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ALM Feature

Will Egypt back off from the demolition of Cairo's historic Islamic cemeteries?

Egypt’s government has been demolishing ancient tombs for three years as part of a controversial project that tore apart a renowned cemetery in Cairo, even as researchers and activists fight to stop the destruction.
A cemetery demolition amidst ongoing roadworks at the historic City of the Dead.

CAIRO — For the past 10 years, Egyptian researcher Mostafa el-Sadek has been visiting the Islamic cemetery complex City of the Dead in Cairo, always discovering something new about Egyptian heritage from tombs that date back to the arrival of Islam in the seventh century and up to the early 20th century.

But everything has changed since 2020. That's when the Egyptian government began demolishing hundreds of these historic graves to widen highways to the new administrative capital 50 kilometers east of Cairo. 

Sadek’s visits have also changed. He joined volunteers fighting to save the historic area. They work in parallel with the diggers and bulldozers to rescue artifacts amid the rubble of tombs in the Imam al-Shafi'i and Sayyida Nafisa complexes.

“We feel incapable and frustrated. The government that should protect this heritage destroyed it with its bulldozers,” Sadek told Al-Monitor.  

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