So, after I wrote that post on Cafe Riche that some people- based on nothing- claimed I was making up, a number of developments took place and I just didn't have the time to update y'all about them. It seems that it was read by a daughter of an infleuntial Businessman (who wants to remain anonymous) who also owns a building in the Qasr el nil street, which prompted her to contact her father to start an investigation. He found out that while Ismaelia did the purchasing of downtown buildings, it was actually owned by another Britian-based company called "Samay Hills", whose shareholders include a list a number of regional heavyweight businessmen, including one of the Sawiris brothers, but not my Boy Naguib. The company's official line (from one of the partners) is that they just want to buy the "historic and architectually beautiful" buildings to renovate them, but it was disputed since they wanted that man's building since he is in a "bloc they wanted", and his building is neither historic nor pretty. The total of what they have bought so far is around 150,000 square meters, with approximately 400 million egyptian pounds spent so far.
The question came up naturally, if Cafe Riche is in a building that is over 100 years old and thus protected as a historical building, how would they hope to tear it down? The answer was that the owner had destoryed all the balconies in the buidling, which emans that the building was architecturally alterd or improved upon, and thus no longer falls under the historical building protection. And as to how they planned to evict the cafe owners from the building, Sandmonkey sources in the government informed him that there is a law getting introduced in february or march in the egyptian parliament that will allow Landlords to change the rent of their tenants as they please as long as the space is used for commercial or adminstrative purposes. This would allow the owners of the building to hike up the rent so much that the Cafe Owners would have to leave. Nice and clean, no?
The funny twist in this story is how it all got stopped. Supposedly a journalist called Saad Hagrass heard of the post I wrote and investigated it himself, and then wrote a column about it in the Egyptian Business Daily "Al2alam al youm". Mubarak read the column (Mubarak reading newspapers. Imagine that!) and instructed the Investment Minister Mahmoud Moheyeldeen to investigate it. Mhamoud contacted Saad, and Saad gave him the entire file he had, and as a result the Cafe Riche people got a confirmation from the President that their building will not be touched, which is awesome news. Their friend who told me about this called me from the Cafe itself a few days ago, and told me that the brothers were very happy about the blog post I wrote, and how it moved tons of people and lead to their building being saved, which was the best news I've heard in a very very long time.
So downtown for now seems to be protected, and Samay Hills is thwarted for now, but who knows for how long? If Jimmy takes over after Hosny, I really doubt he would keep that gurantee. Not to mention, another shady company called Tatweer is busy buying up areas in Shobra and Al Gamaliya as we speak. But I figure that's a fight for another day. For now I will enjoy that victory for historical beauty over modern ugliness, and will worry about those other bridges when it's time to cross them.