Monday,11 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1244, (30 April - 6 May 2015)
Monday,11 December, 2017
Issue 1244, (30 April - 6 May 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Finding space for all

Measures to move street vendors from Ramses Street in downtown Cairo commenced this week, reports Mai Samih

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Cairo Governor Galal Al-Saeed this week issued a decree to move street vendors in Ramses Street and near the Galaa Court Complex in downtown Cairo to a parking lot at the Ahmed Helmi bus station, behind the main railway station.

On the same day, the order was carried out by the police amid a heavy security presence. Anti-riot police and military personnel, along with officials from the Cairo governorate, were present in the Ramses Square and Ahmed Helmi area.

According to official statements, areas have been allocated for street vendors in the Ahmed Helmi area, where they can sell their products. However, some vendors who spoke to the Weekly said not everyone had managed to find space there.

Behind the Galaa Court Complex, where council officials handed vendors licences for their new stalls, vendor Kouta Yehia stood with around 50 of her colleagues complaining about the bureaucratic red tape.

Yehia has been a resident of Ramses Street for over 35 years. “We have been here from the early hours of the morning waiting for officials to give us our licences, but to no avail. I am the only breadwinner in my family and cannot make my living anywhere else,” she said.

“I’ve been a street vendor in this district for 30 years, and I have written permission from the council allocating me a place in one of the new locations. But I have got nothing so far, and neither have any of my colleagues,” said Mansour Mohamed, another vendor.

“But some vendors have managed to get more than one place by using the names of people who work for them,” Mohamed added.

“Officials have to put a stop to all the red tape as people are starving,” Hoda Al-Said, a street vendor and the widowed mother of eight children, said. “How am I supposed to support my children after they have confiscated the products I used to sell?” she asked.

“I have hepatitis C and live in the Azbakeya district with my three children in a room on the roof of a building. I used to work in Ramses Square and have been trying for three years to get a permit from the district to open a small shop, but no one listens to me,” said Fares Sofi, a street vendor. “I respect the law, but does the law respect me?” he asked.

An official from the Cairo governorate who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “There are 5,000 vendors and those who have been given alternative places so far are only 1,500. This is because the space in the current alternatives, like Al-Tourgouman Garage and the Ahmed Helmi area, cannot take them all.”

“The Cairo governorate owns two pieces of land in the Souk Ghaza district that are currently used as parking spaces. These areas would be good places to settle the vendors and a good solution for everyone,” he said.

After the 25 January Revolution that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak, the police presence in many downtown areas was reduced. In their absence, hundreds of street vendors moved in, setting up stands on Cairo’s main streets.

The Cairo governorate has adopted a strategy to end the city’s traffic problems by ending violations, including by street vendors who now occupy large parts of Cairo streets, sidewalks and metro stations.

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