Historic Cairo regains its former glory

CAIRO – Egyptian Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly on November 16 discussed the latest developments in plans for the revitalization of historic Cairo with the head of the Engineering Authority of the Armed Forces, Major General Ihab al-Far, and the CEO from the Urban Development Fund, Khaled Siddiq.

Far said the projects prioritize five main areas: the area surrounding the Al-Hakim Mosque, the area south of Bab Zuweila, the area of ​​Haret al-Roum and Bab Zuweila, the area surrounding the Al-Hussain Mosque. and the Darb al-Labana area.

He explained that six plots of land have been handed over and work has started, noting that 190 plots have been evacuated in the areas of Bab Zuweila, Harat al-Roum, Al-Hakim Mosque and Darb al-Labana, by contracting with the owners. and negotiate with the occupants; cash or alternative units were provided as compensation.

Far pointed out that work has started on 18 building facades in the areas of Bab Zuweila, Harat al-Roum, Al-Hakim Mosque and Darb al-Labana, while 28 archaeological buildings have yet to be restored.

He noted that Historic Cairo has around 110 archaeological buildings from different eras and that the preservation of the cultural identity of Historic Cairo, mainly the urban fabric, is a top priority, while focusing on the process architecture to ensure the civilizational aspect of the facades.

Far added that the waste has been removed from an area of ​​2,321 square meters (0.6 acres) around the Al-Hakim Mosque, noting that the efficiency of the mosque’s courtyard needs to be increased in order to attract more visitors and tourists.

He pointed out that the works in the Darb al-Labana area, which includes the Al-Rifai and Al-Mahmoudia mosques, and many old buildings, will involve the construction of a garden and a park, the restoration of the building. endowment, the creation of a craft complex, an entertainment center, restaurants and a cultural and educational complex.

Historic Cairo Development Project Consultant Mohamed al-Khatib said on November 4 that development works in the Al-Hakim Mosque area included the establishment of tourist facilities with the aim of reviving Bab Square. El Nasr.

On September 29, Khatib explained that the government intends to restore about 10% of the area during the first phase which will last two years and that it is studying proposals to establish a single entity for Historic Cairo, with an area of ​​about 30 square meters. kilometers (11 square miles). He noted that the second phase includes the treatment of historic buildings that are not registered with the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, and the work to register, restore and reuse them.

Mukhtar al-Kasbani, adviser to the Minister of Tourism and Antiquities and professor of Islamic archeology at Cairo University, told Al-Monitor: “All development and restoration works in historic Cairo are carried out under the supervision of UNESCO because historic Cairo was opened. the World Heritage List since 1979.

He said the project aims to connect historic Cairo’s neighborhoods and archaeological sites with a network of roads and trails that facilitate the flow of tourists, as well as restore Cairo’s cultural and historical glory and bring it back to life. while preserving its urban fabric. .

Kasbani noted that the development works mean maximizing the efficiency of the area, adding that traditional artisans will stay put unless the restoration works pose a danger to them.

He said: “The architectural skyline will be taken into account in the development areas, as no building will be allowed to have more than four storeys in historic Cairo, which will show the beauty and splendor of the buildings. archaeological and heritage. “

Kasbani pointed out that Historic Cairo encompasses a huge heritage reserve capable of attracting tourists from all over the world, especially since it contains around 537 registered archaeological buildings.

Archaeological researcher and founder of the Cairo Biography Initiative Zizou Abdo told Al-Monitor: “Historic Cairo is a unique city. Its topography dates back to 969 when it was built by Jawhar al-Siqilli, commander of the Fatimid armies. Construction took place later during the Ayyubid period, the Mamluk period, then the Ottoman era and finally the Muhammad Ali dynasty. “

He said: “This represents the many historical layers of Cairo and this is what created the archaeological diversity, which is unprecedented in the world; it is clearly visible in the streets of historic Cairo, such as Al-Moez Street and Al-Saliba Street. “

Abdo hopes that during the development process the concept of heritage will be preserved in its overall form, and not just in terms of monuments and heritage buildings.

“This process should include the rehabilitation of the urban fabric, traditional crafts and old industries as this is what sets historic Cairo apart,” he said. “Tourists no longer want to see monuments and only visit museums. They also want to know the details of the city, its people and its distinctive craftsmanship, which means knowing the spirit of the place and interacting with the locals.

Abdo stressed that historic Cairo will be able to compete with the big tourist cities if there are suitable tourist trails that facilitate movement through its streets and neighborhoods, in addition to periodically carrying out maintenance works and providing all types. services that tourists may need in order to further increase the number of visitors to historic Cairo.

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