Showing posts with label Old Cairo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Old Cairo. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

News, Cairo: Part of Arcade Ceiling Collapses at Cairo's Medieval Sarghatmish Mosque and Madrassa

Five wooden beams that were installed during the restoration work carried out at the mosque in 2005 collapsed, leading to a collapse in the ceiling of one of the arcades. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

The restored wooden beams holding up the ceiling of part of the arcade in the medieval mosque and madrassa of Sarghatmish collapsed on Tuesday morning, Egypt’s antiquities ministry has said.

Gamal Mustafa, head of the Islamic and Coptic Antiquities Department at the ministry, told Ahram Online that five wooden beams that were installed during the restoration work carried out at the mosque in 2005 to hold up the wooden ceiling of the mosque qibla’s riwaq (arcade) had collapsed.

He said that there are no casualties reported and the mosque, located in Cairo’s Sayyeda Zeinab, is in good conservation condition, except for the fallen beams, and the decorative element that runs along the upper level of the mosque’s main façade.

An engineering company will now consolidate the mosque to avoid any further risk, and start the restoration of the ceiling, Mustafa said, while a cleaning crew from the Arab Contractors cleans the debris.

The mosque-madrassa comprises an open court with a water fountain at its centre, surrounded by eight marble pillars and four iwan (vaulted halls). The mihrab (the point faced during prayer) of the mosque has a panel of white marble with a medallion in the centre and four quarter-medallions in the corners.

Hidden among the leaf and stem forms of the arabesque design are six birds and five hands. On the north corner of the facade are finely carved mashrabiya (wooden lattice) windows.

14th-century treasure

The mosque is located in Saliba Street close to such important Islamic monuments as the mosque of Ibn Tulun, the madrassa and sabil-kuttab of Sultan Qaitbay, the Gayer Anderson House, the mosque of Raghri Bardi and the mosque and madrassa of Hassan Pasha Tahir.

Until the 14th century, the area was dotted with waste and rubbish heaps along with cemeteries and private estates. The redevelopment of the citadel under Sultan Al- Nasser Mohamed led to the transformation of this zone into an urban area, and Saliba Street became a major thoroughfare. Princes built town houses, palaces, mosques and schools in the area.

The mosque and madrassa of Sarghatmish are attached to the northeast wall of the Ibn Tulun mosque and were originally part of the Ibn Tulun complex, but were later turned into houses. 

In 1356 these houses were demolished by Prince Sarghatmish, a Mamluk in the reign of Al-Nasser Mohamed Ibn Qalawun, so he could build his own mosque and madrassa.

This renowned Mamluk prince was the jamandara (wardrobe keeper) of Al-Nasser Mohamed Ibn Qalawun. His prominence dates from the reigns of Al-Nasser's minor sons, when he took an active part in battles waged on their behalf. In 1354, supporting Prince Shaykhu, he was one of the principal agents in the re-election of Sultan Hassan, and after Shaykhu's assassination he became the amir kabir or "great prince".

He was virtual ruler of Egypt for Hassan, who in 1358 had Sarghatmish thrown into prison and put to death. He was buried under the dome of his madrassa. The Sarghatmish madrassa is a good example of the type founded in the mid-14th century by Mamluk emirs in support of higher Quranic studies, prophetic traditions and jurisprudence.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

News: 'Cairo Pass' Available For Foreigners to Visit all Archaeological Sites in Cairo And Giza

Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities is now issuing visitor’s passes for foreigners to visit all archaeological sites and museums in Cairo and Giza Governorates. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

The “Cairo Pass” costs $80 for foreign tourists and $40 for foreign students, and provides access to Islamic, Ancient Egyptian and Coptic sites for unlimited visits over a five-day period, according member of the Technical Office of the Assistant Minister of Antiquities Mostafa Elsagheer.

Elsagheer says the move comes as part of the ministry’s efforts to promote archaeological sites and increase its financial resources.

The pass can be obtained at the Cultural Relations Department at the ministry headquarters in Zamalek, as well as at ticket outlets at the Giza Plateau, the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir and the Citadel of Salah El-Din.

Assistant of the Minister of Antiquities for the Development of Financial Resources Eman Zeidan explains that foreigners can obtain the pass by showing their passport or a student card with picture ID.

Last year, the ministry issued the “Luxor Pass” under two categories.

The first – which costs $200 for tourists and $100 for students – includes all sites and museums in Luxor including the royal tombs of Queen Nefertari and King Seti I.

The second category is half the price and includes all sites excluding the aforementioned royal tombs.

The Annual Visitors Pass, meanwhile, includes all open archaeological sites and museums across Egypt, with several options available. The first is for foreign diplomats and foreigners who work in international and multinational companies in Egypt. The annual pass costs $240 excluding the tombs of Queen Nefertari and King Seti I, and $340 including the two royal tombs.

