In a press conference Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb said that the state is reclaiming Downtown Cairo as one of the most important heritage sites in the Middle East.
On Sunday morning the police began to forcibly remove street vendors from Downtown to a temporary market space in Turgoman.
Armored Personnel Carriers and armed policemen are currently stationed throughout Downtown in order to prevent the return of the vendors, many of whose livelihoods depend on their work in popular areas.
The vendors have complained that Turgoman, a parking complex, is not central and that most of their custom comes from passing trade, which they say will not be possible from the new venue.
Mehleb said that the clearing of street vendors is only the first step in a plan to completely develop Downtown, including cleaning and lighting the area properly. He asserted that the relocation of the street vendors was done in coordination with many government agencies and represents a positive step for the area.
According to an article in independently owned Al-Shorouk newspaper, Mehleb met with around 50 representatives of the street vendors on Wednesday in order to address their complaints. He assured them that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has their best interests at heart and does not want any of them to suffer as a result of the move.
Al-Shorouk added that most of the vendors are thankful to Sisi for enabling them to trade formally rather than illegally, and that they see the move as recognition of their work.
However, in a previous interview with Mada Masr, the secretary general of the Street Vendors Syndicate stated that he objected to the move to Turgoman parking area as it was “not suitable at all” for trade.
The plan is for the vendors to eventually move to Abdel Moneim Riyad Square, where an area is being prepared for them to sell their goods. However the area will not be ready for another 6-8 months, which will make life in the interim difficult for the majority of vendors who depend on the markets Downtown to make a living.