Cairo - The Divided City: Policy versus reality and the journey to sustainability

Mostafa Elbeshbeshy

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Officially, over 43% of the Egyptian population lives in urban areas, posing a real challenge to meet people’s needs in this predominantly arid environment, especially considering that only around 6% of Egypt’s land is populated (CAPMAS, 2016; MHUUC, 2012). The official data underestimate the actual urban population because they do not include other urban forms such as urban villages (Bayat and Denis, 2000). Inadequate policies have rarely managed to keep pace with the always-changing socio-economic and political transformations. The research aims to understand Cairo’s housing ownership mechanisms in relation to the official housing policies and their implementation by exploring the government’s perspective and residents’ lived experience of place in informal settlements, gated communities and in new satellite cities in Cairo.
The methodology is of a qualitative nature and reviews how housing policies regulate housing ownership mechanisms in Cairo, investigates why most Cairenes reside in informal areas, evaluates how the New Cities perform in relation to the housing issue in Cairo, and offers prospective recommendations to narrow the gap between policy and reality. This analysis evaluates housing stakeholders’ divergent realities in terms of housing policies and its implementation in Cairo, and reveals the state’s inability to mitigate the housing issue. The findings show that housing policies attempt to regulate housing ownership mechanisms in Cairo through an ineffective institutional structure; that affordability, flexibility, and suitable socio-economic environment play a decisive factor why most Cairenes reside in informal areas; and that the failure of social housing to provide adequate shelter for poor- and middle-income Cairenes has triggered the alteration of the initial aim of the New Cities, which are now targeted towards higher-income classes. The research concludes with a number of recommendations. The study contributes to the limited empirical evidence and helps to develop a holistic picture of the housing issues in Cairo, paving the road for future endeavour in the journey to greater sustainability as outlined in the New Urban Agenda and SDG 11.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Simon, David, Supervisor
  • Dolton, Michael, Advisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Jan 2018
Publication statusUnpublished - 2017


  • housing
  • Cairo
  • urban planning
  • informal housing
  • new cities
  • gated communities
  • housing policy
  • governmental housing
  • slums
  • social production
  • housing stakeholders
  • Sustainability
  • sustainable development
  • Sustainable Development Goals
  • Cairo historical development
  • land tenure
  • Egypt
  • building regulations
  • land registration
  • building permit
  • concept of housing
  • Urbanisation
  • housing ownership
  • housing mechanisms
  • housing adminstration
  • master plans
  • mortgage

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