Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Neighborhoods

Okay, so a couple of weeks ago I was wandering around my neighborhood, trying to find a traditional (as opposed to Western) coffeehouse. In Wust el Balad (downtown) and Islamic Cairo they're pretty much impossible to miss, but in Mohandiseen they're difficult to find. I finally came across one, though, and while wandering the area around it stumbled on an area that was very, very strange. It felt more like walking through a hutong than anything else.

Today I came across a cool website called WikiMapia which lets people add annotations to any part of the world. So, I idly decided to look if there was anything for my neck of the woods in Agouza. Turns out there's quite a lot (each of the squares represents a comment or annotation): Map of Mohandiseen/Agouza.

What I saw surprised me.

To begin with, this is what much of Mohandiseen or Agouza looks like: wide streets, large tall buildings, lots of cars.

And yet, right in the midst of all of these buildings, here's the Egyptian equivalent of a hutong. It looks like some kind of weird mistake with the map, but it's not. All of a sudden, in the midst of all of these large buildings and wide streets, is a sudden, dramatic shift in scale.

Once I looked for it, I saw it everywhere. Here's the far northern corner of Mohandiseen, just before it hits شارع سودان Shari3a Sudan (Sudan St). Shari3a Sudan is a very interesting street, serving as a pretty clear demarcation of economic activity. On one side, shopping is fairly Western: everything is bought at shops, many of which have English names or at least the names spelled out in roman letters. Most items are fairly expensive. On the other side, shopping is either done in the suq (outdoor market) or from Egyptian-style stores (everything written in Arabic). The prices are incredibly cheap. In this map, the wide street cutting all across the top of the map is Shari3a Sudan. There is a small island of dense housing, the shape of which continues north of Shari3a Sudan (I can only assume the development existed prior to the creation of the road).

Another example: here there are three different density levels, or levels of scale (zoomed in). Again, I'm pretty sure that road splitting the map (going from North to South this time) is Shari3a Sudan.

So, here are some different housing densities in Egypt. As far as I can gather, people live in all of these places (I may have some of the locations wrong, if there's an expert out there please correct me):

City of the Dead
Islamic Cairo
Mohandiseen/Agouza
Maadi (a neighborhood mostly populated by expats)
Garden City (location of the American and British embassies)

Yes, these all have the same map scale (i.e. are zoomed in the same)


I just thought this was pretty cool, and thought I'd share. Hope you enjoyed it.

2 comments:

Cairogal said...

I don't know if you could say Maadi is 'mostly populated by expats' but you could certaily say that many expats choose to live there or Zamalek. I lived in buildings w/ all Egyptians in most cases.

Anonymous said...

I am an expat living in Cairo, in the so called upmarket New Cairo development called Rehab City. My Egyptian neighbours claim to be both medical doctors. Well, for all their effort to prove that they are civilised and 'western' as they put it - they thought it perfectly OK to slaughter a cow in their driveway this afternoon, and was very astonished that I should complain about the sound, the stench and teh river of blood running down the street (the rent around here is about $2000 US per month). Sorry to offload this on your blog, and I know it has little to do with what you spoke about, I just needed to get it out of my system! I agree with you that that area of Mohandiseen is cool.