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Cairo’s historic Nile houseboats face extinction

By Isaac J. Martin

Cairo, Jun 29 (EFE).- A few days ago, residents of Cairo’s iconic Nile boat houses received an eviction notice.

Today, they are holding on to slim hope that the operation of demolishing houseboats that were built without the government’s permission years ago would be paralyzed.

Remains of those abandoned houseboats that have already been removed can still be seen along the banks of the Nile in the Cairo populous neighborhood of Imbaba. Residential ones still have a few more days.

Neama Mohsen owns one of these houses, which she has lived on for 30 years.

“This houseboat is my life, the question is not about money, this is where we live and have our memories. I gave birth to my two children here, we have celebrated their birthdays, the walls of this house could tell everything,” she tells Efe.

Residents are living in uncertainty as they only have until July 4 to vacate their houses.

Cairo’s residential houseboats are part of Cairo’s popular culture that attracts so many Egyptians and tourists, and where many classic movies and television series have been recorded.

Since 2020, these homes have been at risk of being demolished or removed.

But the ultimate crackdown started in January after the Egyptian cabinet set up an emergency committee to review and administer these houseboats depending on the newly established Nile development and protection sector.

“It feels as if they are raping me and my life,” Mohsen says while sitting in the small garden in front of her houseboat.

Mohsen points out that she received her eviction notice last week and a fine of 900,000 Egyptian pounds (nearly $48,000).

“We submitted requests and letters to reduce the fines.

“They just told us that everything would be fine and they weren’t going to seize our houses.

“But suddenly they demolished two empty houses a few days ago and the next day, we received all the sequestration notices and fines.

“We have paid what they asked for and no one told us anything about being illegal or irregular.”

So far, almost a dozen from the 30 houseboats on the Nile have been removed, neighbors explain to Efe.

“The only option is to put (the houses) up in warehouses and pay a lot of money, but we have no idea what we are going to do in the future, nor do we know what they want to do with our houses,” Mohsen says.

“Dismantle them, destroy them, burn them or sell them at public auction, I have no idea,” she adds, noting that the houses now cost hundreds of thousands of US dollars.

Omar Robert Hamilton and his mother, renowned Egyptian novelist Ahdaf Soueif, have been living on their houseboat for a decade.