Over the past 2 months, people on Social Media have been widely circulating the hashtags #savemaadi and #المعادي_ترفض_المحور to express their disapproval of the Ministry of Transportation’s AlGazaer Axis project set to be built passing through Maadi. Now, celebrities are tagging along with pictures of themselves with a sign of the hashtag held up.
Let’s back up, how did we get here?
On the 6th of June the minister of transportation, Kamel Al-Wazir announced the decision to establish 3 new axes.
They are meant to improve traffic on the ring road and free up the crowdedness of some Cairo neighborhoods. One of those axes is the Gazaer Axis; It’s meant to pass through the railway line that’s situated in the heart of Maadi at street 250.
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This street is home to not only many of Maadi’s most renowned flower and plant shops (mashatel). But also, some of the rarest and oldest trees in Cairo.
Why are people so upset?
First of all, making way for the Gazaer Axis requires the removal of the flower and plant shops. They have been in street 250 for a very long time. Those shop owners’ livelihoods would be severely threatened. Especially, since they did not receive a clear eviction notice early enough to find alternatives for their incomes.
One shop owner said he got a phone call telling him that his shop will be removed the next day and that he should hurry up and free the space. “After I spent 250,000 pounds to get this place, suddenly it’s getting removed,” he said.
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Most shop owners only had two days to free up the space, which forced them to sell as much of the plants as they could at half the price.
Along with those shops, street 250 is full of rare trees, some of which are over a 1000 years old. Such trees cannot simply be replanted because they were originally imported to Egypt from the time of Khedive Ismail and cannot be replaced. These trees are said to have given Maadi its nickname as ‘the Green Suburb of Egypt’. According to the Tree Lovers Association, these trees are considered natural heritage. And, since Maadi is considered an area of distinct value “منطقة ذو طابع خاص أو قيمة متميزة” according to Law number 119 of 2008, people who oppose the building of the axis argue that it would be illegal to do so.
There are also a lot of environmental concerns. Building this axis is considered an unsustainable solution to the problem of traffic congestion. Removing the trees means aggravating the deforestation problem that speeds up climate change and raises the temperature even higher.
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Furthermore, the trees and plant shops blocked a lot of the noise coming from the Autostrad and the other busy streets, this area of Maadi is known for its calm and visually appealing atmosphere. Many believe that’s why Maadi is a hotspot for foreigners living in Cairo. Losing that would not just destroy the urban fabric of the neighborhood, it would alter its identity entirely.
If the axis is built, noise and car emissions would not just compromise the beauty of the neighborhood, they would also pose a threat to the residents living in the area, which includes 3 schools. Moreover, many believe the restructuring of Heliopolis led to an increase in road accidents and are worried the same would happen in Maadi.
Is there an Alternative Solution?
Since the Ministry of Transportation’s announcement, people opposing the move rushed to present alternative solutions to the axis for the problem of traffic. Artist and Maadi resident Layla El Farouk believes the sustainable solution to the problem of traffic isn’t more roads, but better public transportation. This study by the World Bank supports her claim. Dr. Gouda AbdelKhaleq, the ex-Minister of Social Solidarity also believes highways would not fix the problem of traffic congestion. Read his article here.
To try and prevent the ministry from going through with the axis plan, two public groups were formed on Facebook, one titled ‘Save Maadi’ and the other, ‘المعادي ترفض المحور”. On it, people have been sharing information and updates about what’s happening. 6 foundations led by the Tree Lovers Association sent a complaint to the President, the Prime Minister, and the Ministers of Transportation and the Environment. They urged them to reconsider the axis project. Click here to view the details.
A petition was created on change.org and has gathered 14,922 signatures so far. Also, Member of Parliament Maha Abdel Nasser raised the issue to the House of Representatives of the Egyptian Parliament.
Celebrities reject the Maadi Mehwar
Multiple celebrities have been speaking out against the axis project. Now, they’re launching a campaign of sharing pictures of themselves with the hashtag.
They include Layla El-Farouk, Amir Eid, Ayda El-Ayouby, Nessma Herky, Sedky Sakhr, Tamer Ezzat. Also, Dalia Shawki, Akram El-Sharkawi, Shahd El-Shater, Mirelle Mokhtar, Nessma El-Shazly, Ahmed Bahaa, Tamer Hashem, Hany Adel, Shahira Kamal, Nadia Khairy, and Nora Cheichee.
“If this axis is built, it would be a disaster,” said Layla El-Farouk. “This project would destroy one of the rarest neighborhoods in Cairo, one that is self-sufficient and where nature and humanity are sacred,” said Artist and Singer Shahira Kamal in an Instagram post.
These celebrities along with others hope more people will also join their campaign to help stop the axis project from moving forward. Check out the Save Maadi and #المعادي_ترفض_المحور groups. And, click here to sign the petition.