1.         Historic Cairo (Egypt) (C 89)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1979

Criteria  (i)(v)(vi)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/89/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1979-1999)
Total amount approved: USD 398,900
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/89/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds


Previous monitoring missions

October 1998: expert mission sent by the World Heritage Centre; July 2000: ICOMOS expert mission; August 2001: ICOMOS expert mission; September 2001: World Heritage Centre mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/89/

Information presented to the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee in 2001

Previous deliberations:
Twenty-third session of the Committee (paragraph number X.35)
Twenty-fourth session of the Bureau (paragraph number IV.59)

Main issuesLack of coordination; major restoration programmes

New information:

The restoration of Al Sennari House has been completed successfully with funding through the Convention. The Egyptian authorities are presently discussing on the best function for this House, which would be compatible with its character and conservation requirements. Among other options, the possibility of using the House as an Information Centre on the Islamic Cairo was raised.

Two reports have been submitted since the Committee Meeting in Cairns from the Policy Advisor and Technical Coordinator contracted by the WHC over the past year to follow the development of activities for the rehabilitation of Islamic Cairo.

The report submitted by the Policy Advisor highlighted the great number of restoration/conservation projects currently being carried out in Islamic Cairo (19 large projects, for a total estimated amount of over 41 Million US dollars). The WHC does not have enough information to assist the Egyptian authorities in implementing and monitoring such a major programme, whose impact on the state of conservation of the historic city is bound to be considerable. A foreseen technical mission by an ICOMOS expert, requested by the twenty-fourth session of the Bureau of June 2000 to evaluate the state of conservation of Islamic monuments in Cairo, has not yet been dispatched.

Both reports shed light on the great complexity of this World Heritage site (the largest historic city on the List), reflected by the very large number of actors involved and the considerable number of on-going initiatives, ranging from restoration campaigns to major urban infrastructure projects. According to the report submitted by the Technical Coordinator, with a view to set a framework for a coherent implementation strategy, the General Organization for Physical Planning (GOPP, Ministry of Housing) is working on a comprehensive project for the rehabilitation of historic Cairo, while the newly established Center of Studies and Development for Historic Cairo (CSDHC, Ministry of Culture) is engaged in the preparation of a rehabilitation plan for its monuments.

As agreed between the General Secretary of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) and the Deputy Director of the WHC, (on mission to Cairo accompanied by a consultant on February 2001), a Seminar could be organized as soon as the two above-mentioned studies are finalized involving all the concerned parties, as well as national and international experts, to review the projects and proposals, with particular regard to the priority area of Al-Muaiz Street, and agree on specific guidelines for the implementation of an integrated rehabilitation plan. A number of actions were also discussed and agreed upon, that could be implemented immediately to improve the presentation of the site and raise the awareness of its inhabitants of the need to protect it.

Action Required

The Bureau recommends that, as soon as the two studies, to be prepared by GOPP and CSDHC, are available, the Egyptian authorities organize, in close coordination with the WHC, a Seminar to review all existing proposals and establish clear and concrete guidelines for a rehabilitation plan of the Al Muaiz Street area. The Bureau recommends as well that the foreseen mission by an ICOMOS expert be dispatched as soon as possible to monitor the implementation of the conservation works going on within the historic city.


Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2001

As recommended by the Bureau at its June session in Paris, an ICOMOS expert carried out a mission to Cairo from 6 to 18 August 2001, to evaluate the current restoration projects. Further to this mission, the Director and Chief a.i. of the Arab States Unit of the World Heritage Centre visited Cairo in September 2001.

A major campaign is being implemented in Cairo, with a total of 150 interventions foreseen within a period of eight years and 48 monuments currently under restoration. The campaign is managed by the Ministry of Culture, and support provided by the Historic Cairo Studies and Development Centre, employing about 250 staff comprising six working groups. Projects are developed by external consultants and executed by contractors, invited to restricted bids.

