… the wealthy in Cairo are fleeing to “satellite cities” with aspirational names such as Hyde Park, Beverly Hills and Dreamland that promise cool, pollution-free atmosphere. Along the state-subsidized ring road surrounding Cairo, a surreal landscape of gated ostentatious pastel-colored villas and apartment complexes, impossibly green lawns, private leisure centers, and English language international schools has been propping up in once bleak and hostile desert…Cairo’s satellite cities represent not only a shifting urban development paradigm, but also a cultural one. Here clothing styles are more relaxed, and transnational fast-food chains and shopping malls predominate, serving as a nexus for entertainment, consumption, and identity. These iterations…reflect the aspirations and fantasies of Cairo’s elite, and embody the political and economic marriage of private developers and the Egyptian state.
In July 2009, when his presidency was only six months old, Barack Obama delivered a powerful speech at Cape Coast Castle in Ghana, the point from which millions of African slaves were shipped across the Atlantic. He called on African countries to end the tyranny of corruption that affects so many of their populations, and to build strong institutions that serve the people and hold leaders accountable. The speech seemed to extend the message of his much-discussed Cairo address a month earlier, in which he called for a new beginning for Muslim relations with the West, based on non-violence and mutual respect. Many thought that the policies of the new president, himself of Kenyan descent, would depart from those of the Bush administration, which provided a great deal of development aid to Africa, but paid scant attention to human rights. After more than four years in office, however, Obama has done little to advance the idealistic goals of his Ghana speech.
art: photo of Barack Obama after making speech to Ghanian Parliament at the International Conference Center in Accra, Ghana on July 11, 2009
Was the nation divided between those in favor of the old regime and those in favor of the Islamists? Or was it the case that millions of young Egyptians who had taken to the streets to oppose Mubarak were voting “no” to Mubarak’s Shafik, rather than “yes” to Morsi? As the prominent newspaper editor Hassanein Heikal has said at dinner parties and on TV: “It was not that people knew what they wanted and were voting for it. They simply knew what they didn’t want, and they were voting against it.” Many of my own friends—who identify themselves as liberal, secular, “revolutionary”—voted against the possibility of a return to the life we had known.
art: Egyptian artists in Cairo
With Egypt caught between a military reluctant to cede the reins of power and a recently elected Islamist president eager to take hold of them, a steady stream of senior American officials has landed in Cairo to nudge the two sides toward compromise. But…Washington is neglecting Egypt’s larger problems, those that incited an apathetic population to overthrow a president in office for three decades.
Hip-hop goes beyond race, religion or socioeconomic class,” according to Lorenzo “Rennie” Harris, hip-hop dancer and founder of Rennie Harris Puremovement, Philadelphia’s famed hip-hop dance company. “Whether you are from Philly or Cairo, you can connect with African-American arts, because they are about freedom.”
From Cape Town to Cairo, there are signs of a continent on the move: giant infrastructure projects, an expanding middle class, foreign equity scrambling for opportunities in telecoms, financial services and products aimed at a billion consumers. Growth is no magic bullet for reducing inequality or fostering democracy, but the stubborn truth that it is still the world’s poorest continent has done little to dull the confidence and hype about the African renaissance…
Cairo has one of the most effective recycling programs in the Middle East. But it’s borne on the backs of the city’s “garbage people,” Coptic Christians who harvest and sort 15,000 tons of waste every day. Their lives are documented in a new film Zabaleen…Cairo is nominally responsible for tending to waste. But corruption has resulted in an erosion of municipal services, and the Zabaleen take up the slack…
more, plus video, here.
I wear a veil and jeans. I have a fiancé and a job. In a country where the majority of women need permission from a male guardian to go the movies, I have had a rare experience of complete independence. I live on my own, pay my own rent, choose my own clothes and travel to other countries without asking permission from my father or my fiancé. I pursue whatever dreams I have without worrying about traditions or social restrictions. This may seem “normal” and “ordinary” for many women around the world. But it is much more freedom than the overwhelming majority of Egyptian women can claim. With the first free parliamentary elections, I was reminded that a significant number of men and women in my homeland believe the amount of freedom I have might be too much or even wrong…
Mayy el-Sheikh, 24, reporter and researcher in The New York Times’ Cairo Bureau.