Historic Cairo (Egypt) (C 89)
Year of inscription on the World Heritage List 1979
Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger N/A
Previous Committee Decisions see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/89/documents/
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 398,900
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/89/assistance/
UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds
Total amount granted: Special Account for the safeguarding of the cultural heritage of Egypt: USD 2,203,304 dollars for the project Urban Regeneration of Historic Cairo (URHC). For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/activities/663
Previous monitoring missions
August 2002, March 2005: ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring missions; April and December 2007: World Heritage Centre missions for the Cairo Financial Centre; October 2008: Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission; 2009-2013: several World Heritage Centre missions for the URHC project; November 2014: Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Advisory mission
Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports
- Earthquake in 1992 (issue resolved)
- Inappropriate restoration works (issue resolved)
- Rise of the underground water level
- Dilapidated infrastructure
- Neglect and lack of maintenance
- Overcrowded areas and buildings
- Uncontrolled development
- Absence of a comprehensive Urban Conservation Plan
- Absence of an integrated socio-economic revitalization plan linking the urban and the socio-cultural fabric of the city core
- Lack of a management system
Illustrative material see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/89/
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2017
On 6 February 2017, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/89/documents. Progress in addressing the recommendations of the Committee at its 39th session and the joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Advisory mission of November 2014 is presented as follows:
- Stricter controls on demolition and development: A Ministerial decree to regulate construction work and changes to elevations within the boundaries of Historic Cairo was issued by the Ministry of Antiquities in 2016 and is considered to be a remarkable step towards the unification of decrees laws, rules and conditions for the preservation of the urban fabric. The Governor of Cairo has also issued a decree to Cairo district heads, obligating them not to issue any demolition decrees without his personal approval. The Governorate’s Heritage Unit and the Technical Bureau of the Governor, with the participation of the Technical Supervision Department of the Governor’s Office, have also reviewed all demolition and repair decrees as well as construction licenses;
- Strategic areas: Urban regeneration strategies have been adopted by the Ministry of Antiquities, in coordination with the Cairo Governorate, for Moez Street, Souk al-Selah, and Bab al-Wazir Street and Khalifa Street areas;
- Restoration projects: The Ministry of Antiquities has provided lists of on-going and completed major conservation projects totalling some USD 800 million;
- Awareness-raising: A community engagement and awareness programme for local residents has been created by the Ministry of Antiquities, in coordination with the Ministries of Culture, Education, and Youth and Sports, museum departments, and civil society organizations. A Children Cultural Clubs Project will soon be inaugurated, which will be focused on the Sabils (drinking fountains);
- Planning for a large-scale revitalisation project: A large-scale, long term Urban Regeneration of Historic Cairo Project (URHC) is currently being prepared by the Ministry of Antiquities. This project will encompass the whole urban landscape and its urban activities. It aims to revitalize the city’s structures and activities so that it may become a major interactive component within the modern city. The Ministry will sign a contract with a consultant (the Engineering Centre for Archaeology and Environment, Cairo University), in addition to experts in specialized fields. The detailed administrative urban, cultural, economic and social goals of the project are clearly set out;
- Management: The Ministry of Antiquities, in discussion with the General Consultant of the URHC Project, is considering appointing a General Council for the management of the property, which would be legally constituted and have an independent budget. A final draft of the retrospective Statement of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) has been submitted for approval.
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM
Progress has been made in addressing the recommendations of the Committee and the Advisory mission in terms of putting in place both short and long term policy and administrative measures to address the urgent problems facing the urban fabric of the Old City and its socio-economic structures. With its buffer zone, the property stretches to some 5 sq.km, Structures and measures commensurate with the major scale of the problems are needed as well as appropriately high levels of commitment and support.
The new decrees to control construction work and demolition are an absolutely necessary first step as measures to halt the rapid and irreversible deterioration of its urban fabric. Initiatives have been taken to raise awareness of and foster engagement with local communities and visitors. For the long-term, to revitalise the Old City as a crucial and sustainable part of the modern city of Cairo, work on the URHC project has begun under the aegis of the Ministry of Antiquities. Consultants have been appointed and clearly defined multi-disciplinary goals set out as well as planned work on new social, economic and legislative studies to complement others on the built fabric of the city. It is envisaged that over a period of twelve months initial studies will be carried out and analysed and the structure of the overall Master Plan will be set out. The State Party does not specify how this project relates to the UNESCO implemented project of the same name, completed end of 2014.
New structures for the management of the property are being considered that envisage a new legally appointed body with members having relevant national and international experience. This new body would be instrumental in driving forward the URHC project. Discussions on the way forward took place with the Director of the World Heritage Centre during her visit to the property in February 2017.
The scope and ambition of the URHC is clearly in line with the needs of the property. How the goals and aspirations will be taken forward need to be defined in the Master Plan along with structures, resources and actions as well as agreed stages to allow progress to be defined and monitored against a range of parameters.
The Committee might wish to take note of the measures taken so far by the State Party to strengthen constraints on construction and demolition, to begin to revitalise the structures of the city through a long-term and far-reaching multi-disciplinary project and to consider ways to strengthen governance arrangements. Given the challenges to be faced to halt and reverse the decline of the property, it is crucial that the State Party take all needed measures to halt the rapid deterioration observed at the property, while the new administrative and management measures are being put in place, and closely monitor the situation. From the information provided by the State Party it is not clear whether concrete results have begun to be achieved within the property to prevent illegal constructions and the rapid and irreversible deterioration of its urban fabric. In this regard, it is clearly desirable that benchmarks are established and shared with the Committee in order that progress can be monitored over time.
In March 2017, the State Party informed the World Heritage Centre that it plans to renovate the al-Azhar pedestrians’ crossing bridge. However, to consider the request, the World Heritage Centre requested more detailed information on this project.
Decision Adopted: 41 COM 7B.77
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC/17/41.COM/7B,
- Recalling Decision 39 COM 7B.50, adopted at its 39th session (Bonn, 2015),
- Notes the progress that has been made by the State Party in conformity with the recommendations of the Committee and of the 2014 Advisory mission in terms of putting in place both short and long term measures to address the urgent problems facing the urban fabric of the Old City and its socio-economic structures;
- Also notes the immediate measures on the control of conservation and demolition of structures, on urban regeneration strategies for specific areas, and on awareness raising, as well as the revival of work on major conservation projects, and the planning of new ones;
- Welcomes the steps that have been taken to start and plan a major Urban Regeneration of Historic Cairo Project (URHC), under the control of the Ministry of Antiquities, and the scope of its urban, cultural, economic and social goals aimed at revitalising the Old City structures, and a one year work programme to undertake studies and define an overall Master Plan;
- Given the challenges to be faced to halt and reverse the decline of the property, urges the State Party to take all needed measures to halt the rapid deterioration observed at the property, while the new administrative and management measures are being put in place, and closely monitor the situation;
- Encourages the State Party to give high priority to the work of the newly-established URHC project; and requests the State Party to submit the draft Master Plan and established benchmarks in order that progress can be monitored and defined over time;
- Also welcomes proposals for a new management structure that envisage a legally appointed body that could be instrumental in driving the URHC project forward and also requests the State Party to provide further details about this structure;
- Further requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to consider the progress with the development of the Master Plan and the impact of the new policy and recent administrative measures;
- Recalls that the State Party needs to submit all construction projects to the World Heritage Centre for review, in conformity with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, including for the planned al-Azhar pedestrians’ crossing bridge;
- Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2018, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 43rd session in 2019.