Cairo sees a revamped Nahda Square, the restoration of Qasr El Nil and the planting of grass in Tahrir. We've become accustomed to seeing young Egyptians taking initiative to clean up their neighbourhoods but this time the government have stepped up.
There is no hiding the fact that Egypt is one of the most attractive countries for tourist, history buffs, kite surfers, archaeologists and more. As of late, tourism has been suffering, the economy faltering, and politics are murkier than the Nile. So how do we bring tourists back? Well, the easy answer is to simply clean up Egypt. Seems simple enough but in practice, it is actually very difficult to have Egyptians change their ways. We’ve long lamented the government’s inability to provide rubbish collection, sanitary services and the maintenance of public areas but, for once, they seem to be doing something about it and today we woke up to news of some of Cairo's key public areas getting a makeover: El Nahda Square, Tahrir Square and Qasr El Nil bridge.
You might have seen Arab Contractors’ trucks around town, with their unmistakable orange equipment, more than usual these days. The historical Egyptian construction firm have long been the go-to contractor for government projects, creating some of the most important governmental buildings in Cairo and beyond. It seems like the interim government are putting them to work too – but this time it’s to restore some of the damage we’ve seen to Cairo’s public areas over the last two years. Since the ouster of Morsi, they’ve been hard at work in key areas, fixing the lights, pavements and railings on Qasr El Nil bridge, as well as restoring statues in the area. They’ve even taken on the challenge of fixing up Tahrir Square, currently in the process of replanting grass on the formerly-green roundabout. And it’s about time – one can imagine that when Egypt settles, many tourist will want to visit Tahrir, not for the museum, but to stand on revolutionary ground.
Earlier today, TV crews and a legion of high ranking police officers were in El Nahda Square, and the area surrounding Cairo University, to celebrate the re-opening of the area that was once a battle ground and the second main location for Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins after Raba’a Square. A stone’s throw from our office, since the clear-out on the 14th of August this year, we’ve noticed troops of Arab Contractors workers – from engineers to pavers, painters to traffic experts – quickly, efficiently and cleanly rebuilding the areas pavements, replanting the green areas and even introducing a new traffic system. We’re yet to find out if the new u-turn (you’ll see what we mean when you go there) has actually helped or hindered the flow of vehicles in the area, but at least some effort is going in to ensure the basics of the historic area are up to par.
If this trend keeps up, we will all win. There is still a long road to travel before Egypt is a clean, organised nation, but perhaps when we get there, we can start enforcing fines on those who are stubborn to the change. Singapore was once filled with trash, but with heavy fines, almost overnight, it turned into one of the cleanest Asian cities. If we take a page out of their book, the tourists will be back, our economy will be back on track and we will become the proud, healthy and civilised country we were always meant to be.