Cairo at the End of the Line: A Photo Essay From the City’s Last Stops

This will be the last post on Year in Cairo. To all who read and shared this site with others, thank you. Encouragement from family and strangers alike was a huge inspiration over the past 12 months. The site will be maintained under its current domain for at least another couple of years, so please continue to share or use any and all media from the site, and thanks again. -Will

With two weeks before I return to the US, my initial – perhaps impossible – goal of going to every Cairo Metro stop appeared out of reach. In lieu of going to every stop, I decided to head out to every “last stop” on the Metro that I haven’t already been to.

With 3 Metro lines, there are 6 “last stops” in total: Helwan and New El Marg on Line 1, El Monib and Shoubra El Kheima on Line 2, and Attaba and Abbassiya (so far) on Line 3, which was only opened a few months ago. For a pretty good map of Cairo’s Metro system, click here. Regular readers may remember Helwan from an earlier post about the Japanese Buddha Gardens found there. I’ve also spent some time in and around the Attaba station, as it is much more centrally located than the rest of the “end stops.” In fact, Attaba is smack in the middle of Line 1 (Helwan – New El Marg), where that line links up the new Line 3, which will eventually go to Cairo’s airport. That left 4 stops to cover: El Monib, New El Marg, Shoubra El Kheima, and Abbassiya.

A housing complex in El Monib with one apparent tenant and plenty of vacancies. Mubarak era tax laws stipulated that property taxes were only paid upon completion of construction, causing many builders to simply withhold the finishing touches, or roofs, of many buildings in Cairo.

The view across the Nile an elevated highway in El Monib. 

A young man sells basic sandwiches outside of a microbus stop in El Monib. He can count on a continuous flow of foot traffic throughout the day.

A mosaic of small tiles at a microbus stop in El Monib is covered with old flyers for former Presidential candidate Aboul Fotouh.

A large open courtyard separates two building complexes in El Monib. The Nile, and the neighborhoods beyond, lie in the distance.

 

Microbuses wait for passengers as vendors sell produce outside the El Monib Metro.

A juice stand operating out of the first floor of an empty building in New El Marg. It’s not uncommon to see business being run out of the ground floor of an otherwise unoccupied space such as this, even in more central Cairo districts.

A new residential complex on its way up, a common sight in New El Marg.

Umbrellas cover the outdoor vendors in New El Marg from the summer heat.

New buildings extend off into the distance of New El Marg. Areas like this are almost entirely residential, but built around the accessible commercial hubs offered by the Metro station and its surrounding area.

A close-up on the facade of a new residential complex in New El Marg.

 

Men watch television outside a cafe in Shoubra El Kheima after a Ramadan Iftar.

Families browse what market vendors have to offer in Shoubra El Kheima.

A vendor puffs on a sheesha pipe as he sells food for microbus passengers in Shoubra El Kheima. The microbuses are color-coded according to their final destinations.

An underground tunnel connects two sides of the Shoubra El Kheima Metro and Train Stations. Even in the middle of the tunnel there are vendors selling clothing and food. 

From a bridge connecting the Metro and train stations in Shoubra El Kheima, a view of some childrens’ rides in front of a mosque.

A group of men gather at a cafe after Iftar in Abbassiya.

Mohamed Morsi is the President of Egypt: Pictures and Video from Tahrir Square

Today Egypt’s Election Commission announced that Mohamed Morsi won 51.7% of the vote against Ahmed Shafiq, making him the country’s first elected President since the January 25th Revolution last year. The following pictures were taken on Qasr Al-Nil Bridge, and Tahrir Square during the subsequent celebrations.

Fireworks go off as supporters of Mohamed Morsi gather by the tens of thousands in Tahrir Square, where the Egyptian Revolution began close to 18 months ago.

Two men smile as they wave flags during the afternoon’s celebration.

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour prepares for a segment on Qasr Al-Nil Bridge.

A Morsi supporter holds up a sign celebrating his victory of the Presidential “seat” while mocking Ahmed Shafiq, his opponent and former Mubarak regime official.

Men, women, and entire families ride into Tahrir on their motorcycles.

A family rides into Tahrir Square.

Three boys stand and chant on top of their motorcycles in Tahrir Square.

A man juggles a soccer ball unto his back while crowds cheer as they enter Tahrir Square.

As traffic on Qasr Al-Nil Bridge stayed at a standstill, supporters of Mohamed Morsi danced on top of their cars.

A man waves the peace/victory sign in front of crowds in Tahrir Square.

Crowds chant slogans in solidarity with Mohamed Morsi, and in solidarity with the continuing Egyptian Revolution.

