Babylon & Beyond

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EGYPT: Bad news for parking guys

September 18, 2008 | 11:53 am

New_campus

The American University in Cairo's move to a new campus on the city's outskirts forced not only students, faculty and staff on a longer commute, but also the parking men, who left their downtown haunts for wide-open desert space.

Students arriving at the new campus are mobbed by the same unofficial parking attendants who charged them relatively high "fees" for squeezing hundreds of cars into spaces on narrow downtown streets. Many of the AUC students are rich by Egyptian standards, and the parking guys charged them accordingly: at least five pounds ($1) per car, while their peers in other less strategic places would not charge more than LE 1 (20 cents).

“Hello, cannot you remember me? I am the guy who used to help you park your cars last year,” a student heard the other day when she pulled up to the new campus.

The problem is there may not be a need for valets in a desert with endless parking spots. Hence, the parking guys, like many Egyptians facing inflation and changing times, may lose a big chunk of their incomes.

AUC moved to a 260-acre, $400-million campus in New Cairo, which has become the beacon of wealthy gated communities and a major attraction to the city's haves. Nevertheless, the move has elicited ripples of controversy among AUC faculty. Many opposed the move, contending that it would detach students from the heart of Cairo and the Egyptian culture, to say nothing of the mercurial parking men.

— Noha El-Hennawy in Cairo

Photo: AUC's new campus in New Cairo (AUC website)

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