Egypt is pushing ahead with a new project to restore historic Cairo, a sprawling but now rapidly crumbling thousand-year-old world heritage site home to many a tale in the Thousand and One Arabian Nights.
The plan aims to revitalise and promote Cairo as a tourist attraction while the government prepares to move to a futuristic new capital in the desert.
It gives fresh impetus to efforts by professional architects and restorers to also save old buildings which they feared were being lost because of bureaucracy, official corruption and legal constraints.
Low-rise apartments will be built on vacant lots in the historic district, where residents and workshops will relocate as dilapidated structures are reconstructed and restored, said lead coordinator Mohamed Elkhatib.
“For the first time the budget is not a problem,” said Elkhatib, without giving an estimate. “They (the government) told me that any budget for Historic Cairo will be approved.”
Workers will soon start improving facades of older buildings — including those not officially listed as historic — to match the vernacular of previous centuries.
The plan also involves converting several of the city’s wikalas or caravanserais, into boutique hotels, an idea proven successful elsewhere in the Middle East.
“We have actually begun working on pieces of land,” said Elkhatib. “Negotiations with the residents have ended and we have begun.”
The government intends to renovate about 10% of the area in an initial two-year phase and is studying proposals to create a single entity for historic Cairo’s roughly 30 square kms (11.6 square miles), he said. — Reuters