Tree massacre angers Heliopolis residents

“It is not an urban development, but a distortion of the area and an obliteration of
memories of the entire age,” the residents of Heliopolis have said of the gardening
operations which are taking place in their neighbourhood so that new bridges can be
Abdel Rahman el-Sayed, a resident of Heliopolis, said that he was proud of living in
the neighbourhood, which is one of the most prestigious areas in all of Egypt, because
the gardens and trees give the area an attractive, aesthetic dimension.
He stressed that removing gardens and building new bridges opens the door to
obliterating the neighbourhood’s features and eliminates all good memories, and
makes it ugly so that he does not recognise it.
Abdel Rahman is not the only one who is concerned. Since the launch of the new
project, there is no voice louder over the concerns of the people in Heliopolis about
the fate of their district and the slaughter of trees in their area.
Heliopolis is considered one of the most luxurious neighbourhoods in Cairo. It is
more than 100 years old. Its foundation was laid by the Belgian architect Baron
Empain, who built it in the European style.
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued a decision at the end of last year to build 12 bridges in
Heliopolis to reduce traffic congestion and facilitate movement within Cairo, as well
as facilitate transportation from Cairo to the new administrative capital (which is
under construction).
Al-Sisi said during his speech at the opening of a number of projects last December
that the decision comes to relieve the suffering of the entire region of east Cairo.
Heliopolis residents were surprised that hundreds of palm trees were cut down to
build these bridges.
While the Egyptian regime and its media praise the project, stressing that it saves
time and effort on citizens coming from roads in east Cairo such as New Cairo and
Suez, experts and engineering specialists criticised the trend to build bridges in
Heliopolis. They stressed that this obscured the features of one of Egypt’s high end
The famous consultant engineer Mamdouh Hamza said in a post on Twitter that what
is happening is the destruction of one of the most beautiful areas of Cairo.
He added that the project intends to link the new administrative capital to Cairo and
El Alamein with the bridges, however it should be done by constructing tunnels, in
order to prevent distorting the general appearance of Heliopolis.
“The construction of bridges or tunnels is only a temporary solution that transfers
traffic congestion from one point to another,” Urban Planning Professor Jalila al-
Qadi told Al Jazeera.

She explained that the solution to the problem is not only engineering because the
construction of bridges also works to increase the complexity of the problem and
distort the environment and the visual image of the city.
The Heliopolis Heritage Initiative published a statement on Facebook stating that
there were other problems that occurred including from the street expansion to
accommodate cars, which has negatively affected pedestrian walking spaces.
The statement stressed that those in charge of the campaign had previously requested
a community dialogue before the start of work in August of last year, which is long
Abdel Rahman Adel, a member of the Heliopolis Heritage Initiative, said around
2,500 perennial trees were removed in order to widen the street for the traffic.
He added the development operations will raise the number of cars passing by in the
region. They have also removed the metro, which was environmentally friendly and
was using electricity instead of fuel, which means pollution rates will increase.
In an effort to contain anger on the street, the Ministry of Environment recently
launched a campaign sponsored by al-Sisi to plant streets in Heliopolis, but the
campaign did not reduce the anger of the people of Heliopolis and it will not bring
2,500 perennial trees back to life again.