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Unlisted buildings, primarily late 19th- and early 20th-century tombs

In addition to the listed monuments, there are hundreds of tombs not officially listed as historic buildings in the Mamluks’ Desert area of the cemetery. Many of them are of much historical significance, of high artistic value and great aesthetic appeal. A careful visitor will spot mediaeval and Ottoman remnants not included in official records, re-used antique architectural pieces, and Ottoman-period canopied structures that have now become rare, but which at the time of the Napoleonic expedition at the close of the eighteenth century were plentiful in the cemeteries of Cairo.


By far the most numerous, and perhaps most interesting, are the tombs from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The most common among them are enclosed funerary courtyards entered through ornate gates, and sometimes including inside a domed mausoleum and usually some rooms around the perimeter walls. These rooms nowadays are often permanently inhabited. There was often a sabil in one corner – a room with huge windows fitted with decorative metal grilles through which drinking water was distributed for free as charity. The architectural forms are usually neo-Mamluk – in a style that at the time was perceived as an expression of Egyptian national identity. Often, the forms of neighbouring mediaeval monuments are masterfully copied. Such tombs are predominant, but the variety is almost infinite. Some complexes include multi-storey buildings; sometimes neo-Mamluk decoration is mixed in surprising ways with Art Nouveau motifs, and other architectural styles. Some tombs are in Classical style with various versions, at times appearing almost out of place at a cemetery with their villa-like verandas. Some structures are crafted of wood, and one can find multi-storied wooden mausolea with a reception / resting room upstairs. Even an occasional Pharaonic-style tomb can be found. Some vernacular buildings, both of the late-Ottoman period and more recent times, are of doubtful architectural merit, but nevertheless of considerable charm, and provide interesting testimony to popular forms of religious observance.


Any visit to the area is bound to bring surprises and amazement.

HANDS ON Traditional Crafts at The City of the Dead in Cairo
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