MEDIA ROUND-UP ON THE CITY – FEBRUARY 2015
“Ultras” supporters killed outside a Cairo Stadium:
On February 8, 2015, Zamalek football fans were killed in the main gate of the Air Force Stadium, a 4-metres-wide cage made of iron bars and barbed wire (in order to control the crowd), while trying to enter the match between Zamalek and the ENPPI Club. It was the first time that supporters were allowed to attend a game since 72 fans of the other main football team in the country, al-Ahly, had been massacred at the end of a match in Port Said on 1 February 2012. Middle East Eyes report numerous testimonies stating that police men did not let them enter, beat them and shot teargas as well as birdshot pellets against them. In the panic many people fell and were crushed. Foreign Policy reports that according to researchers at the Egyptian Council for Rights and Freedoms who were present at Cairo’s main morgue, between 20 and 30 people died in the rush while in its side, Forensic Department spokesperson Hesham Abdel Hamid said that there was 19 killed that died from “injuries sustained in a stampede”.
Mada Masr notice that contradictory stories have been heard on the matter of what cause these deaths. The Interior Ministry’s official narrative is that clashes erupted when security forces dispersed “Ultra White Knights” (Zamalek team’s hardcore fan club) that attempted to enter the stadium without tickets to the match while, on the other side, the supporter accused Zamalek Club chairman Mortada Mansour of orchestrating the violence by buying all the tickets before the game in coordination with the Interior Ministry. Mansour denied those accusations blaming the Ultras and their will to create turmoil ahead of the parliamentary elections.
Orient XXI looks back at the history of those groups of supporters that emerged in 2007 and put into perspective the event with the context of generalized repression in Egypt since the “Ultras” worry the power and symbolize both an “organized and combative forces” and a “transgressive culture” against corruption, the police and promoting liberty and the rejection of any form of authority. The author’s view is that this last event is, among others things, an illustration of violence banalization in the country and of the militarization of public space.
A new face for Tahrir Square:
January 31, 2015 Egypt’s Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb has inaugurated downtown’s new parking lot, located alongside Tahrir Square.The four-storey parking is able to accommodate 1,700 cars and 24 tourist buses and is claimed, according to a cabinet statement reported by Egyptian Streets, to provide a service of 21 minibuses to transport “locals and tourists to different areas within downtown Cairo”. The media also adds that the new garage is the first stage of Tahrir Square’s vicinity redevelopment project aimed at boosting tourism and improving traffic in Cairo.
The inauguration has also seen the erection, after weeks of digging (pictures here), of a huge pole carrying the Egyptian flag in place of the monument to “the martyrs” of the Revolution of January 25, 2011 that was removed on January 16, 2015. Aswat Masriya shares an opinion paper on the matter which views it as the latest attempt by authorities to define the narrative in a square where hundreds of thousands of Egyptians staged protests” and which has a long history of political struggle. The previous monument erected at the center of the Square on November 2013, few weeks before the second anniversary of Mohamed Mahmoud street deadly protests, also was a controversial subject and Egypt’s government was accused of rewriting history by building it.
17 new governors appointed
On February 17, 2015, seventeen new governors have been sworn-in by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi after he approved the new governors’ reshuffle proposed by Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab on February 5, 2015. The reshuffle concerns the provinces of Alexandria, Giza, Luxor, Ismailia, Kafr al-Sheikh, Mounifeya, Beheira, Daqahliya, Gharbeya, Sharqeya, Damietta, Assiut, Fayoum, Beni Suef, Sohag, Matruh and Port Said while the remaining ten governors stay in their positions. EgyptSource on its article “Who Are Egypt’s New Governors?” profiles these new governors among whom several university professors, two judges, a former columnist, several government officials and “only” three generals – in contrast with typical practice whereby most of appointees have military backgrounds (see Media Round-up on the city from November 2014).
Parliamentary election: risk of local patronage politics?
In relation to the upcoming announced parliamentary elections for March and April 2015 (since postponed) Business Insider discuss the risk of local patronage politics and handouts to secure vote by Moubarak-era business men. Its article “Four years after Egypt uprising, patronage politics dominate again” focuses on the case of Sadat City (Northwest of Cairo), a “sprawling, industrial center filled with the young and unemployed”, and Ahmed Ezz, a potential candidate in the race for the electoral seat. The business man, who owns many factories in the city, is indeed reported to have given gifts such as blankets and fertilizer though his charity to vendors and shoppers in the market. His charity also supports a local private hospital that subsidizes health care to people who lives in his electoral district and are eligible to vote.
Planning and urbanization
Cairo’s metropolitan landscape: segregation extreme
Failed Architecture focus on the case of Cairo and how its urban growth patterns revealed a fragmented and heterogeneous city which can be seen as “a series of small islands isolated from one another by strong physical barriers (…) characterized by a fundamental lack of cohesion”. The article emphases on the failed planning of the city – with the development of Desert cities and segregated enclaves, the lack of “connectivity” and affordable housing – and the neoliberal economic policies have contributed to the rise of elite gated communities. In an article entitled “Improving Cairo for the Many, Not the Few« , City Lab also deals with the matter of urban inequalities within Cairo. Though an analysis of “Cairo 2050” – former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s urban vision for Cairo’s future – as well as the new Cairo Strategic Urban Development Vision, it critics government’s urban planning policies for the past 40 years that “have mainly been concerned with creating spaces and housing that cater to elites”.
