Members of the Egyptian security forces early Thursday dismantled a controversial "security" wall on Noubar Street, downtown Cairo, erected by the military on 6 February during fierce clashes between anti-government protesters and police. Residents reported seeing large cranes and trucks arrive at the area just past midnight. Demolition work began around 1am.
"We've had a lot of problems since it was built, so we hope that they will continue to take down other walls over the course of the week," says Arab Loutfi, a resident of Noubar Street. "The people in the area were even considering raising a lawsuit against the government because the walls have ruined the economy here."
The 12ft concrete barricade, which was fortified with iron rods, is one of six remaining barriers in the Tahrir Square area erected on the orders of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). Eight walls in total have been built since the end of last year.
The first was erected on 24 November on Mohamed Mahmoud Street, a few hours before Egypt's first round of parliamentary elections started, following a five-day battle between Egypt's security forces and demonstrators in the flashpoint area.
Similar barricades were then built on Qasr Al-Aini Street, Sheikh Rehan Street, Youssef El-Guindy Street, Fahmy Street, Mansour Street, El-Felaky and Noubar streets between November 2011 and February 2012, effectively walling in the Ministry of Interior and bringing the area to a standstill.
Local shop-owners and vendors told Ahram Online they had lost tens of thousands of Egyptian pounds in revenue, as traffic was diverted along the Nile Corniche, residents left and passersby avoided the flashpoint area.
"It cost us around three years worth of salary," Khalil, 27, a fruit seller on Felaky Street told Ahram Online, "Employees from the interior and health ministries used to walk by and buy things, and now they don’t because of the wall."
"Since the roads have been blocked off, one company on my street hasn't been able to open and the shops can't function properly," Loutfi added. "Our neighbours are forced to live here as they have been unable to sell their flats because people do not want to live under this level of control. There are empty apartments because people just left."
After the barriers were erected, tanks and Central Security Forces trucks have been permanently stationed in the restricted and heavily populated area, making an unsettling environment for locals.
Loutfi described passing through checkpoints on a daily basis and how taxis and delivery vans will not travel to the area.
"Our street, which was usually very quiet, has been full of tanks and armoured vehicles since February. The police and army sit on the streets, eat their food and wash their cars. It's like living in a military camp."
Earlier this year, local street artists painted peaceful street scenes onto downtown walls in protest at the military's attempts to seal off the area.
After complaints mounted, protesters successfully managed to pull down the walls on Mohamed Mahmoud and Qasr Al-Aini streets in February and March. On 15 July, demonstrators attempted to remove the largest barrier opposite the interior ministry on Mansour Street.
It is unclear why the military have decided to remove the Noubar Street wall now, or whether they will continue to remove other barricades in the area.