The annual pass for Egyptians and Arab residents in Egypt to visit all the country’s sites and museums costs EGP 400, or EGP 100 for university students. School trips and Egyptians over 60 are allowed free entry.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

News, Cairo: AUC Hands Over Egyptian Artifacts From 1964 Excavation in Fustat

The American University in Cairo transferred the 5,000 items to the Ministry of Antiquities, in line with Egyptian law. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

The American University in Cairo (AUC) has handed 5,000 historical artifacts over to the Ministry of Antiquities, parting with a collection it has held since the 1960s. The collection consists of a number of clay vessels of different shapes and sizes, ushabti figurines, tombstones and wooden funerary masks from the Graeco-Roman era, as well as lamps from the Islamic period.

Mahmoud Afifi, head of the Ancient Egyptian Department, told Ahram Online that the artifacts were unearthed by an AUC excavation team led by late Professor George Scanlon in 1964 at Establ Antar archaeological site in Fustat, Cairo. According to the Egyptian antiquities law during that time, said Afifi, any artifacts unearthed at archaeological sites could be divided with foreign missions. Accordingly, the AUC succeeded in keeping half of the excavated items.

Then in 1983, with the passing of the Egypt Antiquities Law (No. 117), the objects were registered as the property of the Egyptian state, but in the possession of the AUC. Mahmoud Khalil, Director General of the Antiquities Possession Department, said the AUC recently sent an official letter to the ministry asking for the artifacts to be returned to the state.

Khalil went on to say that the ministry immediately assigned an archaeological committee to inspect the collection, pack the items and transport them to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Fustat. The ministery has stated that anyone in possession of Egyptian antiquities should follow the lead of the AUC in handing them over, "since they are part of Egypt's heritage, to be enjoyed by all humanity."

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

News: Cairo's Historic Al-Sakakini Palace Safe and Sound After Blaze

Architecture and decor were not affected by the fire that broke out in the guardroom last night. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.
Al-Sakakini Palace
Al-Sakakini Palace in the Al-Daher area of central Cairo is safe and sound after a fire caused by a short-circuit erupted Monday night in the guardroom of the palace's basement.

Mostafa Amin, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, announced after examining the palace that the building is in good condition and that all architecture and décor were spared.

Amin added that the blaze only affected the outer layer of the guardroom’s wooden ceiling; the wooden columns supporting the ceiling are undamaged.

Monday, October 17, 2016

News, Cairo: Al-Tunbagha Al-Mardani Mosque to Be Restored Soon

A French expert has examined the architectural condition of Al-Tunbagha Al-Mardani Mosque in Bab Zuweila area in a step towards drawing up a plan for its restoration. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

Polio Inspect the Iwan al Qibla
French expert Christophe Polio, from the Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme (AKHCP), has embarked on an inspection tour around Al-Tunbagha Al-Mardani Mosque in Bab Zuweila area to check its architectural conditions as a step towards drawing up a plan for its restoration.

Mohamed Abdel Aziz, head of the Historic Cairo unit at the Ministry of Antiquties, told Ahram Online that the mosque edifice has several problems due to erosion. There is also a high level of humidity and accumulated salts on the mosque's walls due to the leakage of water from nearby streets.

Its existence in a busy residential area, Abdel Aziz said, has added to its deterioration due to the negative behaviour of area inhabitants who throw garbage beside it.The mosque was also subject to bad restoration practices in 1896 by the Arab Heritage Conservation Committee, responsible for Islamic monuments at the time.

Al-Mardani Mosque
After his inspection tour, Polio told Ahram Online that the prayer hall (Iwan Al-Qibla) is the most deteriorated part of the mosque and needs to be completely rehabilitated. Cracks have spread over the walls and its woodwork and marble are in a very bad condition.

Polio is to write a detailed report on the mosque's condition and will suggest a plan for its restoration. Both are to be submitted to Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany for discussion in a special meeting with Polio next week.

The mosque of Al-Tanbugha Al-Mardani was built in the style of congregational mosques. it has a court surrounded by four aisles. The deepest and largest of the aisles is the one in the direction of prayer.

In the centre of the nave there is an octagonal fountain covered with marble. The facade of the northern aisle is covered with beautiful marble inscribed with the date of construction. The rest of the prayer direction wall is covered with a fine marble dado, or panel, inlaid with mother of pearl. The Mosque has three entrances and a dome supported by eight granite pillars.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

News, Cairo: Allegations of Botched Restoration of Cairo's Medieval Walls are 'Lies': Antiquities Ministry

Cultural and heritage activists say that Cairo's eastern and northern medieval walls are being restored incorrectly. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.
Egypt's antiquities ministry has denied allegations by a group of conservation activists that the restoration of part of Cairo's medieval walls is being done unprofessionally and damaging the ancient structures. Earlier this month, a group of heritage and archaeological activists warned that Cairo's medieval eastern and northern walls were being incorrectly restored and reported the whole matter to the prosecutor-general.

