Fact or Fiction: A mini Dubai in Downtown Cairo

Date posted: December 15, 2008


Rumor has it that Gamal Mubarak, the President's son and the NDP's General Secretary of the Policy Committee, will turn the historical downtown Cairo into a "mini Dubai". Sandmonkey wrote:

AP has a piece on how religion and decrepitude are threathening downtown Cairo Bars. I know a third source of threat: Gamal Mubarak. Our boy wonder has a project for downtown cairo, one he calls- and I wish I was joking- "Mini Dubai. Our boy, using a fake front of a company called "Al-Ismaelia for construction and development", is buying buildings left and right over there clandestinely, with the plan of leveling them and building new High-rises and Towers – You know, give downtown a post-modern face-life. 

The Sandmonkey has two problems with this

1) The architecture of the old downtown buildings in Cairo is second to none in their beauty, but are tarnished by the horrible neon signs of the 7 billion clothes and shoe stores there, and the fact that they desperately need renovation. 2) One of the buildings that our boy intends to own, is the one hosting the historical Cafe Riche, which is why it has been closed for the past year or so. The historical cafe, 100 years old, has been a central figure in Cairo's history and literary mythology. This is the place where they printed leaflets of the 1919 uprising against the brits; it used to hide activists and come with hidden passageways to help them evade the police; it is heavily mentioned and refrenced in Naguib Mahfouz's Cairo Trilogy and in it was the birth of his AlKarnak masterpiece; and it's the place where Cairo's literary stars, artists and actors have met for decades. It's all of that, and Jimmy wants to tear it all down, so he can have his Dubai High-rise.

So far the owner has been fighting this, and Jimmy's name has avoided being in the papers because so far the owner of the building hasn't recorded the sale yet, and law suits are flying back and forth. Sandmonkey knows that

There will be an argument amongst some people, stating that such move to upgrade and upscale downtown is inevtiable, hiding behind "the inevtiable march of progress" as their justification. I reckon that if they want to upgrade parts of downtown, I can point them out to a number of areas that are both ugly and hold no historical value what so ever. And maybe they would be served to remember that their battle shouldn't be with aging or historical buildings, but with the lack of symmetry and ugliness that plague our streets (See Mohandeseen, see Nasr City).

In conclusion, the blogger states that

We are a country full of history, and our problem is that while we are quick to tout it, we do not respect it at all. Preservation is a word that's somehow absent from out vocabulary, and it can be seen in the miserable condition we treat the Pharaonic treasures in that run-down warehouse we call the egyptian museum. So please, either renovate Downtown, or leave it alone. But don't you dare destory one of the most beautiful parts of cairo, just so you can show foriegn investors how Dubai-like you are. Have we fallen so far behind, and become so envying of Dubai, that we will do anything to claim that we are like it? Fine, apply their business practices first, or maybe their tax rate, or even their policy towards the protection of women froms sexual harrassment first, and then build the highrises. Or, better yet, Dubai was built in a desert, and 90% of Egypt is desert, so why not build there? And Jimmy, why not move there while you are at it, so, you know, you can be next to your precious dubai-like skyline? Trust me, none of us will mind. Better yet, move to Dubai, and you can have all the sky-line that your little heart desires.

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