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 1979-2014)
Total amount approved: USD 398,900
For details, see page https://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: World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission; 2009-2013: several World Heritage Centre missions for the URHC project; November 2014: World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Advisory mission.

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

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

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2015

On 8 February 2015, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report; a summary of which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/89/documents/. The report indicates the following progress:

Upon invitation by the State Party, a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Advisory mission took place from 14 to 18 November 2014 to Historic Cairo. The mission was made fully aware that the fabric of Historic Cairo is under severe strain from inadequate development control. Although many of the monuments have been restored and are being managed, the urban fabric is extremely vulnerable. The mission considered that unless actions are taken to reverse what is becoming a downward spiral in the immediate future, it could well become impossible to sustain the attributes of the property’s OUV.

The mission recommended a major Revitalisation Project for Historic Cairo that could valorise the attributes of OUV and the social and cultural assets of the city, reverse urban decline and foster a synergy between the present and the past. Such a project would need to be tiled into the wider development of Greater Cairo, which are facing major transformational pressures and rapid urban change. The mission also suggested short, medium and long term actions based on the URHC studies, analysis and proposals. It also suggested that a technical workshop might be convened to explore further strategic or area-based approaches for what could become one of the world’s largest urban revitalisation projects.

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

The rapid and irreversible degradation of the property’s urban fabric make it very difficult for the State Party to sustain the attributes of the property’s OUV should be noted with great concern. The State Party has taken important steps towards a reinforced and more coordinated approach to Historic Cairo, by taking forward the conservation of the property at the highest level and addressing its challenges in a holistic way that takes into account local development concerns. It has also adopted the boundaries and buffer zone of the property as proposed by the URHC project and requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 37th session. However, despite the establishment of a Ministerial Committee, the property still does not have a management plan nor a management system to enforce the decisions of the Ministerial Committee; urban decay is accelerating and particularly impacting on buildings of “peculiar value” which constitute the very quality of the urban fabric, and illegal constructions are still being built at a rapid pace. It is recommended that the World Heritage Committee commend the State Party for the progress made so far, but also urge it for the adoption of a management system and the production of a management plan, and reiterate its request to halt illegal constructions and refrain from demolishing the original urban fabric. 

In view of the complexity of the problems encountered in Historic Cairo, and the extent of the property’s urban decay, it appears that only a large scale urban revitalisation project that addresses the social, economic and environmental aspects in a holistic manner could save the property. Such a project could build on the extensive studies and pilot project produced by the URHC and would require the creation of a unified management structure for the property. The mechanisms of such a large scale project could be established in a technical workshop to define concrete operational steps, and may be supported by an extension of the URHC Project.

While the detailed contents of an urban revitalisation project, its aims, objectives, implementation mechanism and provisional timeframe are being planned, and a Technical Unit of highly-qualified multidisciplinary team is appointed, it is recommended that the World Heritage Committee urge the State Party to undertake the short term actions (before end of 2015) proposed by the 2014 World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Advisory mission by introducing stricter controls, particularly on demolition and development in order to stabilise the current situation of the urban fabric. Such short term actions should be accompanied by awareness-raising actions amongst residents and amongst those involved in development control measures.

Finally, it is recommended that the World Heritage Committee reiterate its request for the submission by the State Party of a retrospective Statement of OUV.

Decision Adopted: 39 COM 7B.50

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decisions 36 COM 7B.51, and 37 COM 7B.49, adopted at its 36th (Saint-Petersburg, 2012) and 37th (Phnom Penh, 2013) sessions respectively,
  3. Notes with great concern the rapid and irreversible degradation of the Historic Cairo urban fabric which will make it very difficult for the State Party to sustain the attributes of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV);
  4. Acknowledges the establishment by the State Party of a Ministerial Committee chaired by the Prime Minister to oversee the management of Historic Cairo, and commends it for adopting the boundaries and buffer zone of the property as proposed by the UNESCO Urban Regeneration of Historic Cairo Project (URHC) and requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 37th session (Phnom Penh, 2013);
  5. Urges the State Party to introduce stricter controls, particularly on demolition and development in order to stabilise the current situation of the urban fabric, in parallel with appropriate awareness-raising actions;
  6. Also urges the State Party to consider a large scale urban revitalisation project that addresses the social, economic and environmental problems affecting the property in a holistic manner, and to hold a technical workshop to define the aims, objectives, implementation mechanism and provisional timeframe of such a project;
  7. Requests that a Technical Unit formed of a highly-qualified multidisciplinary team be created, to manage the property, establish its integrated management plan, and take forward the URHC;
  8. Reiterates its request to the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre the revised draft of the retrospective Statement of OUV for the property;
  9. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2016, an updated report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 41st session in 2017.