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Egyptians call for ending demolition of ancient cemeteries

Hundreds of Egyptian public figures, political parties, professional unions, activists and specialists demanded an immediate halt to demolition operations carried out over the past few months in Cairo’s historic cemeteries to make way for a highway and major road infrastructure.

“The signatories… denounce the process of demolishing the historic mausoleums in the Egyptian capital on World Heritage List, protected by local and international laws,” read a statement released over the weekend.

“The cemeteries earned their value by the worth of the bodies of the figures buried inside, subsequent generations of the sons of this nation with their different classes and brackets, who contributed to its culture and civilisation,” the statement added.

For months now, the government of President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi has been facing backlash over the annihilation of historic Cairo cemeteries in the Al-Khalifa neighbourhood in southern Cairo, known as El-Imam Al-Shafaie cemeteries and those of Al-Sayeda Nafisa as thousands of human remains have been removed to the outskirts of the capital in the process.

Re: demolition of historic mausoleums in Cairo. Egyptains have done what they could possibly do, lament on social media. Few of the damnified took legal action to no avail. People are asking where is the @UNESCOarabic
— The Big Pharaoh (@TheBigPharaoh) August 29, 2023

Many of the graves in question had earlier been added to the UNESCO-listed City of the Dead, hosting the remains of public and holy figures, including companions of Muslim Prophet Muhmmad, holy figures, rulers, politicians, artists and literary figures. These sites are considered invaluable not only due to their historical importance, but also due to aesthetic significance.

According to this map compiled by @LKeath, the Azmzade/al-‘Azm mausoleum in Cairo is set for demolition along with hundreds more religious and historic monuments going back to the #Ottoman and pre-Ottoman periods are set to be demolished to make way for a highway overpass!! pic.twitter.com/vHjz56es7o
— Dr. Mostafa Minawi مصطفى الميناوي (@MostafaMinawi) September 2, 2023

“Such cemeteries further symbolise a variety of unique architectural significance representing eras of funerary architecture over diverse eras,” the statement signatories said.

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