Gazirat al-Dhahab, an island located in the the NileRiver approachable by the Corniche at al-Ma`adi, has a population of more than 20,000 people. In 2001, the Council of Ministers decided to appropriate Gazirat al-Dhahab and the two WarraqIslands (with 80.000 inhabitants) to the north for “public purposes” and to evict their residents.
Those communities have been residing there already for a century and, thus, are statutory freehold owners of their long-inhabited plots. We understand that the Ministry of Housing did not disclose what the putative “public purpose” projects were, nor did officials substantiate what was to be the public benefit that would justify the displacement and dispossession of such a large number of citizens. However, according to the information circulating in the press at that time, the Government planned instead to sell these islands to an non-Egyptian Arab investor to build tourism facilities.
An opposition movement, including such public figures as world-renown filmmaker Youssef Chahine, advocated to halt these plans. This movement succeeded in everting the disaster only temporarily, as the Cabinet decision remains in effect today and may be implemented at any time, making for very precarious daily existence for those Cairo citizens living on the islands.