Two years ago, on 17 April 2008, his highness & majesty, President Hosny Mubarak, with his infinite wisdom & intelligence, signed the supreme brilliant presidential decree, dividing Cairo and Giza into 4 governorates instead of two, bringing the total to 28. An unstudied and unplanned decision aimed at minimizing the governmental administrative burden of running a colossal metropolitan like Cairo (estimated population of 17 million persons at the time).
In the division, Northern Cairo remained Cairo, while the southern district starting from Dar Al Sallam downwards, became the infamous governorate of Helwan. The beautiful suburban Maadi, was among the unfortunate lot who were “turned over” to the control of Helwan. The inhabitants of Maadi, not wanting to be thrown over night out of the Capital, and fearing that their beautiful neighborhood would fall to ruins under the control of Helwan, resisted the division decision. Same happened again and on a much more vocal/violent scale in Al-Wahat Al-Bahariya, where riots and protests broke over the decision to place the oasis under the jurisdiction of Minya governorate and not Sixth of October. There, anti-riot police used tear gas against 2,000 protesters and more than 20 people were detained. Bahariya residents took to the streets because the presidential decree which “moved” them from Giza governorate, meant they would have to travel up to 600km to access government and administrative services in Minya governorate.
The newspapers and media roared with dissent aimed at the presidential decision, but of course, the historical decision was not overturned.
Analyst Amr Elshobaki of Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies was most critical of the way the government dealt with the issue as a purely technical one in which public opinion had no part to play. “What happened is an unprecedented change in Egypt’s ruling system. Yet the decree ignored the opinions of citizens and experts alike.” The lack of communication between the state and the public, he argues, is almost guaranteed to see the changes fail in their avowed aims. “The timing of this decision immediately after the local council elections renders the councils themselves redundant,” he said.
Weird enough, after an emergency meeting at the National Democratic Party –not in the people assembly where it should have taken place- the presidential decree was subsequently amended. Al-Wahat Al-Bahariya and Ayyat, were both “re-moved” to the jurisdiction of Sixth of October. The decree also placed Atfih and Al-Saff, which used to belong to the Giza governorate, under Helwan. But of course no attention was given to the inhabitants of Maadi whom shared an equal dissent for the new division, but failed to act violently! Afterwards, and following a period of stretching and pulling of the borders of the new governorates, things calmed down and people accepted the new presidentially imposed reality.
Just to give you an idea about how haphazard that decree was, on 21 April 2008, just 4 days after the first decree, his Royalness, President Mubarak issued another presidential decree announcing that the Supreme Constitutional Court in Maadi, Helwan according to the earlier mention division decree, will be exempt of the division and will remain a part of Cairo governorate even as it is located in the new governorate of Helwan. The exception was made, because otherwise, if the Supreme Constitutional Court were to remain in Helwan, the rulings of the court would have been technically unconstitutional.
Anyhow, I, a simple inhabitant of Maadi, trusting that government knows what’s better for me, did not object in the beginning. Of course I felt a little bothered by becoming a Helwanise during my sleep, but still, I was not that keen on being a Cairian in the first place, after all Egypt have taught us not to take anything for granted! And as I grew up I became used to Egypt’s “hit and miss” approach to urban planning. So, after thorough study of the whole ordeal (something they didn’t care to do at the government) I decided that this maybe better for my district. Maybe then a simple procedure like getting my driving license renewed, would become a humane endeavor!
Little did I know!
As the days went by, it turned out that all what the Maadians feared most, was true… if not much worse.
One problem after another sprung into being, slowly but evidently obliterating the urban fabric and prominence of Maadi, as a peaceful and secluded neighborhood.
First came the Humongous Billboards that were scattered all over Maadi, against all laws and sensibility. These billboards which destroyed the aesthetics of Maadi as well as endangered its inhabitants (I still can’t help but wonder, what type of catastrophe would happen if one of these monstrosities were to fall!).
Afterwards came the project of a new “Smart Village” inside the borders of Maadi, which is scheduled to open sometime during summer 2010, and threatens to destroy the serenity and peace of Maadi altogether –If you ask me, to build an inside-city “Smart Village” project, is a pretty DUMB start!
Then most recently, the wise men at the governorate decided to move the driving license District Attorney office, from inside the Maadi Traffic Unit where it was located, to El Darasah Traffic Unit!!! Which means that anytime you need to renew your driving license, you have to go back and forth between Maadi and El Darasah, a 40 minutes drive, at least twice! Ironically enough, El Darasah is still in Cairo Governorate.
Not to mention the increased Police presence and sudden checkpoints they setup at random all over Maadi – just today there was a checkpoint (Lagnah) in the middle of 216 street (otherwise known as Satellite or Laslky road), at 10:00 PM!!! As you can imagine this blocked the Maadi entrance via Autostrad completely!
You may be wondering, why am I writing about this “ancient history” now?
Well because, yesterday, the governorate of Helwan, decided to rub it in our faces (we Maadians) even more and decorated Maadi squares with the most heinous decorations, congratulating us with Helwan’s governorate 2nd National Day!!!
Let’s not talk about the dreadful decorations itself, which look like a vulgar wedding from hell, complete with it’s cheap flickering lights, and ugly inflatable scare clown!
My question goes much deeper than just being angry about being visually and sensibly offended with this hideous “beautifications”.
My question is: As Maadians, What are we supposed to be celebrating on Helwan’s National Day?
The destruction of the once prominent and quite suburban Maadi?
OK! If we stop living in denial and accept the new Helwanise identity. As Helwanise, What are we supposed to be celebrating on Helwan’s National Day?
The governorate’s prominence as the highest-ranking pollution levels?
Or it’s prominence as the highest ranking corruption levels? (There is no solid evidence for that one, but the National Day’s congratulations to the Helwan Governor, which were spread on yet more billboards of all size, by the same companies which gave us the gigantic billboards in the first place, speaks volumes!!)
What the hell are we supposed to celebrate on Helwan’s National Day?
Well, I refuse to celebrate!!! And if I was much younger, I would have taken a knife and shown that huge inflatable polar bear how a celebration should be!
To me, Helwan’s National Day is an effigy to our government’s complete failure and confusion!
But hey, that’s just me! You can call me a party pooper!
Foot Note: While I was taking those picture, in front of Maadi Grand Mall, a man came up to me and introduced himself as a member of the Investigation Bureau (the notorious maba7es) and inquired about what I was doing! I told him that I was infatuated with the National Day decorations and wanted to take a photo of it, apparently even he didn’t believe that, so he started asking if I was photographing the Billboard!!!! Apparently the Billboards, being the National treasure that they are, are now protected by the police!!!! So of course I said no (cause I already photographed 1 year ago, moron). Nonetheless he instructed me to leave immediately, because this is a no-photography zone!!!!!!!!!
Read my older blog post about Maadi billboards: