Don't expect any zombies but plenty of ancient architecture and Egyptian history.
Sometimes at CairoScene, when we are this much Vitamin-D deprived that we can no longer pretend the glow of our screen is natural light and that we have to step outside, we do not go for a sweet short walk in the park. No, no. What we do is go and explore Cairo’s City of the Dead, commonly known as Qaraafa, or Al Araafa, which literally translates to “the cemetery”.
Al Araafa used to be a family graveyard for the Muslim commander 'Amr ibn-al 'As dating back to the 5th century AD, and now, it stretches to a 6.4 km long area dedicated to tombs of the Fatimid Caliphate, as well as to mausoleums of the Ottoman era. Some family members of the deceased used to live in the vicinity of the cemetery, and traditionally, generations of caretakers would ensue.
Fast forwarding to the 1950s, Cairo got so saturated that it compelled entire families to take residence amongst the deceased where they are peacefully living and cohabiting – we haven’t heard of any ghosts stories…yet.
As soon as we stepped out of our taxi, we were overwhelmed by a sense of life and the weight of history. Here are our top 10 “wow” moments for you to see:
Intrigued by the name, City of the Dead, we first ventured cautiously, not wanting to disturb a living soul.
Generations of families somewhat resting in peace.
Wandering down the streets, these are the sights you will see, every few feet.
It’s when we least expected it, we met Magdy who in his words “found himself” in the art of metal carving. A life long passion, he tried to hold on to other seemingly better jobs, but always came back to his true love.
Magdy’s atelier is actually a table at his kiosk, where we stopped to buy pepsi and chipsy – he mentioned that his work is sold internationally in Saudi Arabia, and locally in Al-Hussein.
Despite the scorching heat, life always finds its way back.
Just when we thought that we had seen it all, we met Ahmed.
Ahmed and his colleague are glass blower artisans who recycle glass in the traditional way.
The traditional workshop is their atelier.