The start of the demolition of thousands of historical cemeteries in Cairo, and the Egyptian authorities explain the reason

The start of the demolition of thousands of historical cemeteries in Cairo, and the Egyptian authorities explain the reason  The Egyptian government is beginning to remove large parts of the historical cemeteries in the central Cairo area, to build a new bridge as part of the development work in the area, while notifying the residents residing in the cemeteries to move them to the far south of Cairo.  The Egyptian government continues to demolish the historic cemeteries in the Mokattam area, to create an upper bridge linking downtown Cairo with the new administrative capital, which will displace tens of thousands of Cairo's poor who have found shelter in those cemeteries, according to the New York Times .  Since the Islamic conquest, Egyptians have buried their dead under the Mokattam cliffs that rise above the historic heart of the city, but by the mid-20th century, these cemeteries had become home to thousands of generations of tomb guards, burial and excavation workers and their families.  Historian Mustafa al-Sadiq said: "You see here the family tree of Cairo. The tombstones say who was married to whom, what they did, and how they died. You will destroy history and art."  Seif Zulfiqar, whose aunt Queen Farida, the first wife of King Farouk, ruler of Egypt, was buried in these tombs: "Why are these tombs demolished? Is that to build a bridge?"  The American newspaper pointed out that Cairo is not the only city that demolished cemeteries to develop its infrastructure, as New York did to create some of its most famous parks. But activists say that the Cairo cemeteries are different, because their demolition would not only destroy history, but a vibrant neighborhood in which thousands live.  Over the past two years, parts of the cemetery and some shrines have already been demolished.  The government plans to move residents to furnished public housing in the desert. But some observers say that these poor families will not be able to provide the first installment of the price of the apartment, which amounts to 3,800 dollars, or the monthly rent of 22 dollars, especially after the disappearance of their livelihoods from jobs that depend on work in cemeteries or nearby shops.  The dead will also be transported to the desert. The government offered the families to purchase other, smaller cemeteries in southern Cairo.  Egyptian officials have considered destroying the cemetery and moving its residents into the desert for years as part of their efforts to modernize the city and improve living standards, but some activists say private developers have been eyeing the land where the tombs are located.  In the early 1980s, Jalila al-Qadi, an architect who has studied the cemetery for decades, put the number of tomb dwellings at 179,000, the last known count. She said many moved to other places after the 2011 revolution in Egypt.  Al-Qadi said of the officials: "They did not treat cemeteries as a city for the living and the dead." She added, "In Egypt, when there is a problem that seems unsolvable, or difficult to solve, the solution is to delete it."  Khaled Al-Husseini, a spokesman for the Administrative Capital for Urban Development Company, the government company developing the new capital, said that the registered mausoleums will be preserved as historical monuments.  Ashraf Zaher, head of the funeral home, said many cemetery residents are happy to leave their dilapidated homes for new apartments. "Instead of living in a cemetery, they will live in an apartment," he added.  Zaher noted that the new bridge will also ease traffic, although it is unclear if this is important for people who are largely uninterested and rarely commute outside the neighbourhood.

The Egyptian government is beginning to remove large parts of the historical cemeteries in the central Cairo area, to build a new bridge as part of the development work in the area, while notifying the residents residing in the cemeteries to move them to the far south of Cairo.

The Egyptian government continues to demolish the historic cemeteries in the Mokattam area, to create an upper bridge linking downtown Cairo with the new administrative capital, which will displace tens of thousands of Cairo's poor who have found shelter in those cemeteries, according to the New York Times .

Since the Islamic conquest, Egyptians have buried their dead under the Mokattam cliffs that rise above the historic heart of the city, but by the mid-20th century, these cemeteries had become home to thousands of generations of tomb guards, burial and excavation workers and their families.

Historian Mustafa al-Sadiq said: "You see here the family tree of Cairo. The tombstones say who was married to whom, what they did, and how they died. You will destroy history and art."

Seif Zulfiqar, whose aunt Queen Farida, the first wife of King Farouk, ruler of Egypt, was buried in these tombs: "Why are these tombs demolished? Is that to build a bridge?"

The American newspaper pointed out that Cairo is not the only city that demolished cemeteries to develop its infrastructure, as New York did to create some of its most famous parks. But activists say that the Cairo cemeteries are different, because their demolition would not only destroy history, but a vibrant neighborhood in which thousands live.

Over the past two years, parts of the cemetery and some shrines have already been demolished.

The government plans to move residents to furnished public housing in the desert. But some observers say that these poor families will not be able to provide the first installment of the price of the apartment, which amounts to 3,800 dollars, or the monthly rent of 22 dollars, especially after the disappearance of their livelihoods from jobs that depend on work in cemeteries or nearby shops.

The dead will also be transported to the desert. The government offered the families to purchase other, smaller cemeteries in southern Cairo.

Egyptian officials have considered destroying the cemetery and moving its residents into the desert for years as part of their efforts to modernize the city and improve living standards, but some activists say private developers have been eyeing the land where the tombs are located.

In the early 1980s, Jalila al-Qadi, an architect who has studied the cemetery for decades, put the number of tomb dwellings at 179,000, the last known count. She said many moved to other places after the 2011 revolution in Egypt.

Al-Qadi said of the officials: "They did not treat cemeteries as a city for the living and the dead." She added, "In Egypt, when there is a problem that seems unsolvable, or difficult to solve, the solution is to delete it."

Khaled Al-Husseini, a spokesman for the Administrative Capital for Urban Development Company, the government company developing the new capital, said that the registered mausoleums will be preserved as historical monuments.

Ashraf Zaher, head of the funeral home, said many cemetery residents are happy to leave their dilapidated homes for new apartments. "Instead of living in a cemetery, they will live in an apartment," he added.

Zaher noted that the new bridge will also ease traffic, although it is unclear if this is important for people who are largely uninterested and rarely commute outside the neighbourhood.
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