Showing posts from June, 2008


Boulak Birdcages on top of houses Remnants Rooftop Living Garbage Storage Quite simply put, I was incredibly fascinated with the rooftops in Cairo . Because I was staying in a hotel that overlooked downtown Cairo , I had a great vantage point. This is where the image of the bomb comes into play. While we in the West seem to be more recently discovering the benefits that rooftops can provide, Cairenes have actively using their rooftops in everyway imaginable, except of course, as lush lawns of vegetation. They raise poultry on them. They store garbage. Goats graze. People live. After a while I began to notice that many of the rooftops were littered with debris. Finally, someone told me that during the avian bird flu, the military destroyed almost all the birdcages on top of buildings. Consequently, this destruction is clearly evident from above. The state can be extremely adept at controlling certain things, and while leaving many other things completely out of

Cairo. City of the Dead

Azhar Park, City of the Dead and Manshiet Nasser Backyard with the Tomb Typical Street. Because of the intense need of space, between 500,000 – 1,000,000 people have moved into Cairo ’s cemeteries, living in what were once tombs or in structures built originally for tomb caretakers. This is an extraordinary community, and many people now are paid by the owners of the tombs in which they are living to watch over them. While walking around one day, a young boy invited us into their home. There were three siblings and two parents living there. Water and electricity had been run to their home, which is not necessarily standard. The main living area was along the road, and in the back was where the tombs were located, most were now underground. Surreal.

Cairo. Quest for Space

Above the Ground Based on the ingenuity and criticalness by which Cairenes have taken to finding space in which to live, one would imagine that there just is not enough space for everyone. The unfortunate thing is that there is enough housing in this city. But, it is just not affordable. So, I guess there is really not much of a difference. David Sims, an urban planner and economist I met with, differentiates between speculative demand and utility demand. The crazy thing is that in new planned communities on the outside of Cairo , 75% of the housing units are EMPTY. People have bought units in the hopes that their son will get married and move into it, or that they will sell once the prices increase. This was reinforced as we drove through the planned community of Beverly Hills , and it seemed like a ghostland. New Vacant Housing The intense quest for space supports many amazing sights. To me, the first noticeable one was the balconies of apartments. Each one is tot

Cairo. Participatory Urbanism

Ezbet El Hagganon: Life under the voltage Informal Additions Cairo has been so difficult to get my head around. It’s got a little bit of everything. Much of the people have taken the city into their own hands, finding whatever room they can maneuver in to live. They are creating order out of chaos. Or chaos out of order. This is the real Cairo . And it extends out in all directions, as explosive growth (70-80% of it informal in last 15 years) has transformed lush agricultural land into vertical highrises of concrete and brick, never quite finished. But, to the east and west of Cairo , on the peripheries (both physically, socially, and economically), the new world of control, exclusion, and consumption is slowly taking shape. The need to escape the chaos of the city and find the order that has typically defined such places as suburban America is driving the upper class to communities by the names of Allegria, Beverly Hills , and Dreamland. Beverly Hills in the Desert

Cairo. Crazy

Downtown Cairo Buildings Continue to Grow Futbal in Boulak Giza. En Route to the Pyramids Zagazyg Al Dharb Al Ahmad Never Finished Twenty million people. The densest metropolitan area in the world. The crushing urbanity of Cairo and intense demand for space has created a city unlike any I have ever seen. The explosive growth of the city, with its deep historical roots, fertile land, corrupt beauracracies, and creativity of people has produced a city of constant, incredible, and powerful transformations. Grids of agricultural plots are replaced by the grids of concrete columns, beams and bricks. Tombs of the dead are replaced by homes of the alive. Rooftops are transformed into homes, birdcages, garbage storage, and a sea of satellite dishes. Sidewalks are turned into parking lots, streets are turned into sidewalks. Alleys are turned into soccer pitches. The desert is transformed into golf courses, private villas and shopping centers. A one bedroom apartment is tran