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Levelling Maspero
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 03 - 05 - 2018

The government is taking final steps to clear the Maspero Triangle. Slated for development since 2015, the 200,000 square metre area adjacent to the Nile in Cairo is being demolished to make way for new-build commercial, residential and office space.
Bulldozers and other heavy equipment are busy pulling down what remains of the neighbourhood to the right of 26 July Street, heading from the Nile Cornish towards Galaa Street, and levelling the area.
In 2015 the cabinet issued a decree earmarking the triangle as an area for redevelopment. Work on the project began in 2017.
“The demolition stage is almost over,” Mohamed Ayman Abdel-Tawab, deputy governor of Cairo for northern and western areas, told Al-Ahram Weekly.
“Demolitions will finish in a matter of days.”
Buildings not included in the demolition programme include the Egyptian Radio and Television building, the Foreign Ministry and the Italian Consulate.
Abdel-Tawab says former residents have now received the compensation packages agreed with the government. Some families opted for alternative accommodation while others took financial compensation.
Around 3,000 families received compensation for their lost homes set at LE100,000 per room.
Final agreements with the owners of cafés, workshops and warehouses have also been reached. “We are now signing contracts with business owners who will be informed of the sites they will occupy in the new architectural plans,” says Abdel-Tawab. The fate of owners of non-registered businesses remains unclear since any land or building for which there are no registered ownership documents will be confiscated.
“I think it is fair that people living in a room in a rundown building, sharing a single bathroom with all the other inhabitants, are moved to new developments like Asmarat where families will have a flat to themselves,” says a shopkeeper who has been in the area for 40 years.
He is one of the luckier business owners. His shop is in one of the three buildings in the district designated as part of Egypt's cultural heritage and therefore saved from demolition.
“Had someone offered me such a package I would have accepted immediately,” he says. According to the shopkeeper, 90 per cent of former inhabitants have now been given alternative homes or other compensation.
The Ministry of Housing canvassed residents in 2017 to find out their preferred mode of compensation. But not everyone shares the shop owner's point of view. Despite difficult living conditions many residents did not want to leave their homes for a distant residential area even if it offered better amenities.
Many Maspero residents moved to Asmarat, a huge government-owned residential complex designed to rehouse slum dwellers. Tenants of Maspero who moved to Asmarat received a year's rent-free tenancy with subsequent rental payments being treated as installments towards the cost of buying their homes.
“The LE300 that former Maspero Triangle residents pay in Asmarat are not rent but installments,” says Abdel-Tawab, and after 30 years they will own their apartments.
Yet many residents complain they cannot afford the monthly sums.
In the meantime work continues. The Maspero Triangle is undergoing a cultural transformation, says Abdel-Tawab. It is being developed in a way befitting the area's historical importance.

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