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The City of the Dead in Cairo, Egypt..

The City of the Dead in Cairo, Egypt..

There exists a City of the Dead in Cairo, Egypt. With all the turmoil surrounding this ancient city right now, I couldn’t help but write about this city’s dedication to the dead and the unspeakable poverty that plaques this historic country.

Qarafa, or the City of the Dead, is actually two old cemeteries. Traditionally, every family in Cairo maintains some sort of mausoleum where family members are buried. To this day, the cemeteries are still in use.

But it’s not just the dead that live in these cemeteries. Since the 1960’s, the cemeteries provide homes for the living as well. Living families now live within the mausoleums. Some have been there for generations, and look after the tombs for their owners.

When you enter the cemetery you can see a bustling grid of tombs and mausoleums where people live and work amongst their dead and ancestors. Some residents live here to be near recent and older ancestors, others because they were forced from more crowded areas in central Cairo.

The northern cemetery of the City of the Dead is where most of the people live. There is a sense of peace in this part of the cemetery although to witness the extreme poverty is quite astonishing. Despite the oddity of the situation there are even a handful of shops and cafes, and many of the inhabitants live quite normal lives. The northern cemetery is home to some of Cairo’s most beautiful monuments, such as the Mausoleums of Sultan Qaitbey and Sultan Barquq.

I’ve heard that tourists shouldn’t stray too far from the main paths, and it’s best not to linger long past sunset.

I don’t think it is the dead that one has to fear.

For the poor people living with the dead, they don’t have much of a choice.

The dead are sometimes better companions than the corrupt, the hostile or the power hungry.

WC

2 Comments

  1. George Ferris says:

    I especially agree with your last comment about the dead being better companions. I was a reporter in NY a number of years ago, mostly covered crime and politics. How often those lines blurred between the two.
    Best regards,
    George

    • William Castle says:

      I would love to know about your experiences.

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