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Egypt’s Historical Tenants Removed from Famous Waterfront

With verdant gardens on one side and water on the other, they were an anomaly in a city bordered on three sides by desert. For decades, Cairo’s houseboats occupied prime waterfront real estate, offering residents a front-row seat to the passing Nile River, with its water taxis, anglers, sport rowers and occasional family of ducks. But it’s coming to an end: A government push to remove the string of floating homes from the city’s Nile River banks has dwindled their numbers from several dozen to just a handful. Houseboats have been a Cairo tradition dating back to the 1800s and government efforts to remove them have drawn criticism in Egypt, where residents are mourning the loss of not just their homes but a way of life. Critics say the move is part of a series of development decisions by the government of Abdel Fattah el-Sissi that endanger the city’s heritage. The floating homes are being removed or renovated to develop the waterfront commercially, according to officials. They have not released detailed plans of what that entails. In recent years a surge in infrastructure projects by el-Sissi’s government has drawn concern about heritage sites, including an ancient cemetery and historic gardens.