Architecture Professors Join Fight to Save Cairo’s Historic Cemeteries

El-Kadi believes that the government plan represents an assault on the map issued by Unesco in 1979, which delineates the boundaries of Historic Cairo.

“There is an insistence on tampering with the maps approved by international organizations, and the scope of the final preservation of Historic Cairo has not yet been approved,” she said.

In June, Unesco saluted the Egyptian government for organizing meetings with experts and architects to solicit their views. At the time, Mostafa Madbouly, Egypt’s prime minister, promised to respect the opinions of experts and to respect all registered heritage sites. “The demolitions will be completely halted and no historical building will be removed,” Madbouly said.

In the past three months, however, “the government disregarded such pledges and resumed its work,” El-Kadi said. It notified the owners of tombs in historic cemeteries of the removal operations, she said, “and called on them to search for alternative sites to transport the remains of their dead.”

The campaign members are planning a symposium and a documentary exhibition of pictures of the threatened cemeteries in January, El-Kadi said. They are also working to “negotiate with decision-makers, in an attempt to stop demolition procedures before resorting to the courts.”

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While the campaign includes several public figures and some professors of architecture, El-Kadi said other professors and architects in general were reluctant to participate due to their work with the government, and their keenness on executing projects.

“Cairo’s architectural heritage has come under threat due to the struggle over space,” she said. The lands of Cairo’s historic cemeteries have high commercial value, and “the principle of real estate investment dominates investment trends in Egypt,” she added.

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