On Wednesday evening a group of engineers, archaeologists and activists gathered in front of the Cairo governorate building protesting the spread within the distinguished alleys and streets of Old Cairo of ugly cement buildings.
“This phenomena is destroying the character and structure of Old Cairo,” said archaeologist Nairy Hampikian, adding that Cairo has long suffered from dreadful urban planning that became chaotic in the last two years.
Amid a lack of security oversight, large and "ugly" buildings spread quickly among the narrow allies of Historic Cairo, disfiguring its distinguished scenery.
"To express our anger and rejection of what is happening to our Cairo," said Hampikian, "we decided to protest at the doorstep of Cairo governorate."
Old Cairo is a vivid example of continuous urban habitation. It gained its heritage status not only because of its large number of monuments, but in retaining its own spirit, craft, streets and customs that historians narrated centuries ago. That is why, Hampikian pointed out, UNESCO listed Old Cairo on the World Hertiage List (WHL) as a city in 1979.
Regrettably, the urban structure of the city is now under threat by profiteers who tear down smaller old buildings that are not on Egypt’s heritage list and construct in their place huge cement-based residential buildings, towering over the district's authentic buildings.
“This action is threatening the city with being removed from of the WHL as it loses its distinguished architectural character and urban structure,” asserted Hampikian.
Some, she went on, are demolishing historic buildings and monument edifices.
“These buildings are a time bomb for monuments and the area's residents,” asserted Hampikian, adding that construction regulations are not properly applied. The new buildings, she said, could collapse at any time, threatening neighbouring monuments and residents alike.
“Ugliness is spreading all over Cairo, the city of the 1000 minarets,” said Hampikian.
In addition, several monuments were subject to looting and petty destruction in the past two years, amid the breakdown in security .
The protestors are asking the Egyptian government to freeze any construction licenses in Old Cairo for a year, removing illegal buildings and extra floors and refusing provide such buildings with drainage systems and electricity. They asked the government to work in collaboration with the civic community and local councils and all concerned authorities in order to rescue and protect Old Cairo.
Providing long term plans to spruce up and develop the living standards of Old Cairo residents is a must.
After an hour of the protest, the Cairo governor met the protestors and told them that in collaboration with the Rotary Club, a plan was drawn up to raise cultural and historical awareness of Old Cairo residents through weekly lectures on the importance of the area and its civilisation. He also said that LE100,000 has been allocated to clean the area and install environment-friendly garbage bins.