graves in a classified area of ​​Cairo destroyed to make way for a highway

Since July 18, videos and photos showing a demolition operation in the tomb, as a prelude to the construction of a new highway in historic Cairo, have heated social networks. Families of the deceased, but also historians and architects, condemn this project, in this part of the Egyptian capital that is still classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Authorities say they have not destroyed any Islamic monuments. This video, posted on Youtube on July 18, shows the demolition of a bulldozer by part of the fence in a cemetery located on Qansuh Al Ghuri Street, north of Cairo’s necropolis.

A bulldozer that destroys the outer walls of a cemetery.

Online, several other videos and pictures like this have outraged Egyptian internet users, anger and misunderstanding. They criticize their government for initiating a motorway project that threatens monuments of historical and cultural significance.

“The worst antique album I’ve ever photographed in my life and the worst photos from the Mamluk necropolis in your life. For documentation only,” says this Facebook post.

Cairo’s necropolis, also called the Dead City, is a huge collection of three main cemeteries dating back to the ninth century. The area, which is also home to mosques and monuments, is part of historic Cairo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Several personalities have been buried there over the centuries.

Cairo’s necropolis consists of three main cemeteries. (Photo: Wikipedia)

The “Paradise Axis” motorway project aims to connect Al Fardous Square – located west of the northern cemetery – to the Tantawy motorway. It will connect old and new Cairo. But to build the new stretch, eight meters of land must be taken on each side of Qansuh Al Ghuri Street. This part is characterized by a slightly newer heritage than the other areas in the necropolis, with many remarkable tombs dating back to from the Mamluk period (13th to 16th century). Several mosques and mausoleum from this period are located near the construction site, including the tomb of Al Zahir Qansuh, a Mamluk sultan.

The videographer shows the destruction of buildings on Qansuh Al Ghuri Street in historic Cairo while illuminating the surrounding historical monuments.

According to the head of the Islamic, Coptic and Jewish Antiquities Sector, none of the demolished buildings are listed as historical monuments. The Cairo government also said that only the outer walls of the tombs had been destroyed. But they will be rebuilt in a similar architectural style to preserve, according to the governor, the cultural heritage of the region. This is not the first time that the countries in the necropolis have been cut down in favor of public projects. Development projects to improve mobility in Cairo by building roads through cemeteries have been ongoing since at least 2011.