1The challenge of urban growth in Cairo
By Mahmoud Yousry and Tarek A. Aboul Atta
Abstract L'antique cité du Caire est devenue aujourd'hui, avec ses quelques 12 millions d'habitants, la plus grande ville d'Afrique et du Moyen-Orient, un centre administratif, culturel et économique au niveau régional comme à celui du pays. Après 70 ans d'occupation, la révolution menée par Nasser en 1952 chasse l'administration coloniale de la ville et la haute bourgeoisie égyptienne du pouvoir et inaugure une période de planification centralisée, de contrôle des loyers et de vastes projets de logements sociaux, bénéficiant avant tout aux travailleurs et aux couches pauvres des classes moyennes. Le Caire passe de 1 million d'habitants dans les années 20 à 5 millions en 1970. Quoiqu'une croissance rapide naturelle y compte pour beaucoup, l'exode rural est aussi significatif, stimulé par divers facteurs de répulsion dont notamment la difficulté croissante d'accès à des terres arables de dimensions suffisantes, et par des facteurs d'attraction des villes, en particulier le programme d'industrialisation mené par les pouvoirs publics dans les années 50 et 60. Mais la guerre de 1967 avec Israël dévore les ressources des programmes publics égyptiens, la croissance urbaine se ralentit et l'infrastructure se détériore. Lorsque le gouvernement de Sadat prend le pouvoir en 1970, sa politique de "porte ouverte" attire les investissements étrangers, donne un nouvel élan à la croissance économique et ravive l'intérêt qu'offre le Caire. D'immenses investissements publics consacrés aux infrastructures ne réussissent cependant pas à satisfaire la demande et de nombreux aménagements se réalisent au mépris de toute planification, sans permis de construire. Les prix des terrains et des propriétés sont rendus exorbitants par la spéculation immobilière, accélérée par les rentrées de gains des nombreux Egyptiens partis travailler dans les pays producteurs de pétrole du Moyen-Orient. La croissance de la ville en termes de dimensions, de surface et de richesse s'accompagne néanmoins de disparités croissantes entre les biens, les offres de services, la qualité des logements et les normes concernant l'environnement. Les principaux problèmes d'urbanisme proviennent des très fortes densités au cœur de la vieille ville du Caire, des vastes quartiers de
logements de mauvaise qualité construits récemment, de l'occupation illégale des toits et de la Cité des morts, de l'insuffisance des infrastructures et des services, des problèmes de transport persistants et de l'aggravation constante de
1 Excerpted from Carole Rakodi, ed, The urban challenge in Africa: Growth and management of its large
cities (Tokyo, New York, Paris: United Nations University Press, 1997), Part II “The `mega-cities’ of Africa,”
la pollution. Ces vingt dernières années, la planification a visé à pallier ces problèmes tout en détournant les nouveaux aménagements des fertiles terres arables aux alentours de la ville vers de nouvelles villes et de nouveaux établissements de la région. De nombreuses nouvelles industries se sont installées dans ces villes nouvelles et des investissements massifs y ont été consacrés, mais en 1994, moins de 0.5 million de personnes y résidaient, soit 8 pour cent de l'objectif visé, et de nombreux logements restaient inoccupés en raison du retard dans l'apport des services. Depuis 1980, les importants investissements consacrés aux infrastructures dans la partie la plus importante de la ville ont quelque peu amélioré la situation. Mais la dispersion des responsabilités de gestion urbaine et l'insuffisance de la coordination entre les autorités régionales et les trois gouverneurs qui se partagent l'administration de la ville ont handicapé la réalisation des principaux objectifs. Au cœur de la
métropole qui se constitue le long de l'axe Alexandrie-Le Caire, la domination de cette dernière sur la vie économique, politique et urbaine de l'Egypte ne risque guère de diminuer.
Egypt, with its strategic location in the centre of the old world, has become the second most populous country in Africa after Nigeria. Owing to its specific geographic conditions, most urban development in Egypt has taken place in the Nile Valley and Delta, which represent only 4 per cent of its total area. Throughout its long history, urbanization has occurred, and great cities and kingdoms have grown up along the banks of the Nile River. Thus, population and economic activities concentrated in this narrow and limited area, and polarization became the pattern of Egyptian life.
