12 February 2012

Mapping Last Week's Cairo Clashes

One of the biggest struggles in comprehending conflicts in unfamiliar areas is that there is usually no attempt to contrast the current images with what the area looked like before, in relative normalcy.

I've managed to scour through my photos of my time living in downtown Cairo and come up with a good "before" picture to provide some context for last week's clashes and give an idea of just how unrecognizable the area is now.

The following is a rough composite I created from two other maps to indicate where the post-Port Said clashes of last week--which killed 15 people--were located in relation to Tahrir Square and my old apartment:

To give a sense of scale, the walk from my apartment (the green box) and Tahrir Square is about 10-15 minutes.

Most of the clashes occurred on Mohammad Mahmoud street, which runs east and west across the upper third of the map. 

The following picture--whose location is indicated by the white star on the map above--is a picture I took facing west on Mohammad Mahmoud street in early 2009. The photo below it (not by me) is one taken from more or less the same spot last week:


Photo credit: The Arabist
Not only is this usually very busy street completely devoid of cars, the street looks more like a dirt road than the asphalt that it actually is. The building on the immediate left in both photos, now covered in graffiti, is a school for small children.

I could not find a "before" photo to accompany this next picture, but I wanted to post it anyways because I walked down this street every day going to and from school, and some of my best friends lived at the end of the street. It's location is indicated by the yellow star in the map above, and is facing south on the street"

Noubar Street - Photo Credit: The Arabist
As you can see, I would now have to find a new way to walk home. This too is a street actually paved with asphalt, not dirt. The green shuttered business in the right-hand side of the photo was a car repair shop that was always open and regularly had two or three cars being worked on out on the sidewalk. On the left-hand side, just past where the massive wall meets the side of the road, was/is a petrol station. Some days cars lined were lined up down the block to get gas. Obviously, not anymore.

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