The beauty and heritage of Cairo’s downtown area seem to be fading away. Residents are wrestling to preserve the cosmopolitan heritage as authorities prepare a new capital in the desert.
The old European-style buildings, big avenues, facades and bronze statues, all have a story to tell.
Historians are expressing their concerns. They are disappointed in the Egyptian government’s unwillingness to preserve this important part of history.
“The main reason for the preservation of old buildings in areas such as Garden City and Zamalek is the presence of embassies there. If these embassies were transferred to the new administrative capital, what will be the fate of those buildings,” said Ahmed El Bindari, an architectural historian and volunteer tour guide.
The district is commonly known as Khedivial Cairo after Khedive Ismail Pasha, an Ottoman ruler who governed Egypt in the mid-19th century. He was inspired on a trip to Paris, to transform Cairo into a modern metropolis.
But many people believe the district will be demolished under the pretext of development.
“Some people circumvent the law. For example, if the building is registered, people will vandalise it at night and destroy some of the main pillars or spill water over them to make sure they are removed from the list of buildings with a distinctive architectural style. I have seen buildings registered as antique, destroyed,” said the architectural historian.
But those responsible for the development of historical Cairo seem to be optimistic about the situation.
According to them, ways to reuse the 18 government-owned buildings in the city would be examined.