Shukri Mahmud, walks along the rooftop where he lives with is family in Cairo on January 9, 2014. (AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI)
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On the roof of a once-grand apartment block overlooking Cairo's Tahrir Square, Shukri Mahmoud's father built a humble shack, with the din, congestion and worst of the notorious pollution in Africa's biggest metropolis eight floors below.Mahmoud's family and their neighbors are among tens, if not hundreds, of thousands in the burgeoning city that officials say holds at least 18 million people for whom finding affordable housing is a nightmare.They form what best-selling author Alaa al-Aswany called Cairo's "terrace society," not a world of fashionable sidewalk cafes but a parallel world of rooftop dwellings.In some cases, as in The Yacoubian Building, poor migrants from the countryside took over small storerooms allocated to each apartment in a building, which were abandoned as better-off residents began moving out to the suburbs.There is also a paradox linked to the population explosion – as many as 30-40 percent of housing units in Cairo and the townships lie vacant.The house has a balcony, a spartan kitchen and a small living room with a television and a computer.
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