The Antiquities Revolutionaries, a Facebook watchdog group, had published a series photos as well as a leaked memo from a group of inspectors working with the antiquities ministry, detailing how the medieval wall was being badly restored.  "All those claims are lies; they were spread by members of the inspection team who were excluded from the project for incompetence," Mohamed Abdel-Aziz, the head of historical Cairo project and a deputy antiquity minister, told Ahram Online.

"Even the pictures they shared online do not indicate or prove anything. Yes, we use cement for supporting columns, but 50 metres away from the ancient wall," he added. The dispute comes as another episode in the country’s recent line of restorations that have gone wrong. The leaked memo sent by a group of archaeological inspectors in the committee assigned by the Ministry of Antiquities to supervise the restoration works in December highlights apparent problems with the restoration.

Among the points raised in the report was how the medieval wall's mud bricks were replaced unnecessarily by new bricks.  The report further states that there had been no plan by the restoration company to secure the old wall's bricks before or during the restoration works, which led to the leaking of cement on the site.

The medieval eastern and northern Cairo walls were built in the 12th century, during the rule of Saladin, then sultan of Egypt and Syria. Sally Soliman, a cultural and heritage activist, told Ahram Online that she visited the site in late December and took photos showing what she considered clear evidence of the unprofessional restoration that had been carried out there.

"They simply replaced ancient mud brick with bricks and cement unprofessionally," the co-founder of Save Cairo heritage watchdog group said. She also added that there are concerns about the public sector construction and restoration company that is handling the project. A total of LE167 million has been allocated by Egypt's Ministry of Housing to restore Cairo's medieval walls. The project is assigned to public sector company Wadi Al-Nil, a construction and restoration company, with the Ministry of Antiquities supervising it.

The company’s previous restoration projects include the Mohamed Ali Palace in Shubra El-Kheima. In 2012, after six years of restoration, parts of the Mohamed Ali Palace project in Shubra El-Kheima collapsed despite being restored at a cost of LE55 million. The palace is currently closed after it was further damaged by a bomb that exploded outside Qalioubiya security directorate -- a few blocks away -- in August 2015. 

Asked by Ahram Online about the memo leaked online that details the violations in the restoration works, Aziz said that it was leaked by a group of "young, angry and incompetent" inspectors who were excluded from the project. "They released it the day after they were excluded. Why didn’t they release it before or during the six months that they worked in the committee?" he asked. According to the leaked internal memo to the minister by the group of inspectors, they did report the violations six months ago as well as four months ago again, to both the Historical Cairo project and the Ministry of Housing.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Cairo Attraction (4): Tahrir Palace-Khedival Gift to Egypt’s Foreign Ministry

CAIRO: The Italian Renaissance-inspired Tahrir Palace was built by Italian architect Antonio Lasciac over four years starting from 1889 to 1903.

Lasciac was one of the most prominent architects of the period and he was named the royal palaces’s architect in 1907 during the Khedive Abbas’ era, according to the website of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.

The palaces “reflect the mixture between creativity of the arts and the scientific beauty in engineering way to distribute light and shadows,” the ministry added.

Royal Princess Naimatullah, who followed the Sufi order, donated the palace to the Egyptian Foreign Ministry to serve its headquarters in 1930.

The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities does not label the palace, located in Qasr Nile of downtown, as an “antiquity.”

The palace consists of three floors; the ground one includes “the Minister’s office, big meeting room, press conference room equipped by an instant translation system, a number of salons to receive guests, and a dining room for 24 persons. The back entrance contains some pictures depicting the different phases of the palace’s construction,” according the Foreign Ministry website.

The first floor includes also an office for the minister and big hall with pictures of the royal family and former and late presidents. It also has a large dining room for 48 persons.

The thickness of wall in the ground floor is between 80 to 120 cm in length. The thickness deceases when the building goes higher as its length is between 60 to 80 cm. In the 1950s, a third floor was build.

In 2009, the Egyptian government decided to move its headquarters to the Cornish Street near Maspiro (the headquarters of Egyptian T.V. and Radio.)
Source: Cairo Post– By/Rany Mostafa
 More about Cairo Attraction … CLICK HERE 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Short Story: Remembering the Fatimids

This month marks the anniversary of the Fatimid conquest of Egypt in 969 CE, written by Nevine El-Aref.

Eleven centuries ago, the Fatimids conquered Egypt, in what was the first leg of the expansion of their empire from Sicily to Sind. From the time of the creation of the Fatimid Empire in Tunisia in December 909 CE, the Fatimids had searched for a new capital that would be closer to Syria, Palestine, Arabia and the Mediterranean islands. They found it in Egypt.

