Egyptian authorities demolish architectural facilities in the historic Mamluk cemetery area

AFP / Khaled DESOUKI

Cairo residents woke up on July 20, 2020 to the news that bulldozers had demolished parts of the historic area called “the Mamluk Desert” dating back to the Mamluk period in the Al-Firdaws area of Cairo, under the pretext of expanding roads.

This historical place located to the east of Cairo within the “Historical Cairo” area. which belongs to the group of places identified by UNESCO and registered in 1979 as a historical area that must be preserved.

The Mamluk desert region is one of the exclusive regions of the distinctive urban fabric. Represented by the splendor and grandeur of the architecture of the Mamluk caliphate that ruled Egypt and the Levant between AD 1250. to A.D. 1517. In addition to the presence of graves of well-known personalities such as former Prime Minister Hassan Sabry. Also, the grave of Nazli Halim, granddaughter of Muhammad Ali Basha.

This area includes many distinguished architectural blocks, most notably:

– The group of Sultan Al-Ashraf Inal, who was called (the ignorant Sultan)، because he did not know how to read or write, and he ruled Egypt from 1453 to 1461 AD. with His son were buried in the mausoleum dome

– There is also the group of Sultan Al-Malik Al-Ashraf Abu Al-Nasr Qaitbay, which was established between 1472 – 1474 AD. The most important of these is the mosque and the Khanqah to performing Sufism. Also, as a school, to receive religious sciences, and to memorize the Quran.

AFP / Khaled DESOUKI

– Also among the buildings and architectural blocks of the region is the mosque and the Khanqah of Sultan al-Ashraf Barsbay, which was built during his reign in 1424 AD, and he was buried there.

– Besides, the dome of Gani bey al-Ashrafi, which was built by the prince who bears her name, is one of the Mamelukes of Sultan al-Ashraf Barsbay.

– Qarqamas group is a complex composed of a mosque, school, and water fountain.

– The tombs and the Khanqah of Sultan al-Malik al-Nasir Abu al-Adat Faraj bin Barquq and his family, dating from 1400 AD to 1411 AD, which are characterized by the duality of elements in the sense that they have two entrances, two shrine domes, and two minarets.

However, the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Archaeology quickly denied this news, confirming that the architectural blocks dating back to the Mamluk period were not touched. Rather, part of the surrounding wall was demolished, in addition to the demolition of recent, privately-owned cemeteries; That has been an understanding with the owners.

But the doctor at Cairo University, Soheir Hawass, had another opinion, and she confirmed on her personal page on the social networking site Facebook in response to the statement of the Ministry of Tourism and Archaeology, saying, “This area in the cemeteries falls within the scope of Historic Cairo, which is considered a world heritage according to UNESCO and registered a protection zone according to Law No. 119 of 2008.

On the other hand, Dr. Osama Talaat, head of the Islamic, Coptic and Jewish antiquities sector. He stressed that this news is unfounded, and he confirmed the axis of Al Ferdous is far from the recorded Islamic monuments. He added, “Although, these tombs are not registered as antiquities. Nevertheless, the Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities directed the formation of a technical-scientific committee to inspect gravestones and stones that contain decorative or inscriptions in order to be studied and to examine the possibility of displaying part of them in some museums as part of Egypt’s distinguished heritage “. And this is what Dr. Hawass considered as contradictory. And here an important question appears, was not a specialized committee formed to carry out such studies before the demolition process?

Calls and Statements have escalated, by specialists, condemning this work. Dr. Jalila Al-Qadi, professor of urban planning at French universities, launched a signature campaign to reject the ongoing works on the path of the axis of AL Ferdous. And she said in a statement signed by many, that they expressed their shock of these actions.

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