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Egypt earmarks UNESCO tombs in Cairo for destruction

An Egyptian old man sits inside El Sayeda Nafisa cemetery in the capital Cairo on 12 July 2015. [KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images]
An Egyptian old man sits inside El Sayeda Nafisa cemetery in the capital Cairo on 12 July 2015. [KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images]

An Egyptian government committee has marked dozens of tombs at the cemeteries of Sayeda Nafisa and Imam Al-Shafti for demolition.

Known as the City of the Dead, those earmarked for destruction have had red "removal" signs placed on them, whilst those that will remain have been marked with a black X.

Families have been asked to remove the remains of their relatives to a cemetery in 15 May City whilst dozens of people who live in the tombs will lose their homes.

However, they have not been given a deadline for when they should vacate them.

According to a report in Madr Masr, residents have been told by authorities that they will be given flats in a new complex in Asmarat, however, they must be able to prove they have been living in the cemeteries for a long time in order to qualify for the housing.

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Residents and families of the dead have not been given an official reason for the demolition but urban heritage writer Michel Hanna said he believes the removal of the graves is to allow for the widening of several roads including Salah Salem, Sayeda Aisha, and Magra Al-Ayoun.

Critics have decried the move as the cemeteries are part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Islamic Old Cairo that has great historic and heritage value.

The committee that earmarked the graves for destruction was made up of representatives from the Armed Forces, the Egyptian General Survey Authority and Cairo Governorate's Cemeteries Administration.

The destruction of graves in the City of the Dead has been an ongoing controversy in Egypt – last year archaeologists and historians called on the government to stop demolishing tombs.

The Ministry of Housing had approved the demolition work to make way for a new highway to be built through the Al-Ghafir cemetery, Mansheya Nasir and Duwaika neighbourhoods of Cairo.

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AfricaEgyptInternational OrganisationsNewsUNESCO
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