Friday, December 28, 2007

Travel: Cairo

Al Ahram Weekly

This has not been designed a travel feature, but anyone who visits Cairo will probably find this special feature about the city to be of interest. There are 10 articles looking at different aspects of Cairo - from plans to upgrade its "quixotic" ambulance service to the development of new roads and various comments about public transport. This is all fascinating stuff. Here's an extract from the lead article Zeno's Paradox:

As the end of 2007 approaches, the average driving speed in Greater Cairo is 21km per hour and going down, remarks Dena Rashed. Perhaps life in the city will come to a complete stop next year?

Jam-packed again? Maybe a car broke down on the fork-less 6 October Bridge, or is it a football match at the Cairo Stadium? A high-profile official may be passing, as it were, prompting complete closure for alleged security reasons. Rush hour? An accident? In reality, of course, the number of vehicles in relation to the space available to them is reason enough for the jam; it is simply that, to while away the time, drivers come up with a variety of (conspiracy) theories to explain away the phenomenon. Designed for 4.5 million people, the metropolis is now home to 17. Cairo has always been full of contradictions. Today, incredibly, low-income neighbourhoods are shoulder to shoulder with the luxurious dwellings of the rich (whose investments have yet to trickle down the class hierarchy, we are told). In the last few decades, planning has gone wild, with building regulations and capacity considerations gone to the dogs: in space enough for 500,000 vehicles there crawl two million. Since different parts of the ever more shapeless city are all interconnected -- thanks, in large part, to the 6 October Bridge, which has its own known technical faults and, though frequently extended, along many stretches has space enough for two lanes only -- a blockage at one end of Cairo could result in congestion at the other end.

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