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City of the Dead (Al Qarafa)

City of the Dead Cairo, Egpt - Egypt Tours Portal

Across the endless streets and milestones of Egypt is a legendary monument called the city of the dead which houses a number of incredible Islamic cemeteries that became part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site under the wonders of Historic Cairo.

Cairo is a blessed city filled with the artistic and grand elements of the golden Islamic age that ruled half of the world for more than 1400 years. In this magical attraction is a number of the most majestic group of Islamic art and decorations worthy of enchanting the eyes of everyone who comes across it. It remains an active city that embraces both life and death.

Geography and Facts about the City of the Dead

Overview About the City of the Dead - Egypt Tours Portal
Overview About the City of the Dead - Egypt Tours Portal

The city of the Dead "Al Qarafa" is found extending to the northern and southern sides of Cairo Citadel just below the Mokattam hills which covers an area of about four miles (7 square km) long.

The entire city is divided into two parts the northern Cemetery which is also known as the Eastern Cemetery and the southern Cemetery plus there is another minor cemetery just north of Bab Al Nasr. The city holds a population of more than 500,000 up to 5 million.

City of the Dead History

The City of Dead, the Northern Cemetery, Cairo, Egypt - Egypt Tours Portal
The City of Dead, the Northern Cemetery, Cairo, Egypt - Egypt Tours Portal

The city of the dead can be traced back to the seventh century AD when the city of Fustat was founded by Amr Ibn Alas. In the middle of the 8th century, the necropolis was founded to cover about 300 hectares. During the Abbasis' rule, it became the official cemetery of old Cairo in the 9th century Ahmed Ibn Tulan and the Islamic scholar Imam Al Shafi was buried there. It expanded to new areas such as Al Qata’I which is close to Ibn Tulun Mosque and Salah El-Din Citadel.

In the Fatimid dynasty in the 10th, 11th, and 12th centuries, they renovated the entire area and changed the character of the entire cemeteries, and the custom of visiting the graves and dead family members and ancient ancestors was popularized. Most of the Calipha were buried in their own personal mausoleum which is found in Khan Al Khalili Bazaar. Due to the burying of the city of Fustat in 1168 AD where the city of the dead lost its importance. In the 11th century was used as a burial ground that was abandoned by a famine.

In the Mamluk dynasty across the 13th, 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries, many of the sultans and elites were buried next to and attached to a mosque, and the area also was enlarged to be called the greater Qarafa. In the late 14th century the plague spread and many cemeteries were built. It was later declined under the start of the ottoman and Khedival empires from the 16th and 19th AD the religious buildings and cemeteries were repaired and the family of Mohammed Ali Pasha built an incredible mausoleum filled with the most incredible decorations.

City of the Dead Attractions

Khanqa and Mausoleum of Sultan Faraj ibn Barquq City of the Dead - Egypt Tours Portal
Khanqa and Mausoleum of Sultan Faraj ibn Barquq City of the Dead - Egypt Tours Portal

The Southern Cemetery is the oldest and biggest necropolis dating all the way to 642 CE beginning from the Cairo citadel in the north all the way south district of al Basatin. Some of the finest Monuments in the Southern Cemetery are:

  • Sayyida Nafisa Mosque
  • Mausoleum of Imam al-Shafi'i
  • Hosh al-Basha
  • Sayyida Aisha Mosque
  • Mashhad of Sayyida Ruqayya
  • Mausoleum of Shajar al-Durr
  • Mausoleum of Amir Qawsun
  • Zawiya of Shaykh Zayn al-Din Yusuf
  • Sultaniyya Mausoleum

The Northern Cemetery was mostly created in the Mamluk era (1250 – 1517 AD) as it is now known as the Mamluk Desert Cemetery found between the Kobri Al Ebageah to the east and the Shari'a Salah Salem to the west in Cairo. It holds the cemetery of Bab Al-Wazir and the cemetery of Bab Al Nasr. Some of the marvelous Monuments in the Northern Cemetery include:

  • Funerary complex of Sultan Qaytbay
  • Khanqah-Mausoleum of Sultan Barsbay
  • Khanqah of Faraj ibn Barquq
  • Funerary complex of Emir Qurqumas
  • Mausoleum of Qansuh Abu Sa'id
  • Funerary complex of Sultan Inal
  • Qubbat Afandina
  • Tomb and Khanqah of Khawand Tughay (or of Umm Anuk)
  • Mausoleum of Tarabay al-Sharifi (in the Bab al-Wazir Cemetery)

Conclusion

The immortal golden city of Cairo is able to cross the boundaries of life and death and showcase the harmony of both the living and dead. Exploring this marvelous place will make a very interesting story and the sights of the city are a true sight to behold. Book your Cairo day tours and experience the rich history and culture of Egypt! Visit iconic landmarks such as the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Sphinx, old Cairo attractions, and the Egyptian Museum. Don't miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore the ancient wonders of Cairo.

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