What's New On Tom's Travel Blog?

Flickr has been improved! Almost all photos on this blog come from my Flickr Photostream. You can now go directly to a page that shows all of my Flickr photo sets by following this link. It's the easiest way to navigate in my on-line photos.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Cairo Housing Market - Part 2

I started gathering pictures for this series of blog posts when I read this news article about Cairo housing.  I was struck by a couple of paragraphs.
To drive Cairo's Ring Road - a 110-kilometre freeway that loops the city - is to sail through an endless sea of red brick. The brilliant green of the Nile Valley appears only in flashes through the expanse of cheap apartment blocks. The buildings occupy what were once agricultural parcels; like those parcels, they are long and narrow, with only a hair's breadth of space between them. They crowd right up to the freeway, so close that motorists may glance directly into their bare rooms. From their rooftops sprout unfinished supporting columns - ready for the addition of yet another floor. Their only decoration is bright, mismatched shutters; balconies enlivened by bold geometric patterns - pink and purple lozenges, green and orange stripes; and the bricks that spell, along the upper floors: "Allah."

These are Cairo's slums, what experts call its "informal" or "spontaneous" neighbourhoods. Egyptians call them ashwa'iyat - from the Arabic word for "random", "haphazard". They are the dense, sprawling answer to Cairo's population explosion and its lack of affordable housing. Almost six in 10 Cairenes - at least 10 million people - live in informal neighbourhoods, often with limited access to water, electricity, schools, hospitals or refuse collection, and no real roads.
A harsh description but no doubt accurate in many cases.  But, read the whole thing.  It illuminates the chaos of the housing market here.  Here are a couple of illustrations collected from along the Ring Road.
EgyptSlums-1 EgyptSlums-2

I've learned, though, not to judge a book by its cover.  Whether it's a brick building next to the highway in Cairo or a a dull grey apartment block in Russia (known by the locals as a "Khrushchev") the inside might be quite elegant in comparison to the exterior.  Exterior appointments are simply not a priority in many areas of the world.  Curb appeal?  There are no curbs either.  Some exterior stucco and paint and these could look pretty nice -  but where else might you spend the money.

And consider that the residents may well have moved up from a bawab's residence alongside a building or have lived in a "country house" before landing one of these spots.  (Both of these spots are now abandoned.)
EgyptSlums-1-15 EgyptSlums-1-10


No comments: