Saturday, October 27, 2007

Living Among the Dead

According to al-Jazeera's story, there are thousands of homeless in Cairo, and "Many in fact are being forced to live among the dead." One would think that this is a new phenomenon from the story - in fact, Egyptians have been living in these very large cemeteries for centuries. Some parts have electricity, running water and sewers. Those interviewed in the story show a lack of uneasiness about living where they do and this is presented as a shocking testament their plight. The truth is that Egyptians are just not particularly put off by this. At least the Muslims aren't - no one lives in the large Christian cemeteries in Cairo's Coptic neighbourhood. These places are poor, no doubt, but they are not the poorest or the last resort of the homeless. There are many impressive tombs (such as Sultan Qaitbey's mosque - depicted on the one pound note)) in the Northern cemetery and these cemeteries are well-worth visiting.

UPDATE: Here is a more recent article which says that Egyptians are now being forced to live in cemeteries - despite interviewing people who have lived there for 30 years. According to the article, the government is now trying to stop tourists from entering and taking pictures of the inhabitants. They've also closed Qaitbay's mosque. Below is a picture of the mosque (hard to photograph in the close quarters) with a four storey apartment building beside it - with air conditioning. Although it is true that Cairo is constantly expanding, the cemeteries are not the last resort of the poor - the city is expaning outward into the valley's farmland ([picture below) and the desert.

1 comment:

Jon Jensen said...
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