The Fatimids claimed to be the descendants of the Prophet Mohamed from his daughter Fatemah Al-Zahraa and Ali Ibn Abu Taleb. They conquered Egypt in July 969 after only five months of fighting. According to Mohamed Abdel-Latif, head of the Islamic and Coptic Antiquities Department at the Ministry of Antiquities, Egypt fell to the Fatimid commander Gawhar Al-Seqeli without great resistance as the Ikhsidid Dynasty, which then ruled the country, was falling apart and was unable to put up a convincing defence.

Egyptians welcomed the Fatimids, he told the Weekly, because they were the descendants of the Prophet Mohamed and would rid the country of the unpopular Ikhsidids. On the orders of the Fatimid caliph, Al-Muizz Li-Din Allah, Al-Seqeli built the empire’s new capital, Al-Qahira (the Triumphant), today the heart of Islamic Cairo, which soon became a place of opulent palaces, mosques, madrassas (schools) and sabils (fountains), and the prestigious mosque-university of Al-Azhar.

During their two centuries ruling Egypt, the Fatimids gave rise to outstanding cultural development and exquisite arts, making the period one of the most flourishing and brightest not only in Egypt’s history but throughout Islamic civilisation as a whole.

Assistant for Islamic and Coptic Monuments at the Ministry of Antiquities  Mohamed Abdel-Aziz told the Weekly that Al-Seqeli built a mud brick wall around the new city of Al-Qahira, 1,080 metres in length. The area of the city at the time was some 1,166 square metres, while the palace of Al-Muizz was 240 square metres and its garden, known as Al-Bustan Al-Kafuri, 120 square metres. Cairo’s streets, alleys and houses were built on an area of 686 square metres.

Al-Seqeli left a gap in the city’s wall for the further expansion of the capital. The wall also had nine gates, three of which are still standing today: Bab Al-Nasr (Gate of Victory) and Bab Al-Futuh (Gate of Conquest) are to the north; Bab Al-Barakiya (Gate of Blessedness) and Bab Al-Qarateen are on the east; Bab Zuweila or Bab Al-Metwali, Bab Al-Farag (Gate of Succour), Bab Al-Akhdar (Green Gate) and Bab Al-Qantara (Gate of the Bridge) are to the south; and Bab Al-Saada (Gate of Happiness) are to the west.

Telal Al-Muqattam was the eastern border of the new city of Cairo; Al-Khalig Al-Kabir (The Great Canal) was on its western side; and the former Tulunid capital of Al-Qataa was located to the south.

The new city flourished and became very well known. According to the Persian traveller Naser Khesro, who visited Egypt in 1047 and 1049, it was “a great city with no fewer than 20,000 shops and baths as well as soaring edifices taller than the city’s fortified wall.” He said the buildings were well constructed and separated from each other with gardens irrigated by water from wells.

The original mud-brick walls later deteriorated, and 120 years later the vizier Badr Al-Din Al-Gamaly extended the city and built a second wall around it, this time made of limestone. “The now double-walled city had a number of fortified gates protecting both the inner and outer city areas,” Abdel-Latif said, adding that the primary purpose of these was defensive, though they also differentiated the areas lived in by the different social and economic classes.

Many of the gates featured carved elements and decorative features representing the ruler’s and the city’s victories, power and faith. Three of the gates still exist —Bab Al-Nasr, Bab Al-Futuh and Bab Zuweila.

Before deciding to call the new capital Al-Qahira, Al-Seqeli named it Al-Mansouriya, after the name of the caliph Al-Muizz’s father. But upon his arrival in Egypt in 973, Al-Muizz changed the name to Al-Qahira in reference to the planet Mars (Al-Najm Al-Qahir) rising at the time when the city was founded.

“Although he ruled Egypt for only two years, Al-Muizz is the most important Fatimid caliph,” Abdel-Latif said, adding that during his reign Egypt enjoyed great prosperity. The caliph had a reputation for justice and tolerance of other religions besides Islam.

Coptic Christians enjoyed a high degree of freedom under Al-Muizz, and Copts were appointed to the highest offices of state and allowed to practice their religion freely. The relationship between Al-Muizz and the Copts was later the subject of a number of legends. Fatimid literature also rose to prominence during the rule of Al-Muizz with the emergence of poets like Ibn Hani Al-Andalusi and Ali Al-Tunsi. The dynasty founded festivals such as the mulids of the Prophet Mohamed’s family and Al-Wakoud Nights (nights of fire).

