Quotes: US MENA   Enter Symbol: NewsLetter: Search: advanced

Egypt's 'terrace society' flourishes on Cairo rooftops  Join our daily free Newsletter

MENAFN - AFP - 26/01/2014

No. of Ratings : 0
Add to Mixx!


 


(MENAFN - AFP) On the roof of a once-grand apartment block overlooking Cairo's Tahrir Square, Shukri Mahmud's father built a humble shack, the din, congestion and worst of the notorious pollution in Africa's biggest metropolis eight floors below.

Mahmud's family and their neighbours are among tens, if not hundreds, of thousands in the burgeoning city that officials say holds at least 18 million people for whom finding affordable housing is a nightmare.

They form what best-selling author Alaa el-Aswany called Cairo's "terrace society," not a world of fashionable sidewalk cafes but a parallel world of rooftop dwellings.

In his 2002 novel "The Yacoubian Building", Aswany evokes the "voices, cries, laughter and coughing, doors shutting and opening, and the aroma of hot water, tea, coffee, charcoal and the muasal of shishas (sweetly flavoured tobacco of hubbly bubblies)."

Such is the world of the terrace society where the Mahmuds live, reached first by an antiquated wood-panelled elevator that opens on to a dark passageway that leads in turn to a maze of rusty iron staircases open to the sky above.

In some cases, as in The Yacoubian Building, poor migrants from the countryside took over small storerooms allocated to each apartment in a building, which were abandoned as better-off residents began moving out to the suburbs.

But Mahmud's father had been a bawab (doorkeeper) in their building and was given a plot on the roof where he could build.

"I was born here; I grew up here; I got married here," said Mahmud, 55, sitting in the living room, its green walls decorated with photographs of Koranic verses and the Muslim holy city of Mecca.

With a hint of nostalgia, he remembers generations of residents who once lived in the posh apartments below.

In those days, it was not just Egyptians, but also Greeks and Britons, especially during the days when Egypt was effectively a British protectorate.

Over the years, Mahmud has managed to accumulate some "modern conveniences."

"Each month I pay rent, electricity, water and telephone bills," he said.

This vertical growth has mushroomed in recent decades as the capital's population swelled and the state was unable to offer low-cost housing, says Roman Stadnicki, an analyst with Cairo-based CEDEJ, a French research institute.

"Unplanned constructions have become an urban norm in Egypt. Sixty-five percent of urbanised space in Cairo is unplanned," he said.

On the one hand, sprawling districts that are almost entirely unplanned and illegal have sprung up on the ground, while many people find shelter on rooftops, he said.

No takers for desert townships

One gets a feel of what it's like in the Mahmud's cramped kitchen, where wife Sayyida is busy preparing lunch for their two teenagers.

She joined her husband here when they married 30 years ago, and the couple can't imagine living anywhere else.

"Here, we all know each other; we understand each other. I don't think I could get used to new neighbours in an unfamiliar district," Mahmud said.

Years ago, in an effort to relieve the congestion, and make housing affordable, the government created townships in the middle of the desert outside Cairo.

But Mahmud says he couldn't afford to move 30 kilometres (19 miles) away from where he works. The daily commute to work in central Cairo would cost him a quarter of his wages.

The townships have failed to attract buyers, and Stadnickiy says they are "unanimously considered to be a failure".

There is also a paradox linked to the population explosion -- as many as 30-40 percent of housing units in Cairo and the townships lie vacant.

Either property owners have bought properties to speculate, while others are simply hesitant to let them out because of the difficulty of evicting unsavoury tenants and of raising rents.

'Where do we go?'

A few metres from Mahmud's apartment, hidden behind several satellite dishes and the winch-housings of old elevators, live Gamal Hashem and his brother.

The two, now in their sixties, moved here as teenagers, after their father, who was also a bawab in the building, was given his plot on the terrace.

"I am the one who built all this," said Gamal, pointing to the house, its plywood walls painted in white.

The house has a balcony, a spartan kitchen and a small living room with a television and a computer.

The wooden ceiling has rotted from years of humidity, and steady rain drops on this winter's day left puddles on the floor.

In another room, their important papers, books and clothes are piled on a bed, wrapped in waxed cloth.

Gamal used to run a small hotel, but says he got kicked out several years ago, a victim of "corruption" under the regime of former president Hosni Mubarak. The two of them are now unemployed and struggle to find odd jobs to keep them afloat.

But despite their hardships, the two brothers can't imagine staying anywhere else.

"Each time a new flat owner arrives, he wants us to leave, but where do we go," asked Gamal, who pays his rent regularly.

"The people I have met here and our relationships are more valuable than all the money in the world."


 






  MENA News Headlines
Apr 23 2014Omantel launches service package for youth ,MENAFN
(MENAFN) Omantel announced launching 'Ozone' plan, a new package designed especially for the youth. This comes with the company"s constant efforts to enhance the communication needs of its customers, ...

Apr 23 2014Dh154 billion for Arabtec projects ,Khaleej Times
(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Arabtec will spend dh140 billion on building one million low-cost houses in egypt and dh14 billion on five mixed-use residential projects in abu dhabi and dubai its chief ...

Apr 23 2014?Titli? makers excited about Cannes selection ,Khaleej Times
(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) The movie about the badlands of delhi?s dystopic underbelly will be in competition as part of the un certain regard section of the 67th cannes film gala to be held may ...

Apr 23 2014Saudi- Yaroub Bashraheel: In search of peace ... underwater ,Arab News
(MENAFN - Arab News) You've heard of diving snorkeling and other water activities but rarely has anyone heard of free-diving. it's a form of diving underwater without the aid of any breathing ...

