Wednesday, September 17, 2014

News, Cairo: A new authority to develop and restore historic Cairo

An independent authority made up of four ministries and the Cairo governorate has been assigned to return the area to its original allure.

Last week, the Ministry of Antiquities established an independent authority to review the current condition of historic Cairo and provide a means of cooperation between the ministry and the authority's members to develop the city and return it to its original allure.

The authority includes representatives of four ministries:  Antiquities, Tourism, Endowments and Construction as well as the Cairo governorate.

Antiquities minister Mamdouh Eldamaty told Ahram Online that this authority is to review the current condition of the streets and monuments and provide a complete plan for their restoration as well as develop the city's surroundings to show its original atmosphere. He promised that all encroachment would be removed, streets would be paved and shops would be cleaned and polished to match the colour of the monuments that surrounding them.

Historic Cairo lies amid the modern urban area of Cairo overlooking Salah El Din Citadel and it displays a very distinguished collection of Islamic monuments from different Islamic ages such as mosques, madrasas (schools), hammams (baths) and fountains. When it was founded in the 10th century, it became the new centre of the Islamic world and reached its golden age in the 14th century.

The historic centre of Cairo bears impressive material witness to the international, political, commercial and intellectual importance of the city during the medieval period.

In the 7th century, when Amr Ibn Al-Ass conquered Egypt, Al-Fustat, Egypt's first Islamic capital was built. During the domination of the Abbasids, Al-Fustat gradually declined in importance and was replaced by the northern suburb of Al-Askar, which included the governor’s palace, houses, shops and a mosque.

In 870 Al-Askar’s governor, Ahmed Ibn-Tulun made Egypt independent of the Abbasid Caliphate and founded the northeastern capital called Al-Qatai. But at the beginning of the 10th century, when the Abbasids regained control of the country, Al-Qatai was destroyed. They only spared the great mosque of Ibn-Tulun with its large courtyard surrounded by porticoes intended for teaching, punctuated by elegantly decorated round arches, believed to be the work of Iraqi artists.

The great period of the city’s splendour began at the end of the 10th century, when Egypt was conquered by the powerful Shiite Fatimids. A new capital called Al-Qahira was founded in 969 AD. The mosque of Al-Azhar was built between 970 and 972 under the Caliph Al-Muizz, to serve as a sanctuary and as a meeting place; it also housed a university which became an important centre for Islamic studies.

After the brief intrusion of Seljuk Turks and the attacks of the Crusaders, Egypt fell into the hands of Salah Eldin, founder of the Ayyubid era in 1172. This period coincided with the time of the Mamelukes, who replaced the Ayyubids and remained in power until 1257.

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