Karachi, the next Cairo?

Recently a friend returned from a trip in Cairo, and the first thing he said when he got back was “thank God im back in Karachi.”

Cairo is a city of nearly 20 Million people, and like Karachi, is a raging metropolitan city where there exists a strong divide between the rich and the poor. Wikipedia says that Karachi is growing at roughly 5% a year (mainly attributed to Rural-Urban migration), so that means that by 2013 Karachi will have over 20 Million people. In just 6 years!

My friend described the scene to me that Cairo itself is far worse than Karachi and even worse than Delhi in terms of traffic, pollution, garbage, congestion, much more polarized society, more beggars and people trying to rip you off for more than they deserve and generally the tempers are shorter. Obviously this was a short term visit, but impressions last.

His first reaction was that this is where Karachi is heading within the next 10 years as economic and social rifts widen, traffic gets worse and pollution is on the increase.

Wondering if it is possible to learn from our friends in Cairo about what went wrong and how we can avoid such a fast paced population increase, when can’t even sustain our current population effectively.

Interesting also to note that there are benchmark cities that can be used to see what things could be like. I myself have yet to goto Cairo, and if it wasn’t for the Egyptian history and pyramids, im not sure I would be excited about visiting.

I would be interested to hear some of the solutions that are being brought forward to deal with these issue, whether governmental programs, or civil society involvement. I would also be interested to hear about other stories people could share about Cairo or perhaps other cities that are facing similar challenges.

9 Comments so far

  1. Arsalaan Haleem (unregistered) on March 8th, 2007 @ 1:04 pm

    I bet Cairo wouldn’t have so many flyovers and underpasses that our beloved city have.:-))

  2. mansoor (unregistered) on March 8th, 2007 @ 2:22 pm

    arsalan.. you’d be surprised… read up cairo on wikipedia :S

    they even have a subway system and YET so much traffic probs……. kya banay ga karachi ka…

    thankyou neoka, for making a comparision here… seeing real world problems before they come up in ur own backyard is a real eye opener.. :S

  3. Kamran (unregistered) on March 8th, 2007 @ 3:05 pm

    I have been to Cairo, though it was just a one day stay during transit. But I did take a small tour to the pyramids. I didn’t find it as conjusted as Karachi. And it was certainly not as broken as Karachi is.

    If we do go the Cairo way in terms of population, then we surely will have worse conditions

  4. kidal (unregistered) on March 8th, 2007 @ 10:18 pm

    I visited Cairo nine years ago. I’m sure a lot has changed since then. Cairo is definitely a very congested city where you rarely see individual houses. Most people live in low rise apartments. Only the very rich can afford bungalows.

    But I do not agree with Neoka’s friend. Cairo is very different from Karachi. Egypt is bigger than Pakistan but mostly desert and uninhabitable. More than 90 percent of the population lives in less than 10 percent of the land (don’t quote me on that figure, but its something to that effect). The only livable places are around the Nile and smaller rivers/deltas, and the coastal area (Alexandria, etc).

    Considering these constraints, I found Cairo to be relatively better organized and cleaner compared to Karachi. (Although my last visit to Karachi was more than six years ago). Egypt may be congested but it is beautiful and fascinating. Its ancient buildings and bazaars, its colonial era architecture, the Nile, the kornesh (riverside) walk, the food. The people are a bit short tempered but that is to be expected given the population, weather, pollution, economic and political issues, etc. Lets face it, Karachiites are not exactly pacifists.

    Overall Cairo is a great place to visit or even live. I would love to make another trip, preferably in the spring or winter time.

  5. Yawar (unregistered) on March 10th, 2007 @ 12:11 am

    I would love to go to Cairo as well. My fiance is from there and we always argue over what’s better. True, Cairo is culturally richer than Karachi but both cities are better in their own ways.
    I would love to visit Cairo but if I was to live anywhere, it’d be Karachi.

  6. redsnapper (unregistered) on March 10th, 2007 @ 3:56 am

    I’ve visited Cairo several times and the similarities are striking. I would agree with your friend’s observations.

    Khan el Khalili is a smaller version of Zainab/Cooperative market with a bit of Bohri Bazaar added. I remember I was taken there by my local friends as a major tourist attraction but was disappointed to find nothing new comapared to what I was used to here.

    I did get away with a major discount when the Sheesha seller was amazed I could write his name in Arabic script. There was a commotion and several shopkeepers came over asking me to write other words to test out my skills !! Most people there believe Pakistanis follow the Sanskrit script like the Indians.

    Congestion and pollution in Cairo is unbearable. Believe it, its worse than Karachi. The public transport system is pathetic.

    But looking at the infrastructure of the city, one could easily tell that the planners meant well but did patchy work.

    There are more rip-offs in Cairo than Karachi. Years of tourism has taught them how to manipulate foreigners. A devious art where the Karachi Zainab Market sellers don’t even come close to them.

    Of course, the major positive Cairo has is that they probably have more tourists visiting in a day than Karachi does in a whole decade. This itself brings a color to the city.

    The Nile is beautiful. We can’t say the same about Lyari.

  7. AB (unregistered) on March 10th, 2007 @ 6:57 am

    you’re an idiot… how can you compare a city of over 4,000 years old to Karachi? Again, you have never been to Cairo and your friend was the one with the all conclusive opinon apparently. And of course nothing beats home so sorry if Egypt wasnt up to par with your friend’s version of Karachi, but then again how could a visit to Cairo be compared to a place where one grew up and where one’s life and family resides? Cairo is not his home and never will be, especially with that attitude!

    Come visit but keep in mind you’re adding to the congestion so if you’re going to have that attitude in mind then save yourself and the people of Cairo your presence there. Oh and again you’re an idiot to think all Cairo has to offer are pyramids. Even the colonizers and the capitalist investors of today know Cairo and Egypt overall has tons to offer.

  8. AB (unregistered) on March 10th, 2007 @ 7:01 am

    BTW I am Yawar’s fiance, my lovely Pakistani who posted earlier, so as you can imagine we always have this discussion and I win because, well, Cairo is better :P

  9. kidal (unregistered) on March 10th, 2007 @ 9:55 am

    lol..yawar you’ve got one patakha there

    matez3alish ya AB…masr omm edonya!

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