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In Cairo's City of the Dead, election brings hope

KHALIL HAMRA
May 26, 2012

CAIRO (AP) — As Egyptians took part in the country's first free presidential election, residents of one of Cairo's poorest quarters expressed hope that a new leader would help them with a simple request — finding a new home.

Thousands of Cairo's poor live in the City of the Dead, a centuries-old necropolis replete with tombs and mausoleums that spreads out in a vast patchwork at the foot of the Mokattam Hills.

The conditions are cramped among the tombs. Children play with toys alongside gravestones that double as makeshift tables and shelves. Residents have sealed over graves to make kitchen or bedroom floors. Laundry hangs from clotheslines stretched between two tombstones.

"I have spent 25 years in cemeteries. No one checks on us and I live on only 200 pounds ($30) a month," said local resident Nadera Samir.

For some, living among the dead is a source of anxiety and nightmares.

"When one sleeps next to or on top of the dead he feels like he is in a twister, he feels like he is drowning in the sea," said one resident, Fekry Masoud.

Those living in the district expressed mixed feelings about the presidential election, which concluded Thursday.

Some backed veterans of ousted President Hosni Mubarak's regime, believing only they can ensure security and stability.

"Regardless of the fact that Mubarak was corrupt, life was easier, life was a lot cheaper," said one woman.

Others are horrified by the thought of a return to the regime.

Whatever the case, most have a simple request for the new president — not to forget them.

"What will be helpful is getting good food and a good place to live," said resident Sayeda Mohammed.