Since early 2007, at the request of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, the World Heritage Centre has been monitoring the progress of a new construction in the vicinity of the Cairo Citadel, the Cairo Financial Centre. Three missions were carried out and their recommendations taken into consideration. At its 32nd session, the World Heritage Committee reiterated those recommendations regarding notably the height of the buildings. It also urged the State Party to implement the main recommendations of the 2002 Symposium, in particular to prepare 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.
a) Cairo Financial Centre (CFC)
As requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008), a reactive monitoring mission was carried out at the end of October 2008. The main findings and recommendations of the mission are that the Egyptian authorities and the responsible body for the Cairo Financial Centre (CFC) are in favor of accepting a consolidated approach which would allow the project to continue while at the same time, not causing unacceptable harm to the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. The solution is to minimize the negative effects through specified additional modifications to the final shape of the complex. Detailed architectural and technical documentation was requested (not only visualisations, but also plans, cross-sections and facades containing all the planned modifications and enhancements needed to meet the above requirements), as a basis for a final agreement. In the meantime, the State Party has negotiated a pause in the development until the final documents have been agreed.
In its report sent on 29 January 2009, the State Party specifies that the developer of the CFC is keenly following the work. In March, the World Heritage Centre received from the State Party a drawing of the roof plan. Following the World Heritage Centre's request for additional detailed architectural and technical documentation, the drawings of the elevations and visualizations were received in April, reflecting the major modifications agreed during the October 2008 mission.
b) Management and Conservation plan
Simultaneously, another World Heritage Centre mission visited Cairo to discuss a project to support the Egyptian authorities in preparing a comprehensive management plan for the property under extra-budgetary funds deposited by Egypt at UNESCO. The lack of maintenance and of appropriate legal and planning tools were underlined. In particular:
- the lack of a definite and operational delimitation of the property;
- the lack of coordination among the different institutions involved;
- beyond the regulations for the protection of the monuments and antiquities, no specific urban planning tools exist for the conservation of the unlisted buildings and the remaining urban fabric in Historic Cairo.
The mission suggested creating a dedicated "technical branch" for Historic Cairo, integrating the competencies of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) and of the Cairo Governorate, which would become the official counterpart for the activities and the experts to be identified by the World Heritage Centre for the management plan project.
The State Party report indicates its willingness to carry out this project. The report also lists the issues the SCA will address in the preparation of the management plan. It will also be scheduling meetings in the coming months with representatives of the various governmental departments that focus on Historic Cairo within the Urban Planning Unit of the Cairo Governorate, the Ministry of Awqaf (Religious Endowments), the Ministry of Housing, and the Historic Cairo Project. These discussions will address notably the restoration of monuments, the adaptive reuse programmes for these monuments, and the implementation of urban rehabilitation plans. They will also address the absence of legal, institutional and planning frameworks and identify the delimitation (limits and buffer zone) of the Historic Cairo property with clear complementary maps.
c) Other issues
In addition, the State Party's report describes the considerable interventions of urban rehabilitation that have been recently carried out in Al Muiz street (upgrading of the urban fabric, relocation of incompatible activities, limitation on heavy traffic identification of pedestrian streets, new uses for restored monuments, new lighting and paving, and upgraded infrastructure). It also mentions a joint Cairo-City of Paris project for the rehabilitation of 32 buildings, on-going since the year 2000, of which the World Heritage Centre is not aware. The report only contains the list of these 32 buildings with no indication of the type or status of work undertaken.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note the revised drawings for the CFC developed following the mission, and consider that while the submitted documents are not as detailed as specified by the mission (plans of all levels and cross-sections, besides facades), they allow to assess that the revisions coincide with the experts' proposals to minimize the negative effects of the building complex.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies also note the willingness of the State Party to prepare a comprehensive management and conservation plan for the property.