Cairo’s traffic has become a nightmare to many of its inhabitants. Much of one’s energy living in Cairo is devoted to planning life around the traffic or getting caught up in it. In his speech in the Cairo Stadium, in celebration of the 39th anniversary of the October war, President Mohamed Morsi announced that 60 per cent of the traffic problem has been resolved as part of his first 100 day plan. It is not clear how this number was arrived at. As President Morsi says, the traffic police are back on the streets, but the traffic in Egypt is driving some to pack up and leave the country all together, and the upper middle classes are increasingly retreating away from all the pollution and the noise into their gated communities, knowing that they are going to have to spend three hours in a car to get to their fancy workplaces.
Egypt is said to be a great country because of its warm, friendly, and usually helpful people. But the fact is that authoritarian systems, political instabilities, rising unemployment rates, and sexual harassment can only be tolerated in the good company of friends, family, and work colleagues. None of this kind of solidarity seems a priority for the upper-middle classes, who are more interested in securing their peace of mind away from the bumpy streets, traffic queues and the bad pollution of Cairo’s streets. And Egypt’s urban planning is doing its utmost to accommodate them.
With the expansion of Cairo’s desert areas, new spaces are being devoted to gated communities, lower middle class informal settlements, and work compounds like Smart Village where many fortunate young Egyptians work surrounded by green spaces and trees, much space between the buildings, and nice streets with well labelled signs. Smart village is heavenly. Good food, shisha, and nice coffee and cocktails are served for high prices in its cafes. Working with people from similar backgrounds and age groups, there is every convenience to be found in such fancy places.
But the result of all this is that there is minimal contact between the classes especially when they are relaxing. Despite such oases of refined living, many young Egyptians with a good education and who are fairly ambitious are beginning to talk about wanting to migrate to a country where they can feel more ‘human’. The isolation of the various classes is a serious issue that should get some attention.