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In Cairo Slum, Little Hope For Change

Aida Abdel-Fattah doesn't believe it when promises are made about making life better i i

Aida Abdel-Fattah doesn't believe it when promises are made about making life better in the Cairo slum where she lives. By Holly Pickett for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption By Holly Pickett for NPR
Aida Abdel-Fattah doesn't believe it when promises are made about making life better

Aida Abdel-Fattah doesn't believe it when promises are made about making life better in the Cairo slum where she lives.

By Holly Pickett for NPR

"Is your story going to make a difference?"

I heard that question quite a lot while interviewing Egyptian families in the Cairo slum district called Duweiqa.

The people of the slum have grown cynical over the years and no longer get their hopes up when government officials and journalists come around to ask about life here.

Aida Abdel-Fattah, 50, is the wife of a retired government printer. The couple raised six children here in this Cairene version of a Depression-era Hooverville. She is among the more outspoken residents.

Abdel-Fattah says that after a massive rockslide in 2008 killed scores of her neighbors, her makeshift compound was scheduled to be torn down. She says officials told the 11 families who live here that they would be moved to government-built apartments down the road.

The municipal inspectors came several times and urged them to be ready to move, she says.

But two years later, Abdel-Fattah is still here, even though some of the shanties were badly damaged by the rockslide and appear to be ready to collapse.

Abdel-Fattah accuses her landlord, who owns several compounds in this illegal district, of paying off the inspectors. Kind of like the bribes that she pays the electric company workers who come around every few months to threaten the families for stealing power from the main lines. (As their homes are illegal, there is no lawful way for Abdel-Fattah to tap into the power grid).

She says she doesn't hold out hope of ever getting into the government-built apartments. But her son Mahmoud, who is a police conscript, says he will find a way to rent one when it comes time for him to marry.

Here's a short audio slideshow from my visit to Duweiqa:

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Cairo and covers the Arab world from the Middle East to Africa. On Monday's Morning Edition, she reported about the growing number of Egyptians who are tired of President Hosni Mubarak's iron-fisted rule and hope next Sunday's parliamentary elections will produce some change. Tuesday, she focused on Egypt's changing economy. We're expecting more reports from her later this week about life and the pace of change in Egypt.

Posted by Mark Memmott.

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