The debate on the proposed Metro Station in Zamalek has a been highly-charged and contentious one from the get-go. There have been court battles, lawsuits, media campaigns and heated debates.
The biggest objector comes in the form of the Zamalek Association, which, to its credit, has done some good work for the island. In the wake of the citizen-mobilisation in recent years, members of the Zamalek community banded together to (re)form the Zamalek Association – intended, in part, to represent residents, liaise with the municipality and to give residents a voice to weigh in on all things relevant to the governance of their neighbourhood.
For such a ‘young’ association, the ZA has been reasonably active, protesting the opening of a new café adjacent to the El Sawy Culturewheel, working with local agriculture authorities to revamp the Aquarium Grotto Garden and undertaking other projects. None of these issues have been as prominent as the opening of a new Metro Station on Sedky Street, however.
While the concerns are understandable, the balance of national needs vs individual community interests is what is at the heart of the argument. All of Cairo’s residents can agree that the unstoppable monster that is Cairo’s traffic has reached new peaks of misery-inducing gridlocks. As such, while a new, central Metro Station in Zamalek will cause temporary inconvenience for residents during the phase of construction, the payoff will be immense, in that it will alleviate some of the pressure on the narrow, one-way, double-parked streets.
The concerns of the Zamalek Association and assorted residents include fears that the Sedky Street infrastructure (whose buildings have already been damaged by an earthquake) cannot handle the construction and subsequent operation of a Metro Line, and the association has hired experts to argue so – although other experts have refuted these claims. Other (absurd) arguments attempt to propose that the increase of (foot) traffic will have a knock-on effect on the streets.
Some of the concerns are well-founded; municipalities have a nasty track-record of promising ambitious projects and then not delivering, and if, indeed, Sedky Street’s infrastructure cannot handle a Metro, a new location should be scouted. Most of the arguments, however, seem to be less about the exact location, and more about any Metro Station in central Zamalek.
Considering that Zamalek is an upscale neighborhood with largely affluent inhabitants who have been known to be outspoken (remember Zamalek Guardians?), it’s hard to shake off the feeling that these objections will only insulate the island even further from central Cairo.
Perhaps it is time we grin and bear it. An affordable and far-reaching transport system is one of the cornerstones of a successful, expansive metropolis like Cairo and will enable the general population to move around more freely, affordably, and quickly – regardless of some inconvenience, is this not the progress many were calling for?
Let us raise a glass to this new Metro Station and hope that it is actually up and running in the estimated seven years and makes our daily commute a little less torturous. In short, let’s be positive for a change.
By Noor Salama