25 February, 2009

Imbaba Airport: "Once the area is developed, it's going to be for the rich"

Click the pic for my report in Daily News Egypt about the development project for northern Giza. The first stages of this project is centering on the old Imbaba Airport, seen in the picture above - with the affluent Mohandiseen area in the backgrund. The airport was used primarily for pilot training, but was closed down some 8 years ago. One of the reasons it was closed down was that the surrounding informal residential areas and slums had grown to close, with buildings making the navigation harder and apparently causing some accidents. Today, the area is used mainly as a football field by local kids.

The development plans include connecting the end of Ahmed Orabi street with the Ring Road, construction of new residential areas and a "public park." To complete these plans, some of the current residents will ondoubtedly have to be removed, but it is unclear exactly how many.

As I walked around the narrow alleys of Ezbet el-Matar and other areas, most people I spoke to had heard about the development project, but said they knew nothing about how they would be affected. Many simply refused to talk about it. "People here are afraid," one man told me. "They think they will get in trouble if they talk to the media. And most of them don't like journalists anyway. Last week a TV-crew came here and started filming. The filmed people and the garbage in the streets. When we asked what they wanted, they told us to mind our own business!"

When I asked him what he knew about the project, he pointed towards the distant high-rises in Mohandiseen and said: "The only thing I know is that these are the people who will benefit from this. Once the area is developed, it's going to be for the rich. Not a single one of us who live here now could afford to stay."

Asked if he would agree to leave his house if he received compensation, he replied firmly: "I don't want compensation. I'm not moving anywhere."

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