Thursday, June 10, 2010

Even Cairo wants a Pedestrian-Friendly Downtown

Ah, Cairo. As a visitor who never had to get anywhere on my own, I loved the chaos of Cairo.

I can't imagine maneuvering through it on a daily basis.

The heart of Cairo is filled with lovely (decaying) buildings from the days when the city was built to be Paris on the Nile. Today those structures are largely crumbling, overlooking polluted streets jammed with cars.

Now plans appear to, maybe, be moving forward to re-imagine this part of the city (sometimes known as Khedival Cairo, for Khedive Ismail Pasha who was responsible for the planning and building frenzy that created it) as plans are being developed to make this a pedestrian-only zone in the future. . . perhaps far in the future.

The vision seems to favor a pedestrian district of hotels and restaurants that make full use of the remaining grand architecture, with government offices relocating out of the heart of the city. To accomplish this, planners envision building massive amounts of parking at the edges of the city and improving both transit service and the image of transit so people can move around the city without their cars. At the same time, developers appear to be eying opportunities in the area, which concerns those interested in preserving the historic architecture and as well as those concerned about displacing the many low-income renters who rely on the cheap housing available here.

All in all it’s a rather complicated idea – and one that seems to have been around for a few years now – so it will be interesting to see if this latest little burst of activity leads anywhere.

Egypt Today has a good piece on this, as does Al-Ahram Weekly. Almarsryalyoum has a number of articles on this, the most accessible of which is an editorial by architect Hisham Youssef.

I have very few photos of this portion of the city (remember, most of it isn’t very pedestrian-friendly), but there are a number of (not great, but adequate) photos on Flickr.

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