What the skyline tells you about Cairo

Photo from No Expectations

From Cairobserver, a site about Cairo's urban heritage and one of the best new Egypt-based blogs of 2011:

Take the lift at Cairo Tower to the top and look at the skyline. Besides the TV&Radio building from the 1960s and the ministry of foreign affairs from the 1990s, a couple of bank towers, the rest are hotels, mostly built with Gulf investments during Mubarak’s tenure. What does that tell us about Egypt, about Cairo? There are no condo towers for the wealthy because they opted to go suburban, there are few or no office towers (besides the two Sawiris towers further north) because most businesses that aren’t multi-nationals are too small to rent space in an actual office tower so they rent cheap-rent residential apartments. Big telecommunication companies don’t need office towers in Cairo because they went to the desert and built their own “Smart Village.” And media companies also went to the desert and built “Media City.” The skyline isn’t telling of a very healthy economy. The kinds of investments that typically make a city work have all abandoned the city.

The result of decades of petrodollar and comprador capitalism...

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.