This fragmentation of Cairo is also highlights by various covering of Cairo’s urban cases in the media. For instance Cairobserver published a case study entitles “A Compound in Common: The Case of “Little Duweiqa,” Haram City” that looks back at the fight of 231 families from the impoverished Duweiqa district of Cairo that decided to move into a gated-community of Haram City and to squat “liveable” homes there on August, 2010 and on February, 2011 (during the eighteen days leading to Hosni Mubarak’s fall). Completed in 2007, Haram city was part of Hosni Mubarak’s National Housing Initiative that was supposed to construct million homes between 2005 and 2010 and is majority owned and operated by Orascom Housing Communities. Angered by the fact that the publicly subsidized low-income housing were being sold to middle classes citizen, Duweiqa dwellers “joined families from all over central Cairo to claim several hundred flats”, and despite Egyptian Army intervention, they manage to remain in the city to this day “bringing an economy and urban condition unprecedented for gated spaces in Egypt”. Mada Masr in its Panorama “The fight for Ramlet Bulaq”, documents the conflict that has arisen since 1995 between Ramlet Bulaq dwellers and investors that ambition to build there towers that directly overlooked the Nile. Bulaq is a poor neighborhood of about 2,000 persons located in central Cairo along the Nile Corniche and in the vicinity of two of Egypt’s tallest tower. The Sustainable Cities Collective critically examines Giza 2030, the strategic plan that the Egyptian government proposed in 2008 that aimed to completely transform the area within a time span of twenty years “with no care about cost implications” or the government genuine capacity.
Sinai: the city of Rafah to be wit out of the map and 10 billion Egyptian Pounds to be used for the region development
On January 8, 2015, Egypt began doubling the width of a buffer zone along the border with the Gaza Strip in the hope that the no-go zone will disrupt smuggling and militant operations in the region. The expansion of the buffer, initially planned to be 500 meters wide generated in the process the evacuation of 1,220 homes. According to the Egyptian authorities, the buffer zone also requires the removal of the city of Rafah which causes, for Sinai activist Saeid Aateeq, a “communal trauma”. Egyptian authorities
On an article form February 2, 2015, the Global Post underlines “the scale and lack of prior notice, adequate compensation or provision of alternate housing for displaced families”.
In February 1, 2015 President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced that 10 billion Egyptian pounds will be used for development in the Sinai Peninsula. The statement comes days after three explosions occurred in the North Sinai-town of al-Arish on the night of the January 29, 2015 while others coordinated attacks have targeted the Egyptian army across the area. At least twenty-five soldiers were killed and 40 people injured.
Energy: Egypt to develop nuclear power plant near Daba city
On the occasion of Russian President Vladimir Putin state visit in Egypt beginning of February, 2015 Egypt and Russia concluded a preliminary agreement on the construction of the first nuclear power plant in Egypt on the North Coast. The construction of the facility will result in the moving of Daba city residents into a new Daba city. According to chief of staff of the Engineering Authority of the Armed Forces Kamel al-Wazir, the new city will include 1,500 Bedouin houses, constructed by the armed forces, on 2,380 acres with a cost of LE1 billion and that the completion of the buildings, roads and all the facilities will be finished after six months.
Transportation and Mobility
Reactivation of plan devises to stop train in the outskirt of Cairo Center instead of Ramses Square
Egypt Independent reports that ahead of the Economic Conference, the government is reactivating a plan devised in 2009 to turn the central Cairo train station exclusive for luxury trains and build other terminals for second class trains, for instance in Monib and Shubra al-Kheima for the trains coming from Upper Egypt, Giza and the Delta. The plan aims to reduce congestion on Ramses Square in particular and Greater Cairo in general but as David Sims notes in his reference book on Cairo untitled Understanding Cairo. The logic of a city out of control (AUC Press, 2010) such measure “would actually increase overall movements and would, in addition, cause considerable inconvenience to passengers” (p247).
Governmental road-building project jeopardizes ancient Coptic monastery
The Monastery of St. Macarius from the 4th century, as well as its cemetery form the 10th century and the remains of a pharaonic temple are jeopardized by the construction of a governmental road-building project in the Fayoum oasis, 100km South-West of Cairo. The path of the road was approved in 2012 while the Muslim Brotherhood was in power, and connects the city of Fayoum, a Muslim Brotehrhood stronghold, to the oasis in the south-western desert. Despite the monks and the Ministry of Antiquities opposition, the construction continues with the new government. Head of the Coptic and Islamic Monuments Department at the Antiquities Ministry Mohamed Abdel Latif announced that on February 28, 2015 that “an ad hoc committee of specialists” was dispatched to the monastery in order to prepare and submit a report on the eligibility of adding the site to Egypt’s Coptic Heritage List, and consequently prevent the governmental road-building project.
Reopening of Tahrir Square Metro station: follow-up
On January 2015, the State Council has recommended the reopening of Tahrir Square Metro Station (See Media Round-up on the City from December 2014 and January 2015). Beginning of February 2015, the Head of the transportation police, Major Gen. El-Sayed Gad confirmed that Sadat station is going to reopen soon but without further precisions on the reopening date.
Cycling: new bike lines…. used as parking spot
Egyptian Street notices that for the first time, Egypt has introduced bike lanes in certain areas of Cairo and bike lanes have been spotted in Maadi and on roads leading to Nasr City and New Cairo. Those lanes promote cycling by providing safer travel however, better regulation is also needed since many reported that the bike lanes were already being used as parking spots.
Mobile app warns Egyptians bombs-related traffic chaos
Meanwhile as regards traffic problems, the mobile travel app « Bey2ollak » (« It’s being said »), uses now the hashtag #WhereIsTheBomb to warn the users about roadside bombs and the traffic chaos they caused in Cairo and Alexandria while small-scale blasts and attacks have indeed become increasingly common in cities.