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 townshipsOne 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
 Aug 22 2014 - Saudi - Agriculture sector advances 1.3Arab News
(MENAFN - Arab News) The Saudi stock market continued its positive movement and managed a fourth straight rise on Wednesday accumulating more than 56 points.The Tadawul All-Share Index (TASI) set out ...

 Aug 22 2014 - Hollande: France armed Syrian rebels 'a few months ago'Arab News
(MENAFN - Arab News) SAINT-PIERRE France: President Francois Hollande said on Thursday that France had delivered weapons to rebels battling the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad 'a few months ago.'The ...

 Aug 22 2014 - Europeans in push for new UN resolution on GazaArab News
(MENAFN - Arab News) UNITED NATIONS: Britain France and Germany have put forward key points of a new UN Security Council resolution on Gaza in a fresh bid to end six weeks of violence diplomats said ...

 Aug 22 2014 - Saudi - Woman kicked fined for trying to enter giraffe penArab News
(MENAFN - Arab News) MILWAUKEE: A California woman who got kicked in the face after trying to climb into the giraffe exhibit at a Madison zoo has paid a fine and apologized.Police say 24-year-old ...

 Aug 22 2014 - Ice Bucket Challenge injures firefighters in USArab News
(MENAFN - Arab News) WASHINGTON: Four US firefighters were injured two seriously Thursday as they were helping run a so-called Ice Bucket Challenge at a Kentucky university.'We express heartfelt ...

 Aug 22 2014 - Asian shares slip as China manufacturing data weighsArab News
(MENAFN - Arab News) HONG KONG: Asian markets mostly fell with downbeat Chinese manufacturing data dragging down Hong Kong and Shanghai as concerns grew about the pace of recovery in the world's ...

 Aug 22 2014 - Saudi - Street car cleaners in the capital feel the heatArab News
(MENAFN - Arab News) Authorities have stepped up the campaign against car cleaners operating illegally on the city's streets.Four Bangladeshis who had been scouring Riyadh's Al-Ahsa Road in search of ...

 Aug 22 2014 - Saudi - No Zamzam hassle for IndiansArab News
(MENAFN - Arab News) Indian pilgrims will no longer be troubled by having to pack cans of Zamzam water into their luggage when returning home after completing their Haj.As part of the arrangement ...

 Aug 22 2014 - Saudia urged to focus on domestic Umrah servicesArab News
(MENAFN - Arab News) Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) held a ceremony at the Jeddah Hilton on Wednesday to celebrate the achievements of its former director-general Khaled Al-Molhem in the presence of ...

 Aug 22 2014 - Saudi - Inspection of cafes in the offingArab News
(MENAFN - Arab News) The Jeddah Municipality plans to launch a campaign of inspection of coffee shops and Internet cafes in the next couple of days spokesman Abdulaziz Al-Ghamdi told Arab News. The ...

more...


 






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

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