Egypt has a long history of growth and decline over almost 1,400 years. Cairo, its capital, has grown rapidly to reach more than 12 million inhabitants in 1994. It has become the largest urban centre not only in Africa, but also in the Middle East. The city's history has been closely related to that of Egypt, which has been subject to a succession of foreign rulers in the past 2,000 years. A study of the development of Cairo cannot ignore the prevailing political, economic, and social conditions in Egypt, which have affected its growth and shaped all related development policies. Such policies, in recent decades, have led to a massive process of concentration, with the result that Cairo today is not only the capital of Egypt but also its economic, social, service, and administrative centre. The city's size and rapid growth have resulted in serious problems in most aspects of the life of its population. The government has attempted both to decentralize population and activities from Cairo and to reorganize and manage its growth at the national, regional, and local levels.
In the first part of this chapter, the historical development of Cairo will be outlined. The growth of the city in the twentieth century will then be analysed in more detail, including its population, the factors that have influenced its growth, its physical
development, and the problems that have resulted. In the final part of the chapter, attempts to plan the city and their outcomes will be analysed.
Since the dawn of civilization, the capital of Egypt has been located in the Cairo metropolitan region for long periods, in areas such as Manf, Lecht, Ono, and Babylon (see fig. 4.1). Few traces of these cities remain today. It was not until the year A.D. 641 that the existing city of Cairo was founded by Amr Ibn-Elass in El Fostat, east of the Nile River. Its location represented the centre of gravity of the whole country in terms of cultivated area, population, wealth, and power. The proximity of the fortress of Babylon (formerly the headquarters of the Roman and Greek armies in Egypt) influenced the choice of this particular site (Moselhi, 11988).
Historically, Old Cairo expanded north-east of El Fostat, when the Abbacies built El Askar in A.D. 751 (fig. 4.2). Then Ibn Tolon added a third settlement - El Katae. After A.D. 870 Cairo El Moez (Fatimid Cairo) was built by Gawhar El Sikili along the Nile borders northeast of the previous settlements (fig. 4.2) (Selem, 1983). These four towns primarily performed the role of military settlements. A major mosque and sometimes palace were located in the centre of each settlement. Fig. 4.1 Old locations of the Egyptian capital
Fig. 4.2 The development of Cairo in the Islamic period (Source: based on Moselhi, 1988)
In the twelfth century these settlements were united in one agglomeration, when Salah El Din El Ayouby surrounded them with walls and built his fortress (El Qalaa). Only then did Cairo begin to perform its role as a unified city where most of the political, cultural, social, and urban developments took place in the following three centuries and its area reached more than 5 km? (fig 4.3) The city expanded rapidly in the western, northern, and southern directions in the Mamlouk period (A.D. 1200-1500), reaching an area of 43,868 feddans (184 km?). The Mokattam hills form a natural barrier blocking any eastern expansion. Most studies estimated the population of Cairo by that time at almost 1 million inhabitants (Hamdan, 1982).?
In the following Ottoman period (1500-1800) the city deteriorated for various economic, political, and military reasons. Economically, the transfer of eastern trade from Egyptian territories to detour around Africa deprived the country of tremendous tax resources. This period was also characterized by political instability and conflict among the remaining Mamlouks, as well as among Ottoman army sections. National revolution against the Turkish rulers and the Mamlouks ensued and many districts in Cairo were badly damaged. After having been an established capital, Cairo became only an administrative base for foreign rulers interested in exploring the country's resources. The city witnessed
notable out-migration to other parts of the country, with the result that by A.D. 1800 Cairo's population had decreased to about 260,000 (Moselhi, 1988). However, with Mohammed Ali's rule (1805-1849), Cairo began its modernization, an era that reached its peak between 1873 and 1879 in the western part of the city. The extravagant cost of this expansion led to many problems, beginning with high foreign debts and political unrest and ending with the British colonization of Egypt in 1882 (Eddie Ibrahim, 1987). During the colonial period Cairo grew as the ruling centre, to which thousands of foreigners and nationals migrated looking for wealth and power. New districts were built in the west (Garden City and Zamalek), in the north (Heliopolis), and in the south (Maadi) (see fig. 4.4). The old city was left undeveloped to face tremendous problems of high densities, lack of infrastructure, and deterioration in living conditions. At the beginning of the twentieth century the newly formed upper middle class launched a reform strategy in most fields, such as education, banking, industries, and recreation, and migrated to the new districts. Cairo expanded rapidly
Fig. 4.3 The growth of Cairo, A.D. 971-1800 (Source: based on Moselhi, 1988)
and reached more than 1 million inhabitants in the late 1920s. Interclass inequalities widened in the following decades leading to major social, economic, and political problems and laying the foundations for the 1952 revolution against British colonization and the royal regime.