Photos: Qasr Al-Nil Bridge, Tahrir Square –  Cairo, June 24 2012

Panorama View from Bab Zuweila in Islamic Cairo

No politics here, just some pictures from the top of one of Bab Zuweila’s minarets. Bab Zuweila is one of the remaining remnants of Islamic Cairo’s architecture from the Fatimid period in the 11th and 12th centuries. Enjoy.

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Photos: Islamic Cairo, Egypt – June 9, 2012

Voting in Abdeen

Mishu and his friend after voting in the Abdeen polling station

Today was the first day of Egypt’s presidential elections, and it arrived with equal parts fanfare and skepticism. Around 53 million of Egypt’s 85 million people are eligible to vote in the elections, which will continue tomorrow, and than almost definitely proceed to a second round in mid-June.

Outside the Abdeen polling station on Nubar Street

After briefly walking around to check out the polling stations in Dokki this morning, I headed to Abdeen, a working class neighborhood in the Downtown area of Cairo that has been central to politics since last Winter, to meet with a few friends who live there. Abdeen’s borders are practically delineated by the army-built concrete walls that have popped up since the clashes on Mohamed Mahmoud Street in November. Like most areas in Cairo, political associations vary between neighbors and within families.

Voters walking out of the Abdeen polling station

Sitting at a cafe on Nubar Street, conversation revolved entirely around the day’s events, in large part vis-a-vis tongue in cheek jokes at the expense of felool candidates Ahmed Shafiq and Amr Moussa. At around 4 we got word that former US President Jimmy Carter was monitoring the polling station a block away from us, so we made our way over to check out the scene. It turned out President Carter was not there, but US Representative David Dreier (R – California) was. According to an aide who was there with him, Dreier is the sole elected US official in Egypt to monitor the elections, and has been here five or six times since 2011.

Mostafa being interviewed by BBC Arabic

Mostafa being interviewed

Perhaps because of the Congressman’s presence, BBC Arabic and other media outlets were on the scene to cover the polling station. While the camera crew waited for Rep. Dreier to come out, they interviewed a few of my friends and other voters who emerged with purple-stained fingers. Spirits on the streets of Abdeen ran high. Although all of the guys I was with voted for either Hamdeen Sabahy or Khaled Ali, they predicted that Abdeen sent the most votes to Ahmed Shafiq, a former minister in the Mubarak government.

Ali being interviewed by BBC Arabic

There was a noticeable silence on the subject of Aboul Fotoh, the Muslim Brotherhood-turned independent candidate who as recently as a month ago was seen as a broadly appealing, liberal candidate with a sophisticated view on the role of religion in public life and the law. Whether due to the debate with Amr Moussa last week (which probably benefitted neither of them) or another reason, a lot of enthusiasm for Aboul Fotoh seems to have transferred to other candidates such as Hamdeen Sabahy.

Ali holding up his ink-stained finger outside the polling station

Many of the arguments against celebrating today’s elections make sense on one level or another: presidential powers have not been established, constitutional amendments remain uncertain, multiple candidates have been accused of flagrantly violating the campaign rules, etc. Nonetheless, it was remarkable to see  new friends and old enthusiastically embrace their new opportunity to participate in formal politics in a way that simply has not been an option in Egypt until this very day. Yes, this is only one of many elements that will come into place to form Egypt’s new society, but it’s hard to see how on the whole, this vote isn’t on the whole a step forward.

Zabbaleen

Some neighborhoods in Cairo are intimately linked to certain trades or professions. Manshiet Nasr, at the bottom of the Mokattam hills, is one such neighborhood. The area belongs to the Zabbaleen (50,000 of them to be exact), which literally translates to “trash collectors.” If the area sounds familiar, it’s because the now deposed Mubarak government executed a policy of culling the neighborhood’s pigs in response to a perceived threat of H1N1 virus (swine flu) in 2009. The predominantly Coptic community in the area used the pigs in the process of recycling and processing waste. Needless to say, even at the time, the decision to kill the swine population was considered irrational and politically motivated.

Still, the Zabbaleen have kept at it, building an entire local economy around the business of trash and recycling. A number of groups, like the Association for the Protection of the Environment (A.P.E.), have worked within this sector to empower women who would ordinarily have limited opportunities with sophisticated recycling skills and handicraft tools.

Walking around Zabbaleen, it is impressive how the chain of labour is organized in efficient ways. Many men, but mostly women, work to separate the seemingly never-ending piles of waste into different components such as plastics, bottles, papers, etc. Those components are then processed through different methods at their respective stations.

