Cairo’s Rough, Crowded, and Vital Underground Artery

Source: Middle East Institute
Author(s): Maria Golia

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Inaugurated in 1987, Cairo’s Metro was Africa’s first inner-city underground and the embodiment of Hosni Mubarak’s promise to modernize Egypt’s infrastructure. It is hard to think of a Mubarak-era project that was better planned, more efficiently executed, or has had such a functional impact on so many people’s lives. Serving four million passengers daily, the Metro is the fastest, cheapest means of navigating the traffic-congested urban behemoth. As such, it offers indications of the social pressures facing the citizens of Egypt’s capital and the political and economic policies that contribute to them.

During the Metro’s construction in the 1980s, downtown Cairo looked like a patient on an operating table. There were gaping holes everywhere. Telephone cables trailed colored-wire nerve endings, signaling outages that might last weeks. Gigantic water pipe arteries were severed and left to dangle and ooze, leaving entire neighborhoods high and dry. Yet Cairenes greeted these hardships with forbearance and not a little pride, owing to the scale and sophistication of the Metro project and its expected benefits for their mobility…

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