Among the casualties of the new development is the Hinhayat watch shop, which was established in 1907 by a Bulgarian craftsman.

Essam Ahmed, the owner, says his grandfather worked in the shop and then purchased it in 1956, when Egypt’s foreign communities fled in the face of growing nationalism and expropriation of property by the socialist government. He boasts that his grandfather once fixed watches belonging to King Farouk, Egypt’s last monarch, as well as politicians and celebrities.

“Here is the legacy of this shop,” he said, as he packed away the last of his watches and clocks earlier this month. “I wanted to save this heritage for the country… but it seems that they (the government) are not interested. There are some things which are more important than money.”

Ahmed has filed legal suits against the government, saying the shop should have been spared demolition because of its historical value. He said authorities told him he would only be compensated if he drops the cases.

He and other nearby shop owners say the compensation offered by the government for their businesses — 7,000 pounds ($391) per square meter — falls well short of market value in the area.

“Their compensation, which we have not received yet, is worthless,” said Ahmed. “Our livelihood is gone.”

The government insists the compensation offered was fair and denies it is forcibly relocating anyone.

Ahmed el-Sayed, a retired 63-year-old, moved from Maspero months ago. He says the now-demolished apartment building where he lived most of his life was a unique architectural landmark registered with the Ministry of Culture.

“It should not have been demolished. It should have been renovated,” he said.

Photo credit: AP