The latter, Abdel-Latif explains, took place on the first and middle days of the months of Ragab and Shaaban. The inhabitants of the city would flock to the caliphal seat bearing fire and candles. The caliph would appear at the gate of his palace, his face seen through a mashrabiya window (a window with a wooden screen) and illuminated by the fire surrounding him. The Madih Nights (praising the Prophet and his family) were also established under Fatimid rule.

“Al-Muizz laid the foundations of the Fatimid Empire, but his son Al-Aziz bi-Allah is the one who really established the Empire,” Abdel-Latif said. He ruled Egypt for 20 years, during which time the country’s divan, or government, was extended. Al-Aziz also started to build a huge mosque, later completed by his son Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, still standing today as the Al-Hakim Mosque in Islamic Cairo.

Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah ruled Egypt from the age of 11, when he succeeded his father as caliph. He had a famously contradictory personality. Although he had great skills, he used to issue strange laws and regulations, among them prohibiting the eating of mouloukheya (a kind of green soup) and ordering the killing of the country’s dogs and cats.

The Fatimid Empire started to decline during the second half of the caliph Al-Mustansir bi-Allah’s rule. After his 67 years on the throne, famine overwhelmed the empire and Fatimid power rapidly declined. Mercenary soldiers threatened to destroy the state, and the caliphs lost power to a series of viziers who later took the title of king.

Syria, Algeria, and Tunisia fell away from the empire, and the Normans conquered Sicily. Palestine was conquered by the Crusaders, and the Fatimids were left with little more than Egypt. When the Assassins, a radical religious group, killed Amir, the last caliph of any ability, the country fell into anarchy. In 1171, Adid, the 14th and last of the Fatimid rulers, died. Before the decline of the Fatimid state, many customs that survive today were founded. Ramadan celebrations were particularly important during the Fatimid period.

“Many Ramadan celebrations and traditions created during the Fatimid Empire have lasted until today,” Abdel-Aziz said. The alleys and streets of the city were decorated with coloured lamps (fawanis) to announce the start of Ramadan, for example, and trade flourished, especially in the Nahasseen and Shamaaeen markets.

“Candles were sold in large numbers because children used to hold them and sing after the al-tarawih prayers. Sweets and nut markets flourished, providing the sugar for making al-alalik, a kind of sweet in the shape of lions and horses.

Kunafa and atayef, traditional Ramadan sweets, were also introduced during the Fatimid period. Today’s mawa’eid al-Rahman, food tables laid out during the month of Ramadan for the poor, were inspired by the huge tables of food ordered by rulers and top officials for the poor during Fatimid rule.

The gates of Cairo

Bab Al-Nasr (Gate of Victory) was the gate through which Egypt’s military contingents entered the city after their victories over enemies. Among the Mameluke sultans that later entered through Bab Al-Nasr were Al-Zaher Baybars, Al-Nasr Mohamed Ibn Qalawoun, and Qalawoun himself.

The gate is a massive fortified entrance with rectangular stone towers flanking the semicircular arch of the eastern portal. The original Bab Al-Nasr was built south of the present one by Al-Seqeli, and later by the vizier Al-Gamali under the caliph Al-Mustansir. The latter replaced the first gate with the present one, naming it Bab Al-Izz (Gate of Prosperity), though the original name remains in use today.

A significant decorative element on the gate is the shields on the flanks and fronts of the protruding towers, which symbolise victory in protecting the city against invaders. When the French invaded Egypt in 1798, Napoleon himself named each tower of the northern wall after the officers responsible for its security. The names of these French officers are carved near the upper level of the gates.

Bab Al-Futuh (Gate of Conquest) is located on Bab Al-Futuh Street. When Al-Gamali rebuilt the gate in 1087 he put both the Bab Al-Futuh and Bab Al-Nasr in their current positions and linked them with an underground passage. Bab Al-Futuh has two rounded towers with shafts in the middle for pouring boiling water or burning oil onto attackers. The gate is covered in vegetal and geometric motifs.

Bab Zuweila is considered one of the major landmarks of the city and is the last remaining southern gate from the Fatimid wall built in the 11th and 12th centuries. “Zuweila” is the name of a tribe of Berber warriors from the Western Desert, members of whom were charged with guarding the gate.

The gate has twin towers that can be accessed via a steep climb. In earlier times they were used to scout for enemy troops in the surrounding countryside, and in modern times they provide some of the best views of Islamic Cairo.

The structure also has a famous platform. Executions would sometimes take place there, and it was also from this location that the sultan would watch the beginning of the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca.

During the Mameluke era, the gate was used to display the severed heads of criminals. Sultan Al-Zaher Baybars used it to display the head of the messengers of the Mongol leader Hulagu who had threatened to conquer Egypt in the 13th century CE.

