City of the dead cairo

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city of the dead cairo

City of the Dead: A History of Cairos Cemetery Communities by Jeffrey A. Nedoroscik

Home to some of the most impressive monuments of the Islamic world, Cairos City of the Dead is also home to hundreds of thousands of Egypts urban poor. This book presents a comprehensive look at this unique informal community, and includes biographies of some of the residents of the cemeteries.



This book presents a comprehensive look at one of the most unusual informal communities in the world. The City of the Dead is a group of vast Islamic cemeteries that have been the primary burial grounds for the city of Cairo for 1200 years. Within its borders are some of the most impressive monuments of the Islamic world. The City of the Dead, however, is also home to the living, as it was always an active part of the community of Cairo.



Quran reciters and tombkeepers have always made their homes among the graves. The cemeteries have also been a popular destination for Islamic pilgrims seeking spiritual blessing, as well as thieves and runaways seeking refuge from the law. In more modern times, given the housing crisis that has plagued Cairo in the 20th century, the cemeteries have become the primary source of shelter for hundreds of thousands of otherwise homeless Egyptians. This community of people includes both rural migrants to Cairo and more established city dwellers. This book takes an in-depth look at these individuals lives and introduces the reader to the life stories of some residents. The future of this unique community is also explored. An important work for students, scholars, and researchers of Egypt and the Islamic world.
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Published 19.08.2019

Alive in the 'City of the Dead'

Welcome To 'The City Of The Dead,' The Giant Egyptian Neighborhood Built Into A Graveyard

The City of the Dead was interesting and beautiful to see. The photo ops are great, especially at the top of the minarets when you can take panoramic views of the entire surrounding area. An interesting look into a place quite different from anything else This is a cemetery - and as such not normally a place to visit. Although the tombs are pretty interesting.

Located below Mokattam Hills in the south east of the city, the area is essentially a necropolis; but over the centuries it has evolved into a living, breathing organism of its own that has managed to reach a certain degree of self-sufficiency. Photo: Ahmed Darwish. The very first residents are thought to have been custodians tending to graves and burial staff, as well as Sufi mystics. With a huge number of Sufi colleges and madrasas enclosed within the area, it became a something of a destination of pilgrimage, with many travelling there in search of blessings or baraka. After the earthquake in Cairo, many were forced to flee their homes and reside in the tombs of relatives. The neigboourhood is also referred to in Arabic as Al Gabana or Al Qarafa, the latter of which is believed to have been named after a Yemeni tribe called Qorafa, who are said to have lived there.

Almost 20 million people live in the Cairo metropolitan area, and housing is tight, even in the suburbs.
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In Photos: The Eerie Beauty of the City of the Dead

Just outside of Cairo, this City of the Dead used to house only corpses dating back to the 7th century. It also has a massive population living in abject poverty, which has forced many people into the City of the Dead.

It's hard to imagine an eerier place to live than el-Arafa. Stretching for miles on the outskirts of Cairo, the City of the Dead, as it's known in English, is an ancient cemetery that has become a residential neighborhood for some half a million people in Egypt. Dating to the seventh century, el-Arafa's graves are not your typical coffin setup. The tombs are inset in often ornate rooms that " look like small houses complete with a garden ," according to one report, and the community now boasts electricity, running water and even a medical center and post office. Photographer Tamara Abdul Hadi was documenting the cemeteries of the Arab world when she stumbled onto the superlative one. Armed with her camera, Hadi captured a snapshot of life in the unusual setting.

They extend to the north and to the south of the Cairo Citadel , below the Mokattam Hills and outside the historic city walls, covering an area roughly 4 miles long. The necropolis is separated roughly into two regions: the Northern Cemetery to the north of the Citadel also called the Eastern Cemetery or qarafat ash-sharq in Arabic because it is east of the old city walls , and the older Southern Cemetery to the south of the Citadel. There is also another smaller cemetery north of Bab al-Nasr. The necropolis that makes up "the City of the Dead" has been developed over many centuries and contains both the graves of Cairo's common population as well as the elaborate mausoleums of many of its historical rulers and elites. It started with the early city of Fustat founded in CE and arguably reached its apogee, in terms of prestige and monumentality, during the Mamluk era 13thth centuries. These included the workers whose professions were tied to the cemeteries e. However, starting in the late 19th century and increasing in the 20th century, the pressure of Cairo's intensive urbanization and its ensuing housing shortage led to a large increase in the number of people living in the necropolis zones.

All rights reserved. An Egyptian woman prepares a meal next to a mausoleum. She has lived in this room in Cairo's City of the Dead for 40 years. In this city of 18 million every inch of sidewalk feels crowded. The cars are bumper-to-bumper, madly honking, and the very idea of stillness seems alien.

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