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Committee Decisions

CONF 203 VII.C.2.35/36

SOC: Islamic Cairo (Egypt)

VII.35 Islamic Cairo (Egypt)

The Committee was informed that precise and concordant information from several sources was brought to the attention of UNESCO that the restoration work 'at the three Fatimid mosques of Al Aqmar, AI-Guyushi and Lu-lu-a (among the most ancient in Cairo dating from the 11th and 12th centuries), carried out by the Bohra community had in fact resulted in the destruction of most of their historic elements and an almost total reconstruction, causing the loss of their authenticity and World Heritage values. In fact, the plaster, woodwork and ancient painted walls, inside and outside, have been destroyed and replaced by new material, concrete has been used as a substitute for the old structures, and even the shape and configuration of the monuments have been completely transformed, in breadth and height, through the addition of levels and rooms. Furthermore, the traditional techniques have been totally ignored.

A report was requested in June 1995 from the Supreme Council of Antiquities, but had not been received by the beginning of the nineteenth session of the Committee.

The Committee therefore requested the Secretariat to transmit to the Egyptian authorities the following text concerning the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur and the Islamic Cairo:

Having noted the results of the mission of the UNESCO experts invited by the Government of Egypt, from 1 to 6 April 1995, to assist in identifying measures to ensure the conservation of the World Heritage site of the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur, the Committee congratulated and thanked the Egyptian authorities for the decisions taken to date and for the action already undertaken:

1) the choice of a new route passing north of the World Heritage site for the highway link to the ring-road, which will follow, once the necessary detailed studies are available, either the Mariouteyya Canal, the Mansoureyya Canal, or both of them;

2) work already undertaken to improve one of the rubbish dumps and the work foreseen to abolish the second;

3) actions to halt all further housing construction at Kafr-el-Gabal and to eliminate, in the coming years, the unauthorized buildings and roads encroaching on the buffer zone of the World Heritage site.

It requested them to examine carefully, with the authorities concerned, the relocation of the different military camps and army factories which encroach upon the site and its buffer zone.

It requested the Egyptian authorities to keep the Committee informed, through its Secretariat, of the progress made in the implementation of the safeguarding measures already undertaken or foreseen, and more particularly the question concerning the encroachment of military camps on the World Heritage site and its buffer zone.

However, the committee regarded the renovation and reconstruction works which have destroyed the authenticity of the three Fatimid mosques of Al Aqmar, AI-Guyushi and Lu-lu-a, situated within the World Heritage site of Islamic Cairo, with grave concern. It drew the attention of the Egyptian authorities to Articles 4 and 5 of the World Heritage Convention by which States Parties should endeavour to ensure the protection and conservation of their heritage, and that this conservation should be carried out in accordance with international standards, such as the Charter of Venice, in order to ensure respect of authenticity. It also recalled Article 24(b) of the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention regarding the respect of authenticity of inscribed properties, and requested that, in the future, the authorities should conform to Article 58, inviting States Parties to inform the Committee, through the UNESCO Secretariat, of their intention to undertake or to authorize in an area protected under the Convention, major restorations or new constructions.

It finally reminded the Egyptian authorities that UNESCO is always willing to provide, whenever necessary, international expert advice prior to any restoration work and those who are sent on a regular basis to the site, are at their entire disposal to provide advice whenever necessary.