The World Heritage Centre, in cooperation with the Egyptian Ministry of Culture, organized an International Symposium on the Conservation and Restoration of Islamic Cairo (Cairo, February 2002), whose recommendations were reiterated by the World Heritage Committee at its 26th as well as 27th session. These included:
a) Designating Historic Cairo as a Special Planning District, with buffer zones, in accordance with the prescriptions of the Operational Guidelines for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention;
b) Preparing a comprehensive Urban Plan for the Conservation and Development of the Old City, whereby the conservation of historic buildings would be accompanied by appropriate development regulations to encourage the rehabilitation of the urban fabric so as to ensure its compatibility with the historic character of Islamic Cairo;
c) Organize regular meetings among Egyptian and International experts to review and discuss current conservation issues and projects.
During 2003, within the framework of a request of assistance submitted by the State Party and in line with the recommendations of the Cairo Symposium, the Centre proposed to the responsible Egyptian authorities, by letter dated 30 May 2003, the dispatching of a technical mission to review specific projects and conservation issues. The Centre did not receive any reply from the State Party on this matter.
By letter dated 27 February 2004, however, the Secretariat received from the State Party an undated report on the state of conservation of the property. According to this report, some major axes around the historic city, such as the road along the northern walls, have been recently enlarged in order to facilitate the circulation and lower the pollution in the area, while intrusive constructions against the walls have been removed. Moreover, a new tunnel linking the Salah Salem road with the Opera Square has been executed to contribute reducing traffic jams and pollution in the historic city. Currently, the Department of the Islamic and Coptic Antiquities of the Supreme Council of Antiquities and the Historic Cairo Centre (also part of the Ministry of Culture) are coordinating their actions in order to accelerate the closing of the Al-Khiyamiya area in its southern part. As far as the Old Cairo area (Fustat) is concerned, the works aiming at lowering the groundwater level have been implemented for 80% and their completion is foreseen for June 2004. At the same time, the overall development of the area and its environment, including the replacing of activities incompatible with the historic environment with others more appropriate for Islamic Cairo, is being implemented, in coordination among the Historic Cairo Centre, the Agency for Promotion of Tourism as well as the Supreme Council of Antiquities.
In addition, within a global rehabilitation project, 15 monuments have been restored and protected from the rising of the groundwater level. Several Islamic historic buildings (Al-Harawi House, Zainab Hatun House, Sabil Kaitbai, Bait Sehimi) have been also rehabilitated in view of their adaptive re-use. The first and the second phases of the rehabilitation project for Historic Cairo, including the restoration of 73 monuments, are close to completion, while the third and fourth phases (74 monuments) started in July 2003. The report submitted by the State Party did not provide information on the implementation of the recommendations made by the Committee at its 27th session.
The Secretariat, while recognizing the efforts made by the State Party towards reducing the impact of traffic and pollution, lowering the level of the ground water as well as towards the rehabilitation of numerous monuments within the historic city, notes that no significant progress appears to have been made in the implementation of the above-recommendations, especially in respect to the preparation of a comprehensive Urban Conservation Plan. The Secretariat, furthermore, observes that uncertainties remain as to the exact boundaries of the World heritage property and its buffer zone.