While emphasizing the great efforts and commendable commitment shown by the Egyptian authorities towards the rehabilitation of Historic Cairo, the ICOMOS report highlighted some issues of particular concern:

·         Coordination must be strengthened among the various institutions involved in the rehabilitation of the site, to ensure that conservation efforts integrate concerns for social and economic aspects, and are carried out within an integrated strategy. At present, 32 different laws govern the administration of Historic Cairo, shared among six Authorities, while the city does not have a comprehensive Master Plan with clear land-use regulations. 40% of the land within the site is composed of vacant lots.

·         Strictly related to the above issue is the question of the adaptive re-use of the restored monuments. At present, several monuments are being restored, but no clear indications are provided as to the future function and management of the building. A strategy based on priorities and actual needs should be established.

·         Another issue of concern is the varying quality of the projects and work being executed, ranging from exemplary interventions (e.g. Al Ghuri Mosque) to mediocre standards (e.g. the Sagarthmish Mosque). This aspect is strictly related to the question of authenticity, and to the tendency towards ‘complete restoration’ (surfaces are generally restored to what may have been their state at a specific time, paying less attention to retention of signs of age and patina that has resulted from wear and tear). This may well have been the result of excessive rush in the execution of so many challenging projects, but sometimes reflects a lack of coherence between historical analysis of a monument and the adopted restoration options.

·         Public awareness of the objectives of the restoration campaign and current projects must be promoted. The opening of a debate on the interventions, and confrontation of the different opinions, may contribute to ensure that all projects conform with the standards stipulated in international conventions.

·         Specific training on conservation must be provided for the professional staff of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, mostly composed of archaeologists and engineers, taking into account the unprecedented scale and number of restoration projects.


In order to address the above remarks, the WHC and the Egyptian authorities agreed to start implementing together a series of specific actions, to be partially funded through the Egyptian Funds in-Trust at UNESCO. These actions include:

1.               An International Seminar on the conservation of Historic Cairo, with multi-disciplinary planning workshops focused on specific projects, to be organized in early 2002. Periodic reviewing seminars of the current projects will also be held.

2.               The establishment within the premises of a restored monument, of a permanent Information Centre on Historic Cairo World Heritage site and current conservation efforts

3.               The preparation of a Conservation Manual, with technical specifications and detailed descriptions of the types of work most commonly required for the conservation and maintenance of historic building within the city of Cairo.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM


Decision Adopted: 25 BUR V.198-202

V.198     The Secretariat informed the Bureau of the content of the reports received since the last session of the Committee (Cairns, 2000) from the two consultants contracted by the Centre over the past year to co-ordinate and advise on the activities for the rehabilitation of Islamic Cairo.

V.199     On the issue of urban rehabilitation, the Bureau noted the intention of the Egyptian authorities to organize, in collaboration with the Centre, a seminar in Cairo to review and discuss current projects, strategies and on-going studies, particularly concerning the central area of the Al Muaiz Street. Among these studies are a comprehensive Project for the Rehabilitation of Islamic Cairo, undertaken by the General Organization for Physical Planning (GOPP)– Ministry of Housing, and a rehabilitation plan for the monuments of the city, being developed by the newly established Centre of Studies and Development for Historic Cairo (CSDHC) – Ministry of Culture.

V.200     The World Heritage Centre’s consultants reported that a large number of restoration projects are being implemented by the Supreme Council of Antiquities. The Bureau noted the concern of ICOMOS with respect to the need to ensure that recognized standards of conservation are fully respected, given the special importance of many of these monuments.

V.201     The Bureau recommended that, as soon as the two studies to be prepared by GOPP and CSDHC are available, the Egyptian authorities organize, in close co-ordination with the Centre, a seminar to review all existing proposals and establish clear and concrete guidelines for a rehabilitation plan of the Al Muaiz Street area.

V.202     The Bureau also recommended that the mission foreseen by an ICOMOS expert be dispatched as soon as possible, to monitor the implementation of the conservation works occurring within the historic city.