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Cairo Urban Excursion

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From 10th to 14th of January, third semester students of the Urban Development Master's Program explored Cairo urbanism through an excursion. They visited various urban areas and met with urban development experts in form of lectures and guided tours. The main concept and objective of the excursion were to explore different urban initiatives and urban development typologies in areas such as Al-Khalifa district, Downtown Cairo, Al-Darb Al-Ahmar, New Cairo (Al-Rehab city), Informal areas (Istabl Antar and Manshiet Nasser). Additionally, the group had the chance to meet with representatives of international and governmental agencies working on various urban development projects in Cairo such as German International Cooperation – GIZ and General Organization for Physical Planning – GOPP.   

In the morning of Tuesday 10th of January, the excursion started by a tour in Al-Khalifa area, guided by Dr. May El Ibrashy, Head of Megawra – Built Environment Collective. The main objective of this tour was to explore the results, achievements, challenges and lessons learnt from Athar Lina Project (The Monument is Ours), which is a participatory conservation initiative that aims to establish modalities of citizen participation in heritage conservation. The tour started from Ibn Tulun Mosque and ended at Sayyida Nafisa Square with several stops at Shajaret al-Durr, al-Sayyida Ruqayya, Al Ja’fari, ‘Atika in al-Khalifa and other places.

In the afternoon, the students met with an expert from CLUSTER (Cairo Lab for Urban Studies), who guided them in a tour in Downtown Cairo. The walking tour falls within the context of CLUSTER research to explore and study the Downtown Cairo’s network of passageways, streets, back alleys and squares that depict Downtown’s rich history, urban activities, landuse patterns, culture and architecture heritage. The tour was very informative with elaboration on the consequences of the major political events in different periods of prosperity, development and deterioration of Downtown Cairo.

On Wednesday 11th January 2017, the group visited Faculty of Fine Arts – Helwan University in Zamalek, where experts from Participatory Development Programme in urban areas (PDP) – GIZ, Basma Gaber and Mohamed Abd El-Aziz have provided a lecture about PDP structure, main objectives and challenges. The program is providing advisory services to decision-makers in ministries, governorates of Greater Cairo and local administrative units on how to deal with informal settlements.

The group has visited New Cairo on the morning of Thursday 12th January, where they had a meeting with senior engineers from the technical team of Al-Rehab City, which is one of the first and largest gated compounds in New Cairo. After a presentation from Al-Rehab team, the students have discussed several aspects related to the urban planning; urban design, market-driven forces and principles used by them as a private developer to develop such cities. Other main points of discussion were the financing and marketing schemes of the housing units at the initial phase, the contractual obligations with the governmental bodies and the operational plans of the city.

On the afternoon Thursday 12th January, the students attended a lecture by Dr. Abdel Khalek El Kady (Technical advisor for General Organization for Physical Planning-GOPP, Egypt). The lecture focused on the GOPP mandate, planning structure and levels in Egypt and the major recent projects of GOPP. The lecture has been followed by a discussion about the “Cairo New Administrative Capital” project and "The 1.5 Million Feddan agriculture Project”. The discussion extended to cover some legal enforcement and Implementation Mechanisms of GOPP Projects.

The excursion continued on Friday 13th of January by visiting House of Egyptian Architecture (Hassan Fathy House), where the students attended a lecture by Dr. Heba Sahey Eldin (house director) about Cairo Urbanism. After the lecture, the group went in guided tour through Sultan Hassan, Refaei Mosque and Al-Darb Al-Ahmar Area. Later, the students moved to Al-Azhar Park, where they explored the park in a tour, which have been guided by Khaled Abdel-Gawad, a senior landscape architect. The tour focused on the technical aspects of the design of the Park and the integration programs between the park and the surrounding areas (Al-Darb Al-Ahmer).

On the last day of the excursion Saturday 14th of January, the students have visited two of the informal areas of Cairo: Istabl Antar Area and Manshiet Nasser Area. In Istabl Antar, Dr. Hassan Elmouelhi has introduced the students to different parts in area showing them examples of various urban initiatives that has taken place and elaborated about the complexity of working with different stakeholders and the community in participatory projects. The group has met also with a manager of an NGO working in the area. In Manshiet Nasser, the tour was guided by Mr. Khalil Shaat an expert and advisor for (Ashwa’eyat) upgrading for the Cairo Governorate. The main topics of interest were the way the Cairo governorate addressee the unsafe areas, the distribution of water and sewage infrastructure, the question of tenure in the Cairo case. The students get introduced to various governmental regeneration projects in the informal areas.

Hence, this excursion was a great opportunity for the master students to understand the complexity of Cairo urbanism and the different challenges of informal urbanism, satellite Cities, urban growth and urban heritage conservation in Cairo.

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