Apr 23 2014Saudi- Schneider highlights intelligent health care solutions at forum ,Arab News
(MENAFN - Arab News) Schneider electric a global specialist in energy management is set to showcase its leadership in intelligent health care solutions at the second saudi forum for planning and ...

Apr 23 2014Saudi- Divorcees can seek housing ,Arab News
(MENAFN - Arab News) The kingdom will accept applications from saudi divorced women and widows for financial and housing support said justice minister muhammad al-issa.al-issa called on applicants ...

Apr 23 2014Saudi Savola Group revenue up 43 pct in Q1 ,MENAFN
(MENAFN) Saudi Arabia's Savola Group registered a 43 percent increase in profits in the first quarter, well over expectations of analysts, Arabian Business reported. According to a statement to ...

Apr 23 2014Saudi- New passport office opens at Red Sea Mall ,Arab News
(MENAFN - Arab News) The passport department has opened a new office for citizens and residents at the red sea mall.gen. abdul rahman bin abdullah al-tuwairki deputy director general of the ...

Apr 23 2014Tamouh steps up activity on projects ,Khaleej Times
(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Abu dhabi-based real-estate developer tamouh has scaled up construction activity on all of its announced reem island projects to meet the rising demand for prime spaces in ...

Apr 23 2014Here?s your chance to share screen space with SRK ,Khaleej Times
(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Groupon india has joined hands with srk?s red chillies entertainment to give fans a chance to feature with the superstar in his upcoming film ?happy new year?. if you ...

Apr 23 2014Local international companies come out in force ,Khaleej Times
(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Cityscape abu dhabi has started showing stronger interest from property developers who have showcased their upcoming projects. the three-day realty show was opened by ...

Apr 23 2014Dewa and GE explore collaboration opportunities ,Khaleej Times
(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Saeed mohammed al tayer managing director and chief executive officer of the dubai electricity and water authority (dewa) recently received a ge delegation to explore ...

Apr 23 2014Kowait- Police deportation powers curbed ,Arab Times
(MENAFN - Arab Times) Kuwait city april 3 (afp): kuwaiti police will no longer be able to deport expatriates without interior ministry approval under new rules published thursday after officers ...

Apr 23 2014Sale of Gate Towers penthouses launched ,Khaleej Times
(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Aldar properties has launched the sale of 21 exclusive duplex penthouse apartments at gate towers the penthouse collection in shams abu dhabi on al reem island. one of ...

Apr 23 2014Saudi- Noha Al-Sharif — an expert in Islamic sculpture ,Arab News
(MENAFN - Arab News) Saudi sculptress noha al-sharif is known for her islamic inspired sculptures that reflect both religion and lifestyle. the concept of modern art attracted her to this medium ...

Apr 23 2014Kowait- Amiri Diwan urges all off tape case ,Arab Times
(MENAFN - Arab Times)  kuwait city april 9 (agencies): the amiri diwan has called on everybody to steer clear of the controversial tape issue and let the public prosecution take the necessary ...

Apr 23 2014Saudi- ASUS showcases product series at Aramco Week ,Arab News
(MENAFN - Arab News) Asus described as the world's renowned consumer notebook vendor and producer of the 'world's best-selling motherboards" recently participated in aramco week and showcased a ...

Apr 23 2014Saudi- Five to die for 2003 attacks ,Arab News
(MENAFN - Arab News) A special criminal court on sunday convicted five people of terror related charges and sentenced them to death. thirty-seven others were sentenced to varying prison terms for ...

Apr 23 2014Qatar's Ezdan Holding buys 20 percent stake in Widam Food ,MENAFN
(MENAFN) Qatar-based Ezdan Holding Group said that it acquired a 20.16 percent stake in Widam Food Co. in a bid to promote investments and diversify its portfolio, The Peninsula Qatar ...

Apr 23 2014ADCB profit grows 26% in first quarter ,Khaleej Times
(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Abu dhabi commercial bank?s profit grew 26 per cent in the first quarter of the year to dh1. however net profit rose 22 per cent year-on-year. non-interest income was 24 ...

more...


 
Click to Apply






Google

 
 

Middle East North Africa - Financial Network

MENAFN News Market Data Countries Tools Section  
 

Middle East North Africa - Financial Network
Arabic MENAFN

Main News
News By Industry
News By Country
Marketwatch News
UPI News
Comtex News

IPO News
Islamic Finance News
Private Equity News

How-To Guides
Technology Section

Travel Section

Search News

Market Indices
Quotes & Charts

Global Indices
Arab Indices

US Markets Details

Commodoties

Oil & Energy

Currencies Cross Rates
Currencies Updates
Currency Converter

USA Stocks
Arab Stocks
 

Algeria 
Bahrain 
Egypt 
Iraq
Jordan 
Kuwait 
Lebanon
Morocco 
Oman 
Palestine
Qatar 
Saudi Arabia 
Syria
Tunisia 
UAE 
Yemen

Weather
Investment Game
Economic Calendar
Financial Glossary

My MENAFN
Portfolio Tracker

Voting

Financial Calculators

RSS Feeds [XML]

Corporate Monitor

Events

Real Estate
Submit Your Property

Arab Research
Buy a Research

Press Releases
Submit your PR

Join Newsletters


 
© 2000 menafn.com All Rights Reserved.  Terms of Service | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | Advertise | About MENAFN | Career Opportunities | Feedback | Help