There was also a talk by SODIC architect Marcus ElKatscha on the design principles of the new EastTown and WestTown developments (these are up-scale suburban downtowns meant to cater to the residents of 6th of October and Kattameya). ElKatscha's presentation didn't go over that well with the mostly young, artsy, lefty crowd (he got a lot of questions like "Don't you only want to attract a certain kind of people?"). For me, the fact that the planned developments are upscale isn't necessarily a problem--every city in the world has "fancy" neighborhoods, and our beloved Downtown Cairo used to be one. And the idea of providing the already existing Eastern and Western suburbs of Cairo with some sort of downtown is actually quite intelligent--it's clearly what's missing. But the architectural style was quite bland, and what troubles me more is the deployment of the terms "mixed-use." The new developments will mix commercial and residential space, and ElKatscha seemed to suggest that in of of itself this lent diversity to the proposed neighborhood, whereas I think it's quite clear that it will be socioeconomically homogenous. ElKatscha also described Downtown, Garden City, Maadi and Helipolis as "mixed use," something I found very confusing. I live in Garden City and it's overwhelmingly residential--whereas all of central Cairo (including lower-class, unplanned neighborhoods) strikes me as the essence of "mixed use." Finally, SODIC's planners claim their mixed-use downtowns will cut down commuting time and be environmentally responsible--but while the wealthy house-wife who lives there may be able to walk to the mall, I wonder how far all the servers, shop assistants, cleaners and domestic workers will have to commute (I didn't see that the plan included any low income housing). In any case, it was fascinating to get this glimpse into the future of Cairo's development, although I hear that in the current economic climate all these developments have slowed if not come to a complete halt.