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Visit of Informal Settlements (Ashwa’eyat) in Cairo

Cairo, January 2016 – Students from the third semester visited the informal settlements of Manshiet Nasr and Istabl Antar in Cairo, and a school project on urban farming in Qanater. The excursion took place on Thursday and Friday, 14th and 15th of January 2016.

The excursion was embedded in the term project. The main topic of the project is urban and economic informality. However, the project’s target area is not situated in Cairo but in Hurghada. Here, the students work on regeneration strategies for the area of Zerzara close to the city center. Even though the situation of Zerzara is less complex in comparison to Cairo’s informal settlements, many issues are similar.  

In the morning of Thursday, the tour in Manshiet Nasr was guided by a supervisor on informal settlements (Ashwa’eyat) for the Cairo Governorate. Moreover, he is also an employee of GIZ that implements major regeneration projects in informal settlements in the Greater Cairo area. The main topics of interest were the way the Cairo governorate deals with unsafe areas, how water and sewage infrastructure gets distributed, and how to handle the question of tenure in the Cairo case. On the one hand, the group was able to see the demolished areas on Manshiet Nasr’s cliffs. The cliffs are very dangerous for any housing due to the threat of landslides. On the other hand, the group visited areas where infrastructure investments took place.

View on Manshiet Nasr
Lupe

The destination of the afternoon was the Hasan Bakr Secondary State Language School in Qanater in the Northern suburbs of Cairo. With the help of a NGO (Shagara), the school has created a garden project on two of its roofs. The garden has been installed mainly for educational purposes. Pupils can practically learn how growing, planting and harvesting works in general. But considering the installations, it shows also how urban farming can look like in Cairo. It was of great value for the students to share the experiences of that case for their project in Hurghada.

In this school, the roof is green
Lupe
Planting installations
Lupe

On Friday, the group has visited the area of Istabl Antar. The tour was guided by teachers of IUSD (Integrated Urbanism and Sustainable Design of Cairo’s Ain Shams University). Besides the discussion of general problems of Ashwa’eyat, the main focus on that tour was how students can do an impact with their research and project work. IUSD has done some real interventions in early 2015 like wall or staircase painting, street paving, or tree planting. The tour has shown that some of these small-scale projects are still functioning, others less. On the end of the excursion, a current IUSD-student has conducted a People’s Needs Assessment (PNA) in an area of Istabl Antar close to the Ring Road and a dangerous cliff.

All in all, the excursion was a great opportunity to understand the complex challenges of informality in Cairo, to see that regeneration efforts need the contribution of many stakeholders of the governorate, the state, and last but not least, of the local people. Usually, simple solutions don’t work.

The cliffs are very close to the settlement
Lupe
This open space has been paved and the tree been planted by IUSD students in early 2015
Lupe
Wall paintings on the Ring Road
Lupe

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