Subsequently, massive industrial and housing projects were undertaken by the new government, particularly in the Cairo zone. New districts appeared in the northern, southern, and western parts of the city. The Cairo metropolitan area emerged, with a population of 5 million in 1970 (El Shakhs, 1971; Moselhi, 1988). After the 1973 war, the policy of the government moved from a socialist, centrally
planned, and public-sector-dominated economy to the so-called "open-door" policy. The latter aimed at encouraging the private sector and attracting international and Arab investment. A large part of such investment was directed to Cairo and its region, fostering further rapid urban development. By 1980 the population of Greater Cairo was 8 million. Informal and illegal housing appeared in this period in many areas on the outskirts of the city and in the City of the Dead. Such trends continued in the 1980s and 1990s. It is estimated that in 1994 more than 4 million people were living in illegal settlements in the Greater Cairo Region (GCR). The efforts of the government to control the growth of the city have not been sufficient and it kept growing in most directions, particularly to the west and north, to reach an estimated population of over 12 million in 1994.
Fig. 4.4 Districts in the Greater Cairo Region (Source: General Organization for Physical Planning)
The urban growth of Cairo
Urbanization in Egypt and the development of the Greater Cairo Region The process of urbanization itself is a result of rural-urban migration. Moreover, in Egypt, high rates of natural increase partly account for rapid urban growth rates. In 1907 the inhabitants of urban areas accounted for 19 per cent of the total Egyptian population, rising to 33 per cent in 1947, 43 per cent in 1976, and 44 per cent in 1986. UN studies suggest that the urban population in Egypt will exceed 50 per cent of the total population by the year 2010 (UN, 1993). However,
such figures should be treated with care. On the one hand, the 1986 census
showed that around 2.25 million Egyptians (mostly from urban areas) were at
that time living outside Egypt. On the other hand, the growth rates in rural areas
in the late 1980s and 1990s exceeded those of urban areas. High rates of natural
increase in rural areas may be attributed to the fact that the adoption rates for
birth control and family planning procedures have not been as high as in urban
areas, while growth has also occurred because of the sharp increase in urban
land prices, which has driven many to build on cheaper land in rural areas
surrounding the cities.
Within the urban sector, large centres, particularly Cairo, have witnessed higher
rates of growth than medium- and small-sized centres. Thus, whereas the
population of Egypt has increased by more than 5 times in the twentieth century,
Cairo's population has increased by nearly 16 times (table 4.1), with the result
that its share of the national population increased from nearly 9 per cent in 1940
to 18 per cent or more in the 1960s and 1970s, and was estimated to be 21 per
cent in 1994. It is clear that the real demographic change in Cairo's modern
history began in the nineteenth century when death rates began to decline while
birth rates stayed constant. The figures in table 4.1 show that the growth rate of
GCR surpassed the national average except in the periods 1930-1940 (World
War II) and 19601976 (owing to the 1967 war). Between 1976 and 1986 the
open-door policy (see below) boosted economic and urban development and
consequently population growth in the GCR.
Table 4.1 Population growth of Cairo and Egypt, 1800-1986
Cairo Egypt Cairo as % of Year Population % growth Population % growth national population ('000) rate ('000) rate 1800 200 2.0 3,000 1.2 6.7 1900 600 2.3 10,000 1.3 6.0 1920 875 3.1 13,000 1.4 6.7 1930 1,150 2.2 15,000 2.3 7.7 1940 1,525 4.1 19,000 1.0 8.0 1950 2,350 4.1 21,000 2.2 11.2 1960 4,784 2.2 26,000 2.4 18.4 1976 6,776 3.5 38,200 2.8 17.7 1986 9,514 50.500 18.8
Source: Central Agency for Population Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS),
Population Censuses, Cairo.
A large metropolitan area was formed, encompassing the city of Cairo and its extension in Shubra El-Khima to the north and Giza city to the west of Nile. The boundaries of this conurbation were later extended to include more surrounding areas and settlements, forming the Greater Cairo Region (GCR). The population of this region was more than 9.5 million in 1986 and was estimated to be more than 12 million in 1994, in addition to about 2 million daily commuters. This extraordinary population represents about 20 per cent of the total population of Egypt and 40 per cent of its urban population. Cairo and, to a lesser extent, Alexandria, with a population of 3.5 million, dominate the urban system and there is a wide gap between these two cities and the remaining settlements (Aboul Atta, 1985). The urban concentration index increased from 0.623 in 1965 to 0.649 in 1980 and the four-city primacy index from 2.11 in 1965 to 2.70 in 1985, indices of primacy that are among the highest in the world.
Fig. 4.5 The population of the Greater Cairo Region, 1927-1994 (Source: Central Agency for Population Mobilization and Statistics, Censuses. Note: 1994 population estimated)