Fifty-three years ago, 80-year-old Ahmed Hasan started working as a valet in the center of Cairo. Back then, his uniform commanded the respect and trust of car owners who left their cars in his care, safe from theft and fines. When his customers returned, they paid him in kind with generous tips.

Hasan still performs his job the way he did half a century ago, starting his day early at 7, but his profession has changed. Unlicensed car parks have filled up all the empty and public spaces in the city center, taking away from the official business that is Hasan’s livelihood.

Over the last ten years, this phenomenon spread to other areas in Greater Cairo (Cairo, Giza and Qalyubia governorates) where there are four million registered vehicles and a large number of valets, many of whom work illegally, whether individually or through a person who controls the area where they work. This person distributes the areas to the valets for L.E. 100-400 (5-22 USD) per day for an area of pavement, which can host 20 cars based on the demand. The valet charges car drivers L.E. 5-10 (.15 to .82 USD) in advance and L.E. 15 (.55 USD) during rush hour.

The car parks’ profits vary. Some are located near government institutions and banks and used by employees from the early morning till midday. These car parks are not very profitable compared to commercial ones where cars are only parked for short periods of time. Some valets double-park illegaly to make more profits and move the cars when traffic police show up.

Hasan works legally, as he has a license from Cairo Governorate. He says that he is responsible for the traffic flow and preventing cars from double parking in order not to obstruct the movement of cars and pedestrians in an important segment of the Yousef Jundi Street which links two vital streets.

Although there are many public parking garages in the area including Al-Tahrir Garage, which has four floors and can hold 1,700 cars, the fact that people prefer unofficial parking lots makes it difficult to find parking in crowded areas, especially during rush hours (from 9 am – 5 pm). The area hosts many government institutions, banks, companies, trade and shopping centers.

The cost of parking in the public garages exceeds the fees charged by the new valets. Employees who work for eight hours pay L.E. 25 (USD 1.4) for parking their cars in the Tahrir Garage compared to L.E. 5-10 ( .15 – .82 USD) for parking their cars along streets and public squares.

The location of the Tahrir Garage in the Tahrir Square, like many state-owned parking garages, might not be suitable for all those coming to the expansive areas in the city center and it does not provide the flexibility available in the private-sector and unofficial car parks located near the car drivers’ destinations.

While Hasan and his colleagues might seem like relics from the past, they are still appreciated due to recurrent car thefts at unlicensed valet car parks.