Egypt to compensate only two evicted boathouse owners, others ignored: source

Egypt to compensate only two evicted boathouse owners, others ignored: source
3 min read
Egypt - Cairo
05 July, 2022
The Egyptian government favoured only two residents of boathouses in Giza that had been ordered to be evicted. The two tenants, one nicknamed Madam Ikhlas, will be compensated with multi-million-Egypt-pound flats.
The exact reason behind the special treatment provided to these two inhabitants was not clear. [Courtesy of Omar Hamilton/TNA]

Only two Egyptian boathouse owners, among dozens evicted over the past two weeks, will be compensated by the justice ministry with flats worth millions of Egyptian pounds, a well-informed source said on condition of anonymity.

The eviction order by the authorities against residents of boathouses set off an ongoing public outcry since last month. The houseboats were located across the Nile River banks in the "Kitkat" neighbourhood in Giza province, southwest of central Cairo.

The activists say that the houseboats are being removed and demolished to make way for commercial establishments and cafes on the river’s western banks. They also described it as a "great loss" and a "victory for ugliness and distortion".

Some 30 houses were subject to removal orders last week, with Egyptian authorities ordering residents to evacuate their homes within 10 days, reported the British Financial Times newspaper. 

"One of the two residents to be compensated, who was in the headlines in recent days, is Ikhlast Helmy (nicknamed Madam Ikhlas)," the source, who works for the justice ministry, told The New Arab.

Madam Ikhlas, an 88-old-lady who belongs to an upper-middle-class family, had angrily criticised president Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi was moving her out of the place where she lived all her life with her pets during media interviews.

On Monday, a high-level official with the justice ministry visited her at her boathouse as she was getting ready to leave. They attempted to comfort her while asking her where she preferred to live. She identified two of Cairo's most expensive neighbourhoods, Zamalek or Maadi.

The official promised to make that happen. 

"President Sisi is personally following up your case, my lady…Rest assured you will be moved to a place that is satisfactory to you," the official told Madam Ikhlas in the presence of her young supporters.

Police vehicles accompanied by high-ranking officers were seen along the river banks, days before the evacuation deadline, securing the parameters against any protests or dissent. 

Activists and supporters of the boathouses' residents were present over the past few days, gathering to help move the residents' belongings and document this tragic moment through their cell phones.

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The justice ministry official allowed Madam Ikhlas to evacuate the place on Tuesday, one day after the deadline the government had given residents, as a favour. 

The second resident expected to be compensated is a senior police or army officer, but his name or rank remains unclear at the time of this writing. 

Several other residents lived most of their lives in these boathouses and had nowhere else to go. While being forcibly evacuated, they were allowed to only move their belongings and house structures to any place they choose.

Many of those boathouses appeared in classic Egyptian films and books including one written by late Nobel Laureate novelist Naguib Mahfouz, titled "Tharthara Fawqa Al-Nil" (Chitchat on the Nile), which was also adapted into a successful movie filmed inside a boathouse.

Earlier last month, Egyptians were shocked to discover that the Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation was sending eviction orders to the residents under the pretext that they have "fines that were not paid".

"They only owned the structure of the houses but were renting the waterfront. The government decided to end their lease agreements and restore the land," the justice ministry official had said.