Cairo is a congested city with high rate of urbanization and very limited public space. Cairo has one of the lowest rates of parkland per capita of any major city. Moreover, the banks of the Nile, formerly alive with activities such as washing, fishing, and felucca landings, were by the end of the twentieth century largely cutoff from free public access by a wall of busy roads, private clubs, luxury hotels, restaurants, nurseries, and police/military stations, roads. The need for open space for people from lower income who could not afford the expensive options along the Nile banks, has resulted in use of the sidewalks of the main bridges as public spaces. Families, couples, and friends tolerate the noise and fumes of traffic to enjoy the expansive views and breezes over the Nile. As a result of this extraordinary re-purposing of the bridges, new small businesses have formed to cater to the uses, and a new interaction with the river has emerged. We studied the patterns of use, characteristics of the user population, and stated preferences of users. We identify a set of characteristics contributing to the popularity of the bridges as public space, including affordability, accessibility, openness to the river and visual connection with the other bank. We propose that these characteristics be taken into account when developing future projects along the river water front to address the need for public space and access to the Nile.
This research is published in the SPECIAL ISSUE: Placemaking in Arab Cities. For more information on this research click here. And for the full manuscript please click here.