The qarafa al-sharqiya (the Eastern Cemetery, also called the Northern Cemetery) is known as the sahara al-mamalik (the Desert of the Mamluks). It is a well-fitting name, because this section of the cemetery was first developed in the Bahri Mamluk period in the early 14th century, and flourished as the burial ground for sultans and dignitaries. The main road through the cemetery was part of the processional route taken on festive occasions by the Mamluk rulers of Egypt, and over time it became adorned with important architectural monuments. After the end of the Mamluk sultanate in 1517 the area lost its pre-eminence as the prestigious resting place of the rulers, but continued as a cemetery for prominent families. The late 19th and early 20th century saw a revival of the Eastern Cemetery as the location for tombs of the Egyptian royal family, starting with the mausoleum of Khedive Tewfiq of 1894. This attracted other wealthy families, who built ornate burial complexes, mostly in neo-Mamluk style.
Unlike tombs in cemeteries in the West, the mausolea of Mamluk sultans and princes were huge multifunctional religious complexes comprising mosques endowed as religious schools, Sufi convents, and various charities. As such, they permanently employed considerable numbers of people. The “City of the Dead” has always also been a city of the living. Typical funerary monuments were walled enclosures that contained family tombs together with rooms built to accommodate the descendants visiting the cemetery. The popular custom of visiting the graves continues today, while many of the enclosures have been turned into residential courtyards. Increasingly, multi-storey residential buildings are now being erected in the area.
The following is the list of all registered monuments and some unlisted historic buildings in the section of the Eastern Cemetery between the “Tomb of the Watchman” to the north (off Fardus roundabout) to the tomb of Amir Azrumuk to the south (across from the northern end of al-Azhar Park.)