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In Pictures
In pictures: Cairo's rich-poor standoff
Shimmering posh complex towering over Ramlet Boulaq slum showcases the class divide in Egyptian capital.
Last Modified: 25 Sep 2012 12:41

Along central Cairo's corniche, the twin towers of the shimmering Nile City complex - containing malls, movie theatres and hotels - screen the ugly truth behind them.

Stuck in ramshackle hovels in the towers' shadows, the residents of the Ramlet Boulaq slum struggle to keep their land and have their voices heard.

The juxtaposition says much about Egypt's biggest modern-day problem: the stark divide between the rich and poor, exacerbated by a housing crisis and rampant privatisation of land.

Ramlet Boulaq was born when migrants relocated from southern Egypt in the early years of the 20th century to work in Cairo's factories. Generations were buried and new ones born on the land, but the ambitions of big business to turn the area into a luxurious Nile-front complex now threatens Ramlet Boulaq.

During the early days of the revolution that toppled long-time ruler Hosni Mubarak last year, the men of Ramlet Boulaq protected the towers as looters tried to break in when police abandoned the streets.

The co-operation briefly alleviated tensions between locals and the billionaire property developer, who rewarded them for securing the towers. He offered them monthly pay in return for looking after Nile City, a joint venture with a rich Saudi Arabian family. 

But trouble came in July, when clashes broke out after the towers' management reportedly refused to provide residents with water hoses to put out a fire that left a five-year-old child dead.

Then, in early August, guards killed a man following a scuffle after he went looking for his payment. Clashes erupted, and residents attempted to set the towers' parking lot on fire. They burned cars and motor bikes and tried to break into the building.

The violence was a reminder of the simmering hostility between the two sides, clubbed together in the same area but with little in common. While opulance is the towers' signature, Ramlet Boulaq is without sewage, electricity or running water. 

Now, with land sharks eyeing the remaining property around Nile City, the slum is struggling to stay in place.. 

A few residents have already moved out after accepting payments of $500 to $1000 per square metre for land many say costs 10 times more. But a majority of Ramlet Boulaq's residents are standing firm, at least for now, in the squalor and under the shadows of their rich neighbours.


The slums of Ramlet Boulaq, spread out beneath Nile City's gleaming towers, lack almost all modern conveniences, such as plumbing and electricity. [Mosa'ab Elshamy/Al Jazeera]


The towers, a joint project between Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris and the Saudi Arabian Shobokshi family, house hotels and businesses. [Mosa'ab Elshamy/Al Jazeera]


Ramlet Boulaq residents have clashed with security at the towers several times in recent months, leaving behind evidence of their anger on the building's doors. [Mosa'ab Elshamy/Al Jazeera]


The towers' private security guards refuse access to journalists, and tourism police at the site have shot and killed at least oen resident who came to claim money he said he was owed. [Mosa'ab Elshamy/Al Jazeera]


Nile City towers above Ramlet Boulaq, which was settled by migrant workers in the early 20th century. [Mosa'ab Elshamy/Al Jazeera]


Egypt's gaping class divide between rich and poor is evident across the country, but perhaps no more jarringly than at Ramlet Boulaq. [Mosa'ab Elshamy/Al Jazeera]


Residents of the slums deal with regular police raids and the loud music and distractions of Nile City's hotel bars. [Mosa'ab Elshamy/Al Jazeera]


Many residents earn money on the informal economy. Some were paid for helping protect the towers, while others, like this man, sell bread. [Mosa'ab Elshamy/Al Jazeera]


Residents live in structures that can barely stand, lacking modern floors, walls and even ceilings. [Mosa'ab Elshamy/Al Jazeera]


Though Sawiris and the towers' management offered residents informal payments for helping protect Nile City, locals worried that the money could easily stop flowing, or later be considered extortion. [Mosa'ab Elshamy/Al Jazeera]


Cairo's stretched public administration, which struggles to pick up refuse and keep traffic flowing even in upscale neighbourhoods, is barely noticeable in the slum. [Mosa'ab Elshamy/Al Jazeera]


Ramlet Boulaq's children live with the anxiety of increasing clashes with the security forces. [Mosa'ab Elshamy/Al Jazeera]


Though wary of the attention, slum residents have tried to popularise their cause with the media in the hopes of preventing the loss of their land to Nile City's ownership. [Mosa'ab Elshamy/Al Jazeera]



images:
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captions:
The slums of Ramlet Boulaq, spread out beneath Nile City(***)s gleaming towers, lack almost all modern conveniences, such as plumbing and electricity. [Mosa(***)ab Elshamy/Al Jazeera];*;The towers, a joint project between Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris and the Saudi Arabian Shobokshi family, house hotels and businesses. [Mosa(***)ab Elshamy/Al Jazeera];*;Ramlet Boulaq residents have clashed with security at the towers several times in recent months, leaving behind evidence of their anger on the building(***)s doors. [Mosa(***)ab Elshamy/Al Jazeera];*;The towers(***) private security guards refuse access to journalists, and tourism police at the site have shot and killed at least oen resident who came to claim money he said he was owed. [Mosa(***)ab Elshamy/Al Jazeera];*;Nile City towers above Ramlet Boulaq, which was settled by migrant workers in the early 20th century. [Mosa(***)ab Elshamy/Al Jazeera];*;Egypt(***)s gaping class divide between rich and poor is evident across the country, but perhaps no more jarringly than at Ramlet Boulaq. [Mosa(***)ab Elshamy/Al Jazeera];*;Residents of the slums deal with regular police raids and the loud music and distractions of Nile City(***)s hotel bars. [Mosa(***)ab Elshamy/Al Jazeera];*;Many residents earn money on the informal economy. Some were paid for helping protect the towers, while others, like this man, sell bread. [Mosa(***)ab Elshamy/Al Jazeera];*;Residents live in structures that can barely stand, lacking modern floors, walls and even ceilings. [Mosa(***)ab Elshamy/Al Jazeera];*;Though Sawiris and the towers(***) management offered residents informal payments for helping protect Nile City, locals worried that the money could easily stop flowing, or later be considered extortion. [Mosa(***)ab Elshamy/Al Jazeera];*;Cairo(***)s stretched public administration, which struggles to pick up refuse and keep traffic flowing even in upscale neighbourhoods, is barely noticeable in the slum. [Mosa(***)ab Elshamy/Al Jazeera];*;Ramlet Boulaq(***)s children live with the anxiety of increasing clashes with the security forces. [Mosa(***)ab Elshamy/Al Jazeera];*;Though wary of the attention, slum residents have tried to popularise their cause with the media in the hopes of preventing the loss of their land to Nile City(***)s ownership. [Mosa(***)ab Elshamy/Al Jazeera] Daylife ID:

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