To the west of the gate is the Al-Muayyad Sheikh Mosque, which originally was the prison where Sultan Al-Muayyad was held. While he was in the prison, he promised to build a mosque instead, and in 1415 he did so.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

New Opening, Cairo: Restored Qayetbay basin to be inaugurated

Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty and the head of the EU delegation in Egypt, James Moran, are to officially inaugurate the restored Qayetbay basin at the Mameluke cemetery on Wednesday. Written by Nevine El-Aref.

Renovation works at the Qayetbay basin
(Photo:Courtesy of the Ministry of Antiquities)
Eldamaty told Ahram Online that the restoration project was carried out under the supervision of the ministry of antiquities and the budget was provided by the EU delegation in Egypt in collaboration with the Dutch Embassy in Cairo.

'The basin is one of the most important Islamic monuments in the Mameluke cemetery. It includes of a number of unique historical structures with great historical value," Eldamaty pointed out.

Mohamed Abdel-Aziz, deputy of the Minister of Antiquities for Islamic and Coptic Monuments, told Ahram Online that the basin is a part of a funerary and religious complex built by Sultan Qayet Bay. It was built for thirsty animals.

He asserted that the restoration work was carried out according to the latest technology. Every part of the basin was documented before the restoration started in order to preserve its original features.

Abdel-Aziz explained that the restoration included the removal of soil.  The blocks were cleaned manually and all salt removed as well as the cement surfaces found on it.

All the blocks, the walls and the foundation of the basin were consolidated while deteriorated and missing blocks were replaced with new ones of same material, shape and colour. He continued that the wooden decorated ceiling of the basin was also cleaned and restored.

After restoration the area is to be converted into a centre for handicrafts to preserve such crafts from extinction. A selling booth is to be provided there as well as a temporary exhibition for handicrafts made by local craftsmen.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

News, Cairo: Islamic monuments in Khalifa region restored through donations

AtharLina initiative works on conservation of Shajar Al-Durr Dome, Mashhad El-Sayeda Roqia, shrines of Ateqa and Jaafri by year-end, says Al-Ibrashy

The Mashhad of Elsyeda Roqia
(Photo courtesy of AtharLina website)
Islamic monuments are widespread in Egypt, especially in Old Cairo and the Khalifa region, which is full of domes and shrines for the family of the Prophet Muhammad. Because many of these monuments have no owner, garbage accumulates around and they suffer neglect, despite their religious and spiritual significance.

The AtharLina (Our Monuments) initiative is working on the conservation of the Shajar Al-Durr Dome, constructed in 1250 CE, as well as the Mashhad of El-Sayeda Roqia, and the shrines of Ateqa and Jaafri. The restoration works will be completed at the end of 2015, according to AtharLina Initiative Coordinator May Al-Ibrashy.

Al-Ibrashy said that AtharLina aims to spread community awareness on the importance of preserving monuments through promotional trips to activate domestic tourism.

Furthermore,AtharLina initiative promotes tourism trips to the Khalifa region and street, as tourists generally visit the monuments at the street’s entrance and the end of the street, without seeing the other monuments that line the street.

Al-Ibrashy added that tourists only visit Ibn-Tulun mosque at the entrance of the street and Al-Sayeda Nafisa mosque at the end of the street.

Therefore, the initiative aims to raise awareness among tourists of the presence and importance of other monuments in the streets through maps that are placed at the entrance and the end of the street and highlighting the most important touristic areas, according to Al-Ibrashy.

“AtharLina is a three-year initiative in partnership with the Ministry of Antiquities to transform monuments to community resources that citizens keep,” added Al-Ibrashy. “The initiative chose the Khalifa area because of its Islamic importance and because it is neglected, so the initiative cooperates with the government and civil society in the development of solutions and recommendations for developing and restoring the Khalifa region.”

Al-Ibrashy noted that the initiative seeks to find funding for the “Spend your Day in Khalifa 3″ initiative, which is the third in a series of annual tourist promotion and fundraising events that AtharLina organises to bring local tourism to Khalifa Street in Old Cairo. In addition, it raises awareness on its importance, garners financial support and recruits partners for the development of activities there.

The first phase of the project from June to November 2012; funded by the Danish Egyptian Dialogue Institute in partnership with Ministry of Antiquities included a series of participatory workshops, seminars, and exhibitions targeting representative stakeholders.

AtharLina’s community outreach component, Khalifa Inside Out, aims to promote tourism and raise awareness of the street’s history through guided tours in the street, an exhibition and a performance by Shirine El-Ansary telling the stories of the street. This phase was funded by the British Council in November 2013.

This is in addition to the opening of the Khalifa Community Centre as a collaborative effort between AtharLina, BEC-Megawra and a committee of Khalifa residents.

Funding has been obtained from the US Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) for AtharLina, to conserve the three remaining 12th century domes of Shajar Al-Durr zone. The initiative seeks fundraising for the new phase of its project through online donations. The initiative coordinates with Zoomal website through using crowd-sourcing campaigns for the event.

