No Cars in Cairo
Al-Masry Al-Youm shares on its website that Egypt’s capital, Cairo, will undergo some major infrastructure changes over the next 10 to 15 years. The city’s Urban Planning Authority announced that downtown Cairo will be turned into a pedestrian zone. This plan is to support the city’s master-plan, to bring life back into neglected areas.
The areas will include several locations downtown and a portion (about a mile) of the Sharia Al-Mu’izz Li-Din Allah. Egypt Today magazine writes on the state of decline in the aforementioned areas:
“Created by Khedive Ismail Pasha in the latter half of the nineteenth century to be a Nile-side imitation of Paris with wide boulevards and spacious squares, the belle époque architecture now crumbles onto sidewalks lined with gaudy, neon-lit storefronts and streets deafened by the crawling mass of honking traffic.”
The city already imposed the daytime pedestrian zones and hopes that soon, the entire area shall be part of the project. Egypt’s Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif held a contest for international firms that are willing to work on this project with local firms.
The blueprints feature garages to be built underground and away from the city. This will mean people can park their cars and go into the downtown area on public streetcars. A no-car-Paris setting will be encouraged due to an absence of motorized vehicles in the area. Restaurants, cafes and other shops can then be offer its guests open-air settings; Old buildings will be turned into museums, hotels and art galleries.
Some people met the new project with doubt. This was due to the fear that the downtown area will be turned into an exclusive place, only catering to the rich, wealthy citizens or to foreigners and tourists. The gripe was not in the banning of cars as a solution but for the new project to be the vehicle for the city to be conscious of its environment. The Boursa Exchange blog sums up the concern:
“We hope the redevelopment plan, when implemented, creates an open space accessible to all of Cairo’s residents. While we enjoy al-Azhar Park, we sometimes rue the fact that it is almost exclusively the preserve of foreigners, relatively well-to-do locals and groups of schoolchildren on field trips. We also hope that the new downtown is developed with an eye toward easing pollution, not just by banning cars but also through the creation of an ‘urban lung’.”