Carlos Cazalis Photography


Work in Progress. No other city in the world had the fortune of an extensive hinterland of publicly owned desert land into which it could expand. However, government authorities for decades turned a blind eye to the informal urbanization of the city.

The informal housing conditions in Cairo began as President Nasser's government worked on the industrialization of the country through the 1952 socialist revolution, creating an influx of jobs and rural migration. The 1967- 1975 wars with Israel increased the informal growth as Egyptians migrated seeking refuge from the Suez Canal conflict. The oil price hikes of the 1970's led many Egyptians to work in the gulf countries, creating a flux of currency in Egypt that allowed lower income families to build their own homes –without government supervisions who persistently accepted bribes to turn a blind eye– and the failure of Sadat's Desert City plan all contributed significantly to a population explosion. From 1991-98 the net surface area of Greater Cairo increased 3.4% annually, while the population in the informal areas increased by 3.3% a year, some 200,000 people. Cairo's greatest growth occurred informally and virtually on its own.

Today, the government vacuum of the 2011 revolution, has extended informality into the green agricultural hinterlands of Giza, a satellite city. While overpopulated neighborhoods like Imbaba and Zabalene remain strictly sectarian. Modernization in Egypt failed to elevate the quality of the average citizen and made them dependent on government who by 2007 had an amazing 49% of Cairo’s work force under their payroll.

Perhaps the very fabric that ignited hundreds of thousands to protest in Tahrir Square came from the decades of government neglect for so many of these vast informal settlements.

                              