A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, March 29, 2013

Cairo's Walls

The Guardian has a piece on the walls still blocking streets in Cairo since the clashes of late 2011. which have mostly remained in place. The walls were erected to keep demonstrators in Tahrir Square way from the Interior Ministry, Cabinet offices, and Parliament, and block several key arteries feeding into Tahrir. I've mentioned before that I once lived for a year in an apartment building on the corner of Yusuf al-Gindi and Mohamed Mahmoud streets, across from AUCs downtown (in those days, only) campus; those streets were ground zero for the battles of late 2011. My building is long since gone, but the Guardian does offer this about my old street:
"It used to be a very lively area – there was always people laughing and joking all the time," said Sarah Youssef, a non-governmental organisation director who owns a flat on Youssef el-Guindy Street. "Then after the walls it became very quiet, very dull and sometimes scary. It's become a place where all the weird stuff happens: robberies, theft … Tahrir Square is lively, but then I go home a block away and it's totally dark, there's lots of garbage."
Youssef and her husband have been forced to move out of their flat, partly because of the walls and partly because the teargas frequently used at nearby protests exacerbated her asthma. "For eight months my furniture still smelled of teargas," Youssef said. "One of my neighbours started coughing up blood."
Some residents – usually those blessed with strong arms and dressed in casual clothes – save time by hauling themselves over the walls. But it's tough work, and sometimes dangerous. "My brother tried to get over this week and he broke his leg," said Ahmed Tegi, as he clambered over himself, carrying a bag of juice back to his restaurant on the other side. Many schools straddle the barriers, forcing students to take the long route round. For a time, the only way to one school was through Salima Barakat's house.
"Before it would take two seconds to get to work," added Mansour, the civil servant, who has lived in the area all his life. "Now I have to go all the way round. It's ridiculous. Some of my colleagues have to get up at five in the morning because the traffic is so congested."
The article also includes a video:

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