Urban policies of the last 50 years in Egypt focused on extending and developing road networks to the extent that Egyptians used to describe it as the era of roads and bridges. From such policy came an introduction of a big number of elevated urban highways that cuts through Cairo’s urban fabric to ensure the flow of the city. Elevated urban highways are often perceived as a tool for mobility, but it introduces much more complicated impacts on the urban fabric and the communities that they pass through. While the international literature has long pointed out such impacts there is a gap in the local Egyptian literature that discusses the notion of elevated urban highways and its various impacts. It is argued that highways introduce a set of social, environmental and economic impacts, but most importantly some of those impacts are actual potentials that can be utilized to serve the needs of the community. This research aims at scoping the impacts and potentials of Cairo’s elevated urban highways. Understanding the impacts and potentials will provide better information for decision-making leading to better urban management of affected areas. This is achieved through studying three independent cases of elevated urban highways in Cairo: Al Azhar bridge, 15th of May bridge, and Saft El-Laban corridor. Through site visits and in-depth interviews with local stakeholders, the research provides an understanding of how the presence of elevated structure impacted each community, analyzes its spatial elements and scopes its potential uses. Based on the observations and investigations, many findings were revealed, like how communities perceive elevated highways differently, and how a negative impact in one case can actually be perceived as a positive impact in another case. Empirical findings presented interesting observations that sometimes contradict with the international literature and theories. The field work lead to realizing how new structures can lead to the formation of different power dynamics related to claiming ownership in each case. Observations and research reflected how the laws and regulations in regards to spaces under the elevated highways are vague, leading to misunderstandings and conflicts in regards to ownership and uses. Most importantly discussions reveal that Cairo’s elevated urban highway holds much more spatial potentials than the common belief of being just a tool for mobility.

Degree Name

MS in Sustainable Development

Graduation Date


Submission Date

January 2017

First Advisor

Abdel Halim, Khaled

Committee Member 1

Kamel, Basil

Committee Member 2

Safey El Deen, Heba


124 p.

Document Type

Master's Thesis


The author retains all rights with regard to copyright. The author certifies that written permission from the owner(s) of third-party copyrighted matter included in the thesis, dissertation, paper, or record of study has been obtained. The author further certifies that IRB approval has been obtained for this thesis, or that IRB approval is not necessary for this thesis. Insofar as this thesis, dissertation, paper, or record of study is an educational record as defined in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 USC 1232g), the author has granted consent to disclosure of it to anyone who requests a copy.

Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval

Approval has been obtained for this item


First I would like to express my gratitude to my Advisor Dr. Khaled Abdelhalim for his continuous support, patience and insightful inputs which allowed me to work on a topic that was of great interest to me. I would like to also thank my thesis committee Dr. Basil Kamel and Dr. Heba Safey Eldin, your valuable comments really helped in refining my work and enriching my thesis. Second I would like to thank all the interviewees who agreed to give me their time and insights. I thank them for inviting me into their homes and shops, and for trusting me and enriching my research with their valuable opinions. Without them, this research wouldn’t have been possible. I thank my most amazing friends Ihsaan, Rania, Aya and Renad for always listening to my academic drama and being there for me every single step of the way. A special gratitude goes to Ruaa, Noha and Sheri for pushing me through the final end of the writing process and brainstorming with me through all phases of the research. Last but not least I would like to thank my family for their support, and for being so patient and understanding with my hectic schedule. Most importantly I thank my mother Nisreen Istanbouly for being my ultimate support system and always reminding me that I am capable of achieving anything that I set my mind to. Thank you mama, I couldn’t have asked for a better mother.