families enjoying a meal, and people walking around, it’s a really enjoyable space."
Cairo is one of the fastest growing cities in the world with a population exceeding 20 million inhabitants in 2016. With more than 3 million cars on its roads, Cairo is rapidly turning into one of the world’s most polluted cities.
Skewed distribution of green public space in Cairo has led to a growing gap in access to green space between residents of high- income residential areas and those in low income marginalized neighbourhoods. The most affluent areas have up to 70 times more green spaces than the poorest areas. There is a growing need for green, open and accessible public spaces especially in the most densely populated areas of Cairo.
Abdeen Square in the heart of Cairo is surrounded by the historic Abdeen palace built in 1863 and was the royal palace until 1952. Although the square is relatively spacious, covering approximately 36,600 square metres, and is centrally located in downtown Cairo, it has been used for many years as a car parking lot by occupants of surrounding buildings.
In 2015 UN-Habitat, the General Organization of Physical Planning, and the Cairo Governorate developed a renovation plan for Abdeen Square aimed at transforming it from a parking lot to an inclusive and accessible green public space for Cairo residents and visitors of all ages and social classes, particularly families from surrounding neighbourhoods and other areas of Cairo.
The renovation plan focused on retaining the historical value of the space and its surroundings and creating a safe green space that encourages users to socialize by offering different recreational and cultural activities.
The renovation of Abdeen Square responds to the vision of Khedivial Cairo redevelopment plan to transform major squares in downtown Cairo into vibrant green spaces connected by green pedestrian friendly networks accessible to everyone.
Abdeen Square is now a safe and accessible inner-city recreational spot providing relief for many residents of crowded downtown Cairo. At a time when the rising cost of living is placing mounting economic pressure on Egyptians, there is an even greater need for affordable and accessible recreational facilities.
“I like how the space has been better utilized, I think that it is safe for women. My favourite part is the water fountains,” says Amira, a resident of Abdeen. The square is designed to encourage users to walk, cycle, and exercise as they enjoy the city, and is now used and visited by hundreds of visitors daily. The number of visitors increases significantly on weekends and national holidays. A visitor to the square notes, “You can visit the square any time of day and you will find young people cycling, families enjoying a meal, and people walking around, it’s a really enjoyable space.”