This means that for every dollar donated, Zoomal donates another dollar to reach the targeted $6,000 to hold the third phase of the “Spend your Day in Khalifa” events. AtharLina is a participatory conservation initiative that aims to establish modalities of citizen participation in heritage conservation based on an understanding of the monument as a resource not a burden.
 Explore Old Cairo with Egitalloyd Travel  

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

News, Cairo: Egypt antiquities ministry committee decides against registering Beit Madkour

The Cairo Governor gave one months notice for either antiquities ministry to register house or it would continue to face demolition. Written by Nevine El-Aref.

A courtyard in Beit Madkour in Cairo's Darb Al-Ahmar neighborhood
 (Photo: Mai Shaheen)
The Antiquities Ministry will not register Beit Madkour (House of Madkour), located in historical Cairo’s Al-Darb El-Ahmar that stirred much controversy last month regarding its potential demolition.

A committee for Islamic and Coptic antiquities was to inspect whether Beit Madkour would be registered as a historical building, consequently saving it from being torn down. However, the specialised committee voted against saving it. While the owners of the house want it demolished, the residents, together with the Save Cairo campaign, have worked to save it. The Cairo governor gave a one-month ultimatum for a solution to be reached.

Only two options were available, either for the antiquities ministry to register it or for Save Cairo to fund raise enough to buy it from its owners who seek its demolition. “We still haven’t given up on the house” Omneya Abdel Bar of Save Cairo told Ahram Online after she announced that the antiquities ministry refused registering the house as a historical building. 

“We will file a lawsuit against the prime ministerial decision that delisted the house in 2011 as one of heritage value,” she said. “Now more than ever we need an explanation about the decision to declassify the house.”

Beit Madkour was listed as a building of heritage value, thus making it immune from demolition. However, a ministerial decree delisted the house in 2011. Secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mostafa Amin, told Ahram Online that the Islamic and Coptic Antiquities Committee assigned to inspect the house has refused to register it on Egypt's antiquities list for Islamic monuments because the house has lost most of its authentic value and architectural elements.

Amin continued to say that he was leading the committee himself and found that large and deep cracks have spread all over the house's walls that threaten its demolition. The garden of the house has totally deteriorated and was subjected to encroachment by the neighbours who built a small house in the garden during the1970s. Amin pointed out that Beit Madkour originally consisted of three floors (a ground floor and two stories) but now the second floor no longer exists. It has been demolished.

"Registering Beit Madkour on Egypt's antiquities list is against the antiquities law and its amendments because it does not bear any of its distinguished architectural style, authentic and historical values," Amin told Ahram Online. He added that in 2010, it was suggested to list the house on Egypt's Antiquities List for Islamic Monuments but after inspection the committee at that time also refused the request because of its very deteriorated condition.

"In order to protect the house from demolition, Cairo Governorate and the National Organisation for Urban Harmony (NOUH) should find a reason to relist the house of the NOUH list. Madkour house was delisted from the NOUH," Amin suggests. He told Ahram Online that now negotiations are taking place between Cairo Governorate, NOUH and the ministry of antiquities to find a solution and a way to save the historical building. Beit Madkour was originally built in the 14th century for a Mameluk Emir and during the 19th century the building was renovated.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Restoring the synagogue of Moses Ben Maimon

The restoration of the synagogue of Moses Ben Maimon in Cairo demonstrates Egypt’s care for its Jewish heritage, writes Zahi Hawass. 

The synagogue of Moses Ben Maimon is important to the hearts of the Jewish people of Egypt. Before the restoration work on the synagogue started, the building was in ruins, and my assistants and I were able to return it to its former glory.

The temple was built after the death of Ben Maimon (Maimonides) in the 13th century and is located inside the Alley of the Jews in the Muski district of Cairo. The Jewish people were prosperous during the Fatimid period in Egypt. In 1179 CE, Sultan Salah Al-Din Al-Ayubi appointed Ben Maimon to be his personal physician and to act as the head of the Fustat physicians.

The Jews lived in Egypt as Egyptians and enjoyed freedom of worship, as is attested by the ten Jewish temples recorded as antiquities in Egypt, nine in Cairo and one in Alexandria. This temple of Ben Maimon is one of them.

The entrance to the temple was located in the northwest corner of the façade that looked onto the Alley of Mahmoud. Its iron door had a half-circle shape, at the top of which were Hebrew words from the Ten Commandments. The temple is divided into three main sections. The first includes the religious school built during the lifetime of Ben Maimon (1135-1204 CE) and that housed his burial place before his remains were moved to Palestine.

Near his tomb was a small room where Jewish supplicants for miracles and cures would sleep overnight. The second section was used for prayer and religious rituals, and the third contained side rooms used as service areas and to house the temple supervisor and administrators.

