Friday, July 1, 2022

Save Cairo Houseboats: Waiting for a miracle in a deadly time

It is too hard to write this, it is very heavy to write this post.

I am waiting for a miracle, for divine intervention to make this stop so I won’t need to write anything because I feel too heavy, tired and frustrated as well as sad to speak about what is happening to those houseboats.

The sunset of Cairo houseboats
We may not see this scene again in the upcoming days 

A couple of days ago, the Egyptian Ministry of Irrigation and Water source sent an eviction notice to the owners of 32 Nile houseboats in Imbaba’s KitKat area in Giza governorate.

Despite living for decades there and despite official maintenance bills for decades, the Ministry claims that their existence is illegal.

It is all over the news whether in New York Times, Ahram Online, BBC News, Reuters, Financial Times ABC News, AFP and others in the past week.

The Ministry has already begun to demolish some of the houseboats. They also moved a couple of them for huge sums of money to their warehouses.

I do not need to speak about the history of houseboats in Egypt and how they became part of old and modern Cairo’s visual heritage. It is explained in those links.

I do not have words to write therefore you find this post, not on time.

The sunset of Cairo houseboats
Are we witnessing the sunset of Cairo's Houseboats !? 

It is just so tiring to explain the meaning of visual heritage when there is no respect for the concept of heritage in the first place.

I feel that I became addicted to lost causes in Egypt. Sometimes I swear I feel that I jinxed that type of cause. It is like this huge machine of pseudo-urbanization does not want to stop the so-called Duba-ification of Great Cairo or old Alexandria.

The sunset of Cairo houseboats
Cairo houseboats from Zamalek 

It is too heavy for me to write about Dr Ahdaf Soueif who found herself and her family in another battle with the government when she is fighting for the freedom of her niece, activist Alaa Abdel Fattah. It is like she is fighting on two fronts.

Soueif’s houseboat is so beautiful already.

It is just sad because I learned she sold her house in London to settle down in Cairo in that cosy place on the Nile River. Already she is not the first Egyptian novelist to live in a houseboat. Egypt’s Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz for years before moving into his famous Agouza apartment.

I know how much she loves Cairo and Egypt as well as our heritage and it is unfair what she is facing now.

There is also the famous blue houseboat of Mrs Ekhlas Helmy, a trademark of Kitkat’s Houseboats which you can see from Zamalek.

The sunset of Cairo houseboats
Mrs. Ekhlas' blue houseboat on the left 

Mada Masr once made a short documentary about her.

In her late 80s, Mrs Helmy was already born in a houseboat. She sent pleas to the President and the Government to live her last days in her houseboat

The ducks and geese of Mrs Ekhlas are one of the area's trademarks.

You always see them swimming in the Nile between Egypt’s biggest two cities in some odd scene for my generation and young generations then return to this blue houseboat peacefully.

The sunset of Cairo houseboats
Geese swimming near Mrs Ekhlas Helmy's houseboat 

Mrs Ekhales’ pets, cats and dogs have been taken by volunteers till she sees what will happen.

Now the Ministry of irrigation claims that those few houseboats are actually violating the river Nile and that the Nile is owned by all the citizens who should it see it yet amazingly they have no problem with the restaurants and casino boats that pollute the Nile in Cairo and Giza.

I live near the Nile, not directly but near to the Nile River yet I can’t see it because of those restaurants aka shady nightclubs and Gulf-seque casinos throughout the corniche.

A Cairo Restaurant boat and pollution in the Nile
I took this at Zamalek under 15 May bridge last fall in front of 
Marriott and you can see the pollution crystal clear here

Those clubs and restaurants are polluting and violating the Nile more than those 32 houseboats and yet the government and the Ministry of irrigation believe that they are more than welcome than those 32 houseboats.

It is just frustrating.

All that I do now is retweet the #SaveCairoHouseboats tweets waiting for a true miracle before the 4th of July. 

1 comment:

  1. That's sad. They should leave the houseboats alone, as long as the occupants don't pee and poo in the water.


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