“Such poverty as we have today in all our great cities degrades the poor, and infects with its degradation the whole neighbourhood in which they live. And whatever can degrade a neighbourhood can degrade a country and a content and finally the whole civilised world, which is only a large neighbourhood”.

George Bernardaw (1928) (cited in Jennings, 1994, p.1)

This paper summarises the characteristics of urban poverty in Greater Cairo (GC) region as one of the most important regions not only in Egypt but also in MENA region. The targeted region is administratively extended across three governorates which are Cairo, Giza, and Qaliobeia. It includes the urban areas of the three governorates with exception to only some scattered areas that constitutes an area of about 2900[1]km2. Discussed within are the factors that contributed to urban poverty within GC and its associated problems. The paper also discusses the experienced difficulties by the Egyptian Government while alleviating the urban poverty prevalence, which resulted from the complex nature of poverty in urban areas of GC region.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source:El Kouedi and Madbouly, 2007

The nature of Urban Poverty in Greater Cairo:-

In order to understand the nature of urban poverty in GC it is important to recognise the definition of Urban Poverty which refers to poverty in urban areas. However, poverty has lots of definitions according to the approach that used for defining it; whether it is a monetary approach based on incomes and consumptions, or based on the capabilities of people or their social situation if they are included or excluded or based on a participatory approach that considers how poor people defined themselves as poor (Laderchi,ith andewart, 2003).

The World Bank refers to the Urban Poor as those who are deprived from access to employment opportunities and income, adequate and secure housing and services, living in peaceful and healthy environments with social protection mechanisms, and access to adequate health and education opportunities (World Bank, 2008)

Urban Poverty has a different nature from a place to another as each region has its unique national, demographic, economic and governance contexts. Furthermore, the factors that formulated its nature in every country are different (Sims, 2003).

The factors of Urban Growth in GC and its contribution to Urban Poverty:-

The importance of GC region is taken from the historical, economical and political importance of Egypt itself. The encountered growth in the region has formulated the country’s development policies that resulted in the centralisation in the region, and make it Egypt’s economic, social, service, educational, industry, employment, political and governmental administration centre. There are other factors contributed to that urban growth like the high increase of birth rate, the decline in death rate, the rural-urban migration and the favours of the government to urban areas than the rural in terms of services and budget allocation (Aboul Atta and Yousry, 1997).

The high rate of urban growth makes the region- that includes one of the largest mega-cities in the world- a region with” mega” problems also for both the population and the environment (Elgendy, 2004).

The notable environmental problems in the region are the air pollution that caused by the high number of industries which built in the region and the massive number of cars of the high dense population. Other environmental problems include the water pollution that resulted from dumping all kinds of solid and liquid wastes into the Nile the main source of potable and irrigation water. In addition to the problem of land pollution, which resulted from solid wastes dumping on streets by peopel (El Araby, 2002)

The accompanied demographic problems resulted from the internal migration as the people who migrated from villages and other cities in Egypt to the region were dreaming of getting a good job, having better food and suitable shelter, but unfortunately they found nothing of what they dreamt of. They found crowd, transportation and traffic jams, unemployment, poverty and unsanitary houses to live in with bad infrastructure or even no shelter at all because of its unaffordable prices (Perlman, 2000).

Figure (2): A map illustrating the internal migration from other 26 governorates within Egypt to Greater Cairo

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: Elgendy, 2004

The link between Urban Poverty and the informal settlements:-

In most of the Egyptian cities and in GC in particular there is no geographical distribution for the urban poor as poor people are found living mixed with low and middle income families in the centre of old neighbourhoods and in the huge informal settlements of GC. Even in the upper class neighbourhoods a small proportion of poor people could be found (UN-Habitat, 2003).

However, the majority of poor people are found concentrated in the informal settlements since the only low-income shelters in GC are located within these settlements on the fringes of the region. The formation of informal settlements or slums resulted from different factors such as natural population growth, inappropriate housing policies and regulations, ineffective urban management and bad governance (Altayeb, 2007).

The slums became the façade of the urban poverty in the region because of the very low prices of the dwellings that built illegally at no cost on either an agricultural land or on a state owned desert land (Arandel and El-Batran, 1998). In addition to these two types of slums there other slums that build either in deteriorated historic core[2] or in deteriorated urban pockets[3] as illustrated below:


[1]The boundaries of the region are being identified by the General Organisation for Physical Planning- Egyptian Ministry of Housing.

[2]Deteriorated historic core:These are the neighbourhoods that located in the historic places (Cairo before the extensions that took place after 1860’s)

[3]Deteriorated urban pockets:These are the damaged one to three story buildings that are located in the inner areas of Cairo which found around the beginning of 20th century.


ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
3.7 MB
Catalog Number
Institution / College
University of Birmingham – International Development Department- School of Public Policy
Urban Cairo



Title: Urban poverty in Cairo (Egypt)