Al Amrikiyya Area – A Story of Two Worlds Coming Together
Strolling around 6th October city’s “Al Amrikiyya Area” is like stepping into a little Damascus, hustling and bustling in the heart of Egypt. Life takes on a distinctive Syrian character that is manifest everywhere from storefronts to the hawkers who dwell on the sidewalks.
Situated between the 6th October City Administration Building and “El Hossary” Mosque, Al Amrikiyya is a vibrant mixed-use platform of restaurants and small shops, which are operated mainly by Syrians and Egyptians.
Mohammad Mamdouh, a 24-year-old Syrian, came to Egypt in 2012 after losing his home to the war in Syria. Together with his brother, he opened the first Syrian mobile store in Al Amrikiyya to support their parents and family. “I am very comfortable living here. I am studying Business Administration at Cairo University and was lucky to be enrolled like a local Egyptian back in 2014,” he said.
At Al-Amrikiyya, a diverse community has come to form the core of its social fabric. This feature extends to swathes of Egypt’s 6th October City, which is one of the main urban settlements hosting refugees as well as Syrian business people and workers. It has also become a major economic hub and meeting point.
Ali Emad, an Egyptian who works in a coffee shop at Al Amrikiyya, steps into his neighboring Syrian restaurant to fetch some change. “Syrians are such a warm-hearted community with whom I interact on a daily basis,” he said. As someone who has worked in the area for several years now, he watched it grow, especially since it became a marketplace for both Syrians and Egyptians. “I saw the development of Al Amrikiyya and I am sure there is more it can offer if it gets upgraded,” he added.
Keen on supporting refugees and the host community and mindful of the centrality of the area to all stakeholders, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency in Egypt, has decided to fund an in-depth study to upgrade the area before its implementation by the city administration.
The study, undertaken in collaboration with Takween Integrated Community Development, ushered in an area-based development plan to improve Al-Amrikiyya’s physical infrastructure and devise socio-economic support schemes with the different workers in the hub.
The plan was well-received by the 6th October city administration, the apparatus responsible for its execution, in a move which attests to the long-standing cooperation between UNHCR and the Egyptian government.
UNHCR has been operating in Egypt since 1954. Throughout the years, it has supported refugees and asylum-seekers in urban settings residing mostly in Cairo and Alexandria with lesser numbers in other northern governorates. As of 31 August 2018, 235,397 are registered with UNHCR in Egypt. They come from 58 countries including Syria, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Iraq, Yemen and others.
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