Cairo hosts a variety of historically significant districts and monuments, ranging from the ruins of al-Fustat, the Fatimid nucleus of Medieval Cairo, the citadel and surrounding Mamluk palaces, to its urban Arab domestic architecture, mausoleums, bazaars, and its Nilometre and other inventions related to human use and mastery of the River Nile, all serve to demonstrate the wealth of Cairo not only as a historic capital of the Islamic World, but as a marvel of the human urban experience throughout its history. As such, the site of Historic Cairo was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1979, recognizing its "absolutely unquestionable historical, archaeological and urban importance"
However, delimitation of the site and inscribed protective measures for the maintenance of its urban and architectural values have remained unclear or lacking altogether, despite its inclusion on the World Heritage List for over 30 years. It is this situation that the Urban Regeneration of Historic Cairo Project seeks to address and rectify. Requested since many years by the World Heritage Committee, the initiative for the elaboration of conservation/management tools for History Cairo was initiated in 2009, through the Special Account for Egyptian Cultural Heritage at UNESCO.
Historic Cairo, skyline, 2011 ©UNESCO
The Urban Regeneration project for Historic Cairo (URHC) has been working with local authorities since 2010 with the aim of preparing planning and management tools necessary for the conservation of the aforementioned heritage values in addition to the socio-economic revitalisation and environmental upgrading of the World Heritage Site as a whole. To these ends, the Project will focus on the following objectives:
- Outline a conservation and rehabilitation strategy based on a clear definition of the WH site and its buffer zone to preserve and enhance the heritage values and regenerate the physical and socio-economic environment,
- Establish a management System for the WH site with the contribution of all the concerned administrations, based on a new and more effective institutional set-up and legal framework;
- Create an appropriate and shared information platform for urban conservation;
- Launch public awareness-raising activities
The Project is based on the consideration that the establishment of the Conservation Plan necessarily requires a shared vision for the future of Historic Cairo's architectural heritage and urban fabric, and a consequent strategy to protect and rehabilitate the whole WH site not only as a spatial and functional entity, but also as a cultural and socio-economic asset.
Historic Cairo, commercial activities,
It is based on the assumption that the tangible heritage of the World Heritage Site can only be preserved if life is kept in it. Hence, this rehabilitation initiative aims at preserving heritage features while simultaneously favouring all the possible compatible interventions which can improve the living conditions of the population and revitalise the urban fabric with new functions and uses.
The Urban Regeneration project for Historic Cairo, therefore, hopes to ensure that the World Heritage Site be recognised and protected, in a dynamic fashion, through an efficient, comprehensive and sustainable management system, strengthened by the effective coordination amongst the different institutions involved.
Project updates since July 2010
- First nucleous of the project team created;
- Documentation collected and organised;
- Synthesis of the transformation of Cairo urban fabric;
- Delimitation of the Historic Cairo WH site and SOUV drafted;
- Consultation with the concerned administrations and institutions launched;
- Protocols of Cooperation with Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) and National Organisation for Urban Harmony (NOUH) signed;
- Urgent protection measures drafted and under discussion with NOUH;
- Sector Studies on housing rehabilitation, socio-economic analysis, environmental risk areas and community oriented activities on-going;
- Field survey to identify conservation sub-areas and related protection measures, including an extensive phtotographic campaign, completed for the central area and the cemeteries;
- Touristic map produced to launch a tourism-oriented awareness campaign;
- Website on the project survey on-line (www.urhcproject.org) ;