Quotes: MENA   Enter Symbol: NewsLetter: Search: advanced

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

MENAFN - Arab News - 27/01/2014
No. of Ratings : 0
Add to Mixx!



(MENAFN -Arab News) 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 neighbors 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 Qur'anic verses and the Muslim holy city of Makkah

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 urbanized 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

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 neighbors 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 kms 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

A few meters 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.”


 


Arab News




  MENA News Headlines
 May 3 2015 - Tunisia says Jews safe after Netanyahu raises specterArab News
(MENAFN - Arab News) TUNIS: Tunisia said Sunday security measures have already been taken to protect Jewish pilgrims at a religious festival next week on the island of Djerba after Israel warned of ...

 May 3 2015 - US air attacks hit 19 Islamic State targetsArab News
(MENAFN - Arab News) WASHINGTON: The United States and its allies staged 19 strikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria in a 24-hour period ending Saturday the Combined Joint Task Force said ...

 May 3 2015 - Syrian air raid near school kills 4 childrenArab News
(MENAFN - Arab News) BEIRUT: Syrian activists say a government airstrike near a school in the northern city of Aleppo has killed at least seven people including children. The Aleppo Media Center ...

 May 3 2015 - Ethiopian Israelis denounce police brutality discriminationArab News
(MENAFN - Arab News) TEL AVIV: Thousands of Ethiopian Israelis protested in central Tel Aviv on Sunday against police brutality and institutionalized discrimination an AFP correspondent said. The ...

 May 3 2015 - Carter laments 'intolerable' Gaza situationArab News
(MENAFN - Arab News) JERUSALEM: Former US President Jimmy Carter has said that eight months after a bloody war in the Gaza Strip the situation there remains 'intolerable.' Carter and his delegation ...

 May 3 2015 - Pleasant weather forecast over next three daysJordan News Agency
(MENAFN - Jordan News Agency) The weather on Sunday is expected to be pleasant in the hilly areas and moderate in other parts of the Kingdom with northwesterly moderate winds.According to the Jordan ...

 May 3 2015 - Israeli forces destroy hundreds of acres in NablusJordan News Agency
(MENAFN - Jordan News Agency) Israeli forces destroyed hundreds of acres of cultivated lands on Sunday in the Khirbet Al-Tawil area east of Nablus in the West Bank.Member of the Popular Committee ...

 May 3 2015 - WHO pushes the health diplomacy agenda forward in a fourth high level seminar in CairoJordan News Agency
(MENAFN - Jordan News Agency) The World Health Organization Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean Saturday started the fourth seminar on health diplomacy in Cairo, Egypt.The seminar is ...

 May 3 2015 - Israeli occupation forces hold military maneuvers in West BankJordan News Agency
(MENAFN - Jordan News Agency) Israeli occupation forces on Sunday started large military training and maneuvers in the northern West Bank.Israeli Radio said that these maneuvers which will last until ...

 May 3 2015 - 650 trucks with goods, construction materials enter GazaJordan News Agency
(MENAFN - Jordan News Agency) Some 650 trucks loaded with commercial goods and construction materials entered the Gaza Strip on Sunday as the Israeli occupation authorities reopened the Karam Abu ...

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

Islamic Finance News
Private Equity News

How-To Guides
Technology Section

Travel Section

Search News

Market Indices
Quotes & Charts

Global Indices
Arab Indices

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
Economic Calendar
Financial Glossary


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


 
© 2014 menafn.com All Rights Reserved.  Terms of Service | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | Advertise | About MENAFN | Career Opportunities | Feedback | Help