is certainly a very superficial aesthetic improvement (and only works when viewed from one particular spot-see below), this article highlights the fact that the relationships that the artists developed during the process of painting may have been more significant than the resulting piece of art. And in many ways, this highlights the very nature of the informal settlements- that they are constantly in the process of change and never a finished product.
I had the fortune of visiting this extraordinary neighborhood in 2008 and was able to take a photo from the same spot from which the mural was to be viewed. I love being able to see how transformations have taken place over time. With that said, I was a little surprised that these buildings had not grown more during the 10 year span. But maybe I shouldn't be, given the discrimination and tragedies that have struck this neighborhood during that time.
Picture I took from same spot in 2008