Meanwhile, the Zabbaleen have begun to rebuild the swine population, supplemented by goats that can do similar work at a far slower pace.

At the end of one of Zabbaleen’s winding main roads is a cluster of extremely old but well preserved Coptic  churches. The foremost of these churches, the Monastery of Saint Simon, is an awe-inspiring space carved directly into the side of the Mokattam hills. Surrounding Saint Simon are other smaller churches, some of which were found far more recently then Saint Simon itself.

Be sure to check out all the photos below.

Photos: Zabbaleen, Mokattam Hills, Cairo – April 3, 2011.

The Many Walls of Mohamed Mahmoud

This site is meant not only to show a broad representation of Cairo, but also to demonstrate how certain spaces happen to change over the course of a single year.  Amidst ongoing political unrest and periodic violence, the heart of downtown has undergone some of the most obvious transformations, and nowhere is that more clear than the Northern wall of AUC’s campus on Mohamed Mahmoud Street.

School and state authorities have contributed to these changes, reinforcing the wall, painting over graffiti, even making it higher.  Some of these aesthetic and functional changes have been documented on this very site.  Still, the latest “Mohamed Mahmoud Street Wall” is covered in a collage of murals and graffiti dedicated to the memory of the revolution’s martyrs, or الشهداء.  Vibrant pastel colors sweep across the wall, blending pharaonic motifs with contemporary political messages.

Walking down Mohamed Mahmoud yesterday, one graffiti artist was busy touching up the martyrs images and adding new additions to the wall, steadying himself with an old ladder that stood over a wreath-like devotion to the Ahlawy Ultras on the sidewalk.

The martyr portraits are bookended with two equally impressive commentaries on the security state still present in Egypt. On the left side of the wall, where there used to be a massive mural depicting demonstrators who had lost their eyes in front of the Ministry of Interior or on Mohamed Mahmoud, there is now a sprawling painting of security officers, who, as @suzeeinthecity points out in her terrific post on the very same subject (here), are depicted as terrifying monsters.

The latest renovation, or perhaps renewal, of the Mohamed Mahmoud wall of course comes in the wake of one of the bloodiest days in modern Egyptian history, the Port Said violence that took place a few weeks ago.  While a good portion of the artistry revolves around remembering those who died, including the 14-year-old Anas, the youngest of Egypt’s martyrs, there is plenty of room devoted to the spirit of martyrs past, like 19-year-old Ultra Ahlawy Mohamed Mostafa.

On the corner of Mohamed Mahmoud Street and Tahrir Square, there is a headshot that blends the faces of deposed President Hosni Mubarak and leader of SCAF, Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi.  Adjacent to the picture of “Hosni Tantawi” is a colorful representation of an activist who became well-known in December’s skirmishes in front of the Ministry of Interior and Majlis Al-Shab after apparently seizing weapons from state security personnel.

Compare the pictures above to what the wall to photos taken as recently as January 25th, and the evolution of the “Walls of Mohamed Mahmoud” comes into focus:

Finally, for a nicely written piece on the use of “martyrs,” check out this entry by M. Lynx Qualey over at Arab Lit.

See below for the entire gallery of pictures from the Mohamed Mahmoud wall.

Photos:  Mohamed Mahmoud Street, Cairo – February 22, 2012.

An Evening in Hadayek El Maadi

This entry is part of a series of posts examining life off of Cairo’s various Metro stops.  For this entry, I spent an evening walking around the Hadayek El Maadi “Gardens of Maadi” neighborhood.

The Maadi area of Cairo lies a few kilometres south of the heart of downtown, on the eastern bank of the Nile.  While broadly speaking it is a wealthy, more residential part of the city, a wide range of social classes and cultures can be found among its many pockets.  Such is this case with Hadayek El Maadi, the working class neighborhood that is the first of the Maadi metro stations coming from downtown.

A couple of nights before Mawlid, a Muslim holiday celebrating the prophet’s birthday, commercial avenues were a little busier than usual.  Local bakeries were covered with decorations, comprised of dolls and tapestries not far from what one might think of as “winter wonderland” motif.

Most storefronts on the main commercial street in Hadayek, Hassanein Desouky Street, were a mix of cafes, produce markets, barbers, juice shops, and eateries.  The smell of freshly grilled chicken and kofta wafted through the air.  In one particular fuul and tameyya shop, there was a plate of freshly fried cauliflower (see above).  Served up by a friendly chef named Mohammed – who was chopping eggplant with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth for most of my visit – this snack alone could definitely inspire another visit to the area.

Check out the rest of the photos from the evening below.

Photos: Hadayek El Maadi, Cairo