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Sisi Directs Establishment of Committee to Assess Relocation of Cairo Cemeteries

June 13, 2023
Photo Credit: Hassan Ammar / AP / Financial Times

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has called for the establishment of a committee, headed by Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly to assess the relocation of Cairo’s cemeteries, especially in the Al Imam Al Shafi and Al Sayeda Nafisa districts.

This decision came after the ongoing demolition of cemeteries in historic Cairo has stirred public outcry and debates over heritage conservation in Egypt. In the past two years, dozens of cemeteries across Cairo — especially in Cairo’s City of the Dead — have been marked for demolition in an bid to make space for the construction of new main roads and improving traffic flow.

In a statement released on Monday, 12 June, Presidential Spokesman Ahmed Fahmy stated that Al-Sisi has also ordered the construction of Maqbaret Al-Khaledeen (Cemetery of the Eternal) in an appropriate location to be the home of Egypt’s late iconic figures whose current resting places need to be cleared amidst the rapid urban development.

The committee, comprising government entities, specialized archeologists, and consultant engineers, is set to issue its recommendations assessing alternative options for relocation before 1 July 2023.

Al-Sisi also directed the establishment of a museum in the new location, which will aim to preserve the artistic and cultural artifacts present in the existing tombs.

The demolition of tombs and mausoleums in Cairo has raised concerns not only nationally, but also within the international community. In 2021, UNESCO noted that the demolition “could have a major impact on the historic urban fabric of these parts of the property and channel more traffic into the city.”

Various initiatives have attempted to put a halt on the demolitions, including Safeguard of Historic Cairo’s Cemeteries, launched in late 2021 by historian and architect Tareq Al-Murry to raise popular support through talks, petitions, exhibitions, and social media content.

On 30 May, the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights filed a legal proceeding before the Administrative Court to stop the demolition of cemeteries in Historic Cairo.