The most important part of the temple is the wooden altar that faces the entrance. It contains an ark in which was kept the Old Testament. The altar features botanical decorations in many different colours. In front of the altar is a small basin for water, and adjacent to it is a candleholder with seven branches as a symbol of light. Because in a Jewish orthodox temple it was customary for men and women to be separated, a balcony was constructed for women to participate in prayer and observe proceedings. Before the restoration work, the temple was in ruins. It was filled with debris, and most of its architectural components were damaged.

The restoration team fully documented its condition before restoration and researched the proper materials for its repair. Many samples were taken from the mortar for analysis. We removed all the debris from the temple floor and carefully collected any archaeological materials until the floor was clean. 

We moved the wooden door and windows to the conservation lab and removed two marble stelae of Ben Maimon to storage for preservation. We also removed any additional buildings that were not contemporary with the temple, as well as any painting that had been done in previous restorations.

A major problem for the stability of the temple was the high level of groundwater beneath it. This issue was addressed, and the floor was injected with material to help stabilise it. Then each part of the temple was cleaned, and missing parts were reconstructed. The altar was restored, and some parts of the temple were rebuilt based on old photographs.

The restoration of the temple of Moses Ben Maimon was a very successful scientific project supervised by Aiman Hamed of Suez Canal University. He is a young man of genius, and he later published a book in Arabic that described every step of the documentation and implementation of the work, as well as the restoration of the temple decoration. I myself visited the conservation team several times to see the progress of the work.

When the restoration project was finished, I called a press conference and reporters came from all over the world to celebrate the completion of the conservation work. Many members of the foreign press came and were able to publicise how Egypt takes care of its monuments. I affirmed that Jewish temples are a part of our history, and it is our duty to protect our history.

The project was also welcomed by the Egyptian people. I cannot forget the phone call I received from a Jewish Egyptian woman who used to live next door to the temple. She told me that she was happy to hear that the temple had been restored, because Moses Ben Maimon was dear to the hearts of the Jews. She was crying with happiness.

I remembered her when I gave a lecture in Miami in conjunction with an exhibition of photographs of the Holy Land. The organiser was a dentist, and he took me to his home for lunch. I was surprised when the main dish was molokhia. I mentioned that this had to have been made by an Egyptian, and I discovered that he had married an Egyptian Jew. It was the very lady who had made the phone call.

I would also like to mention that Carmen Weinstein, the head of the Jewish community in Cairo, came to see me after she had attended the press conference that was held in the Moses Ben Maimon Synagogue in Old Cairo.

Carmen was very happy that we had begun to restore six synagogues in Cairo for the first time, showing how much Egypt cares about the Egyptian Jews and the ten synagogues in Cairo and Alexandria that are an important part of Egypt’s history. Carmen, who was a great supporter of efforts to restore monuments from Egypt’s Jewish history, passed away at the age of 82 in 2013.
 Explore Old Cairo with Egitalloyd Travel  

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Short Story: A Cosmopolitan City: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Old Cairo

How did modern Cairo come to be?  Unlike many cities in Egypt which originated during ancient Pharaonic or Greco-Roman times, Cairo is a relatively young city.  The first permanent urban settlement began only in AD 641 but it grew quickly into a sprawling capital city.  This exhibit highlights the diversity of people who were the first to make Old Cairo their home. 

In the exhibit, visitors will explore how Old Cairo’s communities lived together and melded their traditions to create an ever-growing, multi-cultural society during the 7th to 12th centuries AD.   

Although the city was governed by Muslim Arabs, its neighborhoods were populated by people from a patchwork of religious and ethnic communities, including native Egyptians and many immigrants.  The exhibit puts a special focus on the three main religious communities - Muslims, Christians, and Jews – whose members helped shape Old Cairo’s neighborhoods, markets, and public places.

Each of Old Cairo’s communities will be brought to life through documents that highlight the words and thoughts of individuals, including letters from the Genizah (a deposit of Jewish manuscripts preserved for centuries in a synagogue), early Islamic administrative records, and illuminated manuscripts.  The exhibit will also use audio recordings to highlight the human voices that created these written words.

Another theme within the exhibit is the exploration of how Old Cairo’s communities interacted while living in close urban quarters.  Archaeological artifacts such as textiles, pottery, games, and toys show how the boundaries between communities could be blurred.

Old Cairo’s residents often lived similarly across the city and shared many daily activities, traditions, and aspirations.  The archaeological artifacts in the exhibit commemorate 50 years since rescue excavations were conducted at Old Cairo by George Scanlon in collaboration with the American Research Center in Egypt in 1964.  This is the first time that many of these objects have been be displayed.

For Official The Oriental Institute Website  Click Here  
     Explore Old Cairo with Egitalloyd Travel