Cairo pines for its golden era
These days, unemployed youths shout vulgar catcalls at female shoppers walking past crumbling facades. Vendors on potholed sidewalks peddle Chinese-made T-shirts. Legless beggars grab the ankles of passers-by for alms.
There are graver ills in the Egyptian megalopolis of 18 million people: Whole outlying neighborhoods thirst for drinking water, ramshackle houses collapse on shallow foundations and trash clutters miles of dirt alleyways. Still, the district of Cairenes, known simply as downtown, provokes a kind of longing for possibilities lost in a once cutting-edge and even glamorous city.
"The Talaat Harb district represented Cairo as a fresh capital of a European country," said Alaa al-Aswany, author of the 2004 novel"Yacoubian Building," a chronicle of Cairo's moral decay set downtown."It symbolized a vigorous, cosmopolitan Cairo."
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