CAIRO — Rowing up to the cheerful turquoise houseboat on the Nile, a fisherman saluted the white-haired woman swaying on its deck.
“How are you holding up?” he called to the woman, Ekhlas Helmy, 88, as his wife dragged back the oars. “May God bring down the bully!”
This week may be their last sharing that particular stretch of the Nile, a narrow tract in central Cairo that, since the 1800s, has been lined with wooden houseboats — homes that double as living lore. This month, the government suddenly ordered Ms. Helmy’s houseboat and 31 others demolished, saying they were unsafe and unlicensed.
famous films were set on others. On the riverbank, life was peaceful, airy and private, nothing like the dusty, frenzied metropolis whose imagination the floating homes had captured for so long.
modernize — and monetize — much of Cairo by handing it over to private developers or the military, bulldozing several historic neighborhoods to build new high-rises, roads and bridges.