Residents of Cairo’s working-class neighborhoods have watched as their homes, green spaces, archaeological sites, and beloved cultural spaces are wiped from the face of the city as part of the government’s modernize plan, The New York Times reported Saturday.
Ancient tombs and cemeteries are being leveled to make way for new developments and roadways. The banks of the Nile are overly peppered with fast food restaurants, cafés, and military-owned gas stations. Trees and public gardens have been razed, according to the Times, often with little consideration to the environmental consequences.
Per local accounts, some Cairo residents fear that new highways planned to alleviate congestion, along with newly built high-rise apartment buildings, will destroy much of the city’s history and displace those who have lived in Cairo for generations.
Darb 1718, a cultural center founded in 2007 by the artist Moataz Nasreldin and located in the eponymous neighborhood of Darb, is among the sites that may be destroyed.
District officials reportedly visited Dark 1718 and informed Nasreldin that the government would be widening the road behind his space to build an elevated highway. He would have to pack up and move, despite the lack of a written demolition order, or any paperwork at all for that matter, notwithstanding. So would the nearby, decades-old pottery workshops and neighboring housing units.
“Every day, you wake up and you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Mohamed Abdin, who owns one of the pottery workshops set for destruction and whose family has been making pottery in the area since the 1920s, told the Times.
The modernization plan includes the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, the construction of which saw working-class neighborhoods near Darb demolished, and the $59 billion new capital, which will be reachable via high-speed trains and framed by a network of pristine roads.
“If you were being invaded, all what you’d care about is your monuments, your trees, your history, your culture,” Mamdouh Sakr, an architect and urbanist, told the Times. “And now, it’s all being destroyed, without any reason, without any explanation, without any need.”