Thursday,19 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1307, (11- 17 August 2016)
Thursday,19 October, 2017
Issue 1307, (11- 17 August 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Moving the Mugamma

Steps to move the Tahrir Administrative Complex, or Mugamma building, in Downtown Cairo are already underway, as Mai Samih finds out

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Al-Ahram Weekly

The Tahrir Administrative Complex, or Mugamma Al-Tahrir, as most Egyptians call it, is one of the landmarks of government services in Cairo. It has been seen in films like the 1992 film Al-Erhab Wal-Kabab (Terrorism and Kebabs) starring actor Adel Imam, and it has a reputation for crowds of people struggling to finish their paperwork while arguing with government employees.

Huge numbers of people visit this vast administrative building every day, with an estimated 100,000 going through its doors on a daily basis to be met by some 30,000 government employees. However, the government decided to move all government departments out of the building earlier this month, and some of them have already started moving, including the Ministry of Social Solidarity. The decision aims to ease traffic problems in Downtown Cairo caused by huge numbers of people visiting the Mugamma.

“Moving the Mugamma has a traffic dimension and a security dimension. The idea of moving government departments out of the building arose in 2004 under former governor of Cairo Abdel-Azim Wazir. In other words, this is not a new idea, though the way it is executed will depend on the circumstances of each ministry throughout the year,” said Deputy Governor of Cairo for the western and northern districts Mohamed Ayman Abdel-Tawab.

“So far, only departments of the ministry of Social Solidarity have been transferred, though before the end of June this ministry had 121 offices in the building,” he added.

Wazir issued Decree 1455/2005 to move offices hosted by the Mugamma building in order to ease traffic congestion in central Cairo when he was governor. He also ordered a committee to be formed to manage the process, but things came to a halt after the 25 January Revolution, with protesters laying siege to the Mugamma in 2011 and then again in February 2013.

In November 2012, calls were again made to move offices housed in the Mugamma, and these were taken up in 2016.

Abdel-Tawab lists the number of offices of the main ministry departments currently hosted by the Mugamma. “The Ministry of Interior has 214 offices in the building, including the passport office and emmigration department. There are 69 offices of the tax investigation department, 65 of the public funds police, 19 for the juvenile police department, 30 for the vice squad, three for the Interior Ministry inspector, and about 325 for the Ministry of Justice, including the offices of the public prosecution, the Council of State, the administrative courts, the family courts and the arbitration services,” he said.

“This is not to mention the offices of the Cairo governorate, including the roads directorate, the social solidarity directorate, the youth and sports directorate, the quarries directorate and the educational directorate, among others.”

“Every ministry is responsible for its departments in the Mugamma and the whereabouts of its new offices. The departments concerned by the move were given notice to leave last year, and they will be moving soon,” Abdel-Tawab said. “The departments of the governorate will be moved to new buildings as we have no room for them in our main buildings. There are already 400 offices there.”

According to one government official who spoke on condition of anonymity, the passports office will be transferred to Abbassiya in Cairo. “We are all hoping our offices will be transferred somewhere not too far from the downtown area. I live in Giza and would have a hard time going to my job if the department I work for was moved to a faraway place like New Cairo, for example,” he said.

The Mugamma is in the heart of the downtown area of Cairo on Tahrir Square, and it witnessed the 25 January and 30 June revolutions. The complex houses 11 ministries, among them the ministries of the interior, education, higher education, social security, youth and sports, manpower and justice. In addition to the ministries, it also hosts the offices of the Cairo Governorate, those of some national banks, the national telephone company and the Post Office.

It is the biggest government building in the country. There were already 10,000 employees working in the building in 1970, with some 5,000 visitors using the building each day. By 1992, the number of visitors had gone up to 50,000, and today the figure is around 100,000. The Mugamma was built in 1952 and is composed of 14 storeys. It was built to save expense and to bring government departments together under one roof, making paperwork easier for citizens and foreigners alike.

In 1971, the building’s offices were reorganised so each ministry had its offices on the same floor. The building cost LE2 million to build and has been managed by the governorate since 1960. It was the first major administrative building in Egypt, Africa and the Middle East and was originally built on a site associated with the British army as a gesture towards the development of an independent nation. Work on the building was supervised by engineer Mohamed Kamal Ismail. Its area is some 28,000 square metres, and it is 55 metres in length.

The most important departments for most people are the passports and emmigration departments, which serve many Egyptian citizens, Arabs and foreigners, and the manpower department, which provides foreigners with work permits. Last but not least is the social affairs department, which supervises non-governmental organisations working in Egypt.

“I think that government departments should be housed in places not far away from the headquarters of the ministries concerned, so that people are able to reach them. If this is not possible, then the government should make sure that there are enough buses to go to the faraway places and to serve those coming from other governorates,” said Hend Mohamed, a Cairo housewife. 

“Some newspapers and television programmes say that the Mugamma will be transformed into a hotel for foreigners visiting the downtown area. I don’t know whether this is a rumour or not, but surely there are enough hotels already in the downtown area,” she added.

In response, Abdel-Tawab commented that “it has not been determined what the future of the building will be after all the departments are evacuated. We may order a competition to present ideas on the best future for the Mugamma.”

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