Residential density: 36,500 people per km2 (London 4,500 people per km2)

Cairo has a high residential density, approximately nine times that of London. Desert conditions limit the amount of habitable land in Egypt, so half its inhabitants live within a 100 kilometre radius of Cairo. Its dynamic informal economy is a magnet for people who continue to flow to Cairo’s already congested neighbourhoods. As a result, the many people attracted to the city have difficulty finding affordable housing.

The Nile Valley frames the overall metropolitan development of Cairo. The most dense urban areas lie along a corridor stretching north east from the river, and in parts of Giza, west of the Nile. Open public space is scarce; as a result, Cairo’s citizens have co-opted some unexpected parts of the city for use as social space, including using the multilane bridges over the Nile for evening picnics.

Project: Al-Azhar Park

By the mid-1990s Cairo had one of the lowest ratios of green space per inhabitant in the world; at only one square metre per resident it fell far below the World Health Organisation’s recommended eight square metres per person. Al-Azhar Park was one solution to the problems of these extreme population pressures.

Designed to rehabilitate one of Cairo’s poorest and most populous areas, the park was created by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture on a 30-hectare site used as a dump for over 500 years. Mosques, palaces and historic houses are being restored alongside initiatives to provide residents with apprenticeships, employment, health centres and women’s associations.

Architect/Planner: Historic Cities Support Programme (HCSP); Sasaki Associates; Sites International
Client: Governorate of Cairo
Completion date: 2004