Changing the New Cairo Landscape
AUC’s 260-acre campus will bring cultural and economic development to the surrounding community
By Leen Jaber and Peter Wieben
With AUC relocating to New Cairo, residents of the area will find their lives changing as a result of the establishment of a massive new university in their neighborhood. Though AUC hopes to bring positive changes to the area, there are also those who worry about increased traffic, crowds and higher costs following AUCians into the desert. Luckily, when the dust settles from the move, staff, faculty and students are ready to be good neighbors.
Among the most immediate and obvious impact AUC will have on New Cairo is an influx of cultural performances, plays and special events, many of which will be open to the public. “AUC is the first institution in the area offering cultural events to the community through theater, film, art and music, all several times a week,” said Frank Bradley, associate professor in the performing and visual arts (PVA) department.
In fact, the PVA department has its own building, housing more rooms and facilities to expand its productions as well as its audience. A special entrance to the building gives way to a public area, making it even more inviting for the community.
“Moving out to an area that’s growing faster than I’ve seen a city grow should bring in more and more people over the years looking for cultural events to attend,” Bradley noted, adding that he thinks people will come not only from New Cairo and the surrounding communities, but also from Maadi, Heliopolis and Nasr City, since these are closer to the new campus than downtown.
Brian Curling, assistant professor and director of the art gallery, not only anticipates a wide audience, but also wishes to draw in artists from around Cairo to collectively use the large art exhibition area.
“We are planning to invite artists throughout Cairo to the new campus to discuss how best to use the space to culturally enhance the city,” he said. Curling also hopes to be able to span socio-economic backgrounds when reaching out to the community, spreading awareness through art. “There is a huge demand for art throughout Cairo,” he said. “We just need to provide the dynamic experience and find a way to get the artists here.”
In addition to the PVA concerts, performances and exhibitions, the community also has public use of the bookstore, outdoor café and park. “Having an attractive campus will hopefully bring people out for more than just seeing a play, but to also enjoy the bookstore and maybe a picnic lunch as well,” noted Bradley.
While the university is expanding its campus and community of visitors, the area surrounding AUC is also growing, providing a new place for Egyptians to live, eat and shop. Due to the presence of a campus that will accommodate more than 5,000 students, in addition to faculty and staff, businesses and real estate will be riding the wave of new construction in the area.
“We’re going to see a major boom,” said Ahmed Kamaly, associate professor of economics. “The move is going to increase activity and make real-estate properties more attractive to own.”
With the real estate industry already experiencing a boost due to inflation, Kamaly predicted that the move to New Cairo will only serve to increase this effect. “The big draw will be for apartments, though there are areas set aside for compounds and villas,” he noted. “The advantage of an apartment is that it is easier when it comes to transactions.”
While property values will undoubtedly rise, Kamaly doesn’t predict a sharp rise in prices for everyday goods. “On the contrary,” he explained, “I think that with all the competition to serve this new population, the prices will be at or below Cairo’s standard urban levels.”
The people providing these goods and services, however, may not be living in New Cairo. Kamaly said that the entire area is already zoned as a residential district, which means that small businesses will not be able to move to the immediate area. What is more likely is that service providers would come in to New Cairo from other parts of town. “From that perspective,” he said, “it might make sense to consider extending the metro line to New Cairo. At this point, though, it is just too soon to tell.”
In the meantime, workers arrive via the already busy road connecting New Cairo to more central neighborhoods. This is a fact not lost on many members of the AUC community, who fear both the danger and loss of time increased traffic may entail.
AUC students, however, have anticipated this need. They plan to put up signs along the road to the New Cairo Campus, urging drivers to slow down and drive safely. The Right Road student club is already working on establishing ambulance centers throughout the Katameya area, increasing signs on dangerous roads to warn drivers and repairing street conditions. The club, in coordination with the Student Union, is also organizing a road-safety campaign on campus, putting up flyers, posters and speed signs to remind the AUC community about the importance of safe driving.
“Car accidents are a preventable danger, and we need to do something to stop them,” said Yomna Safwat, president of the club and the first recipient of the Moataz Al-Alfi Family Leadership Award For Philanthropy and Social Innovation.
Helen Rizzo, associate professor of sociology, noted that while students will continue to serve the community through clubs and academic courses, being in New Cairo may present challenges, particularly at the beginning. “It’s everyone’s responsibility to keep the new campus from being a gated community,” she said. “When you look at the big picture, it’s up to us to determine what impact we’ll have on New Cairo.
There’s a potential for us to bring crowds, pollution and high prices to a new area, but there’s also the hope that lectures, cultural events and music will be beneficial. Really, it is going to depend on students, faculty and staff to stay connected with the neighborhood, just as we were on the downtown campus.”