The Egyptian antiquities authorities have long asserted ownership (or at least exclusive caretaker status) over historic “monuments” in Cairo, for their tourist value. But how does that square with everyday infrastructure? Yesterday Muizz Street flooded when sewage water overflowed — photos posted on Facebook show the historic architecture and urban fabric of Fatimid Cairo inundated with waste water. Apparently the flood was contained after six hours, as Ahram Online is reporting. Their story includes revealing quotes from Mohsen Sayed, head of the Islamic Antiquities Department, who blames the flood on a water pump operator. From the article:
“This is not the antiquities’ fault,” Sayed said, adding that according to the street’s development project, the Antiquities Department is paying an annual fee to operate a pumping machine that has been installed to prevent the leakage of water into the street and to pump it out if neccessary.
Regretfully, Sayed continued, sometimes the person who is in charge of the machine has left it without supervision. “This is the third time in a year that drainage water leaked into the street due to the irresponsibility of the person in charge of the machine,” Sayed told Ahram Online.
There is so little transparency and so much bureaucratic obscurity that it’s almost impossible to understand who is responsible for maintaining Muizz Street — which was “restored” in a very costly intervention by the Egyptian government, led by the Ministry of Culture with the Ministry of Housing and the Cairo Governorate, that was basically street-level beautification. The antiquities head Mohsen Sayed is from a government institution that in matters of tourist promotion, ticket sales, and restoration (for the sake of tourism), asserts control over the historic buildings on Muizz. But when sewage water overflows around those 700-year old buildings… blame the pumping machine operator.
Management and upkeep is as important to preservation and restoration as the physical projects themselves — and here the antiquities authorities have failed.