Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Saving Cairo's City of the Dead : The menace to Cairene valley of the Kings is still there

From a couple of weeks ago, many Egyptians received a notification that their family cemeteries will be demolished as part of the government or rather the state’s road extension plan in the Imam Al-Shafie area.

The families were offered small areas for cemeteries as compensation in 15 May city.

The news caught the attention and caused anger among many including myself as aside from the historical importance of this area, it turned out to host the tombs of Egypt’s top figures in the 20th century who shaped this country in the Modern age aside hundreds of normal citizens who deserve to be left alone.

It is like a modern valley of the Kings but prominent figures and commoners both since the Middle ages.

It was a shock to find that late Queen Farida of Egypt was among those unfortunate Egyptians whose family cemeteries are on the demolishment list.

Her family and friends spoke up and the mainstream media covered the issue shyly presenting an opposite view for the government's plan on a couple of two channels.

A rumour spread that the government was going to change the route of this road extension plan but as I hinted it is a rumour and people are back to square one if zero.

As far as I know, engineers and experts presented a number of alternative projects to avoid this area from the city of the Dead altogether.

Cairo's city of the dead
A scene from Cairo's city of the dead "Safeguard of historic Cairo's cemeteries FB"

Some families are planning to sue the government and the governorate in front of the administrative court but I fear it may take time and it will be late.

This brings us to the importance of the long-absent true community dialogue in Egypt.

Known as Cairo city of the Dead, this area has been listed by UNESCO as part of Historic Cairo. 

Ironically, this is at the same time, the government launches a project to renovate Historic Cairo !! It is a contradiction of its own !!

Aside from Queen Farida, we a got a list of Who is Who as I hinted in the first post about the issue.

Recently I knew that there are even important and historical figures in this area including one of the most famous Sufi poets of all times buried this area according to Dr Galila El Kadi, the renowned researcher and architect who wrote one of the most important books on Cairo’s City of the Dead.

Late 12th-century-Sufi-Poet Ibn El-Fared is buried there and has got a shrine and a mosque that should be renovated and not to demolished.

Ibn El-Fared's shrine
Ibn El-Fared's shrine "Fatamah Farag for Ahram Online"

Aside from Ibn El-Fared, we got Egypt’s most famous poets in modern Egypt too.

Prince of Poets Ahmed Shawqi and his rival, the Nile Poet Hafez Ibrahim and the Lord of Sword and Pen and former PM of Egypt Mahmoud Samy El-Baroudy’s tombs are threatened to be demolished so a bridge can be built too.

Hafez Ibrahim's tomb
The tomb of Hafez Ibrahim "Safeguard of historic
Cairo's cemeteries 

The father of education and the man who designed modern Cairo while saving old Cairo Ali Pasha Mubarak is also among the unfortunate list. 

Ali Pasha Mubarak's tomb
Ali Pasha Mubarak's tomb "Safeguard of historic
Cairo Cemeteries" 

These are from the few names I found there from statesmen, poets, thinkers and artists there.

Needless to say, while browsing the photos of those old tombs, I realize that how suddenly Egypt lost a whole class of builders, artists and designers who were specialized in decorating the tombs.

There are architectural marvels in this area that needed to be renovated and not to be demolished.

Tomb of Mohamed Helmi Eissa
The tomb of former Minister of justice and education 
Mohamed Helmi Eissa in the doomed area "Dr Mostafa Sadek"

The different styles of architecture in those tombs must be studied and documented for the sake of future generations.

This area is like a Cairene valley of the Kings with its commoners as well as prominent figures who built Egypt in every way you can imagine in the 20th century.

Darmali Cemetery
Inside the amazing Darmali Cemetry that needs renovation
"Galila El-Kadi" 

I do not know if UNESCO can play a role in saving this important heritage which I regard as a world heritage but its voice is really needed. Can the Aghakhan Foundation which helped a lot in saving and renovating parts of Historic Cairo help in stopping this upcoming massacre !? 

ِA better look in a better light inside the Darmali 
cemetery and a tomb of a woman inside it. 
"Dr Mostafa Sadek"

Some families and heritage activists are posting pleas on social media for the President of Egypt Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to stop this heritage slaughter. Some families were shocked to know how expensive the new cemeteries are and they got over 100 people buried in their cemetery.

I hope their pleas are answered for real and this nightmare ends in a good way.

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