Updated: April 2014
ARCE has played a major role in the conservation of Egypt’s cultural heritage from all historical periods. Projects have involved building a conservation laboratory at the Egyptian Museum, conserving Coptic icons and hands-on training for Egyptian inspectors who work at archaeological sites. The largest number of projects, all supported by grants from USAID, have involved the conservation of cultural monuments and sites ranging chronologically from Prehistoric to nineteenth century and geographically from southern Egypt to the Mediterranean coast. Since it is claimed that Cairo has more “medieval” monuments than any other city in the world, it is not surprising that the bulk of ARCE’s work in the Egyptian capital focused on these buildings. In fact, extensive work was done on seven monuments in the area known as “Historic Cairo” which is one of Egypt’s seven sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1979.
Arabic Guide about walking tour of Historic Cairo for Tour Guides
Historic Cairo, whose exact boundaries have never been set, encompasses a large area from north of the Fatimid city where the Khan al-Khalili bazaar area can be found, to south of the Citadel whose nineteenth century Muhammad ‘Ali mosque dominates the skyline. ARCE, following best conservation practices of the late twentieth and twenty-first century, concentrated its conservation work in a relatively small area.The key monument was the famous southern gate of the Fatimid city, Bab Zuwayla. ARCE then restored a number of sites along the street towards Khan al-Khalili and others to the southeast of Bab Zuwayla in an area known as Darb al-Ahmar, the road that leads from Bab Zuwayla to the Citadel. The Aga Khan Trust for Culture was also active in the Darb al-Ahmar area restoring historic monuments as well as revitalizing the local infrastructure. The Egyptian Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) was also active in many parts of Historic Cairo with their own conservation program.
Although ARCE’s work on all its monuments in Historic Cairo is complete, ARCE recognized, following the Venice Charter (1964), that the best way to ensure the long-term sustainability of all the sites is for them to be used, for tourism, education and, when appropriate, places of prayer. ARCE has worked with the MSA in developing on-site information to enhance the visitor experience in the area. Drawing upon an earlier phase of this project directed by Architect Hoda ‘Abd al-Hamid and the outstanding staff at ARCE, we agreed to create information signs, leaflets and a Handbook for Guides, the last only in Arabic, for 16 monuments in the area where ARCE and the Aga Khan Trust had done their work. Two groups of eight monuments were selected; one from around Bab Zuwayla northwards to the fountain and school built by Muhammad Ali in memory of his son Tusun Pasha in Sharia Mu‘izz li ‘d-Din Allah. The second eight would be in the Darb al-Ahmar area.
Working with Jarek Dobrowolski, an outstanding architect and designer, and Sherif Anwar, a faculty member in the College of Archaeology, Cairo University, we created two sets of back-to-back leaflets, one for each area in English and Arabic versions. On one side there is a map of the area locating eight monuments giving their dates of construction and their monument registration number. On the other side a brief description of each monument gives the visitor a sense of the importance of each site. Again, each set was done in Arabic and English creating a set of four back-to-back sheets.
The larger component of the project was to create a handbook on all sixteen sites in Arabic for teachers, guides and students. The design, floor plans of each monument and selection of images was done by Dobrowolski while the Arabic text, a full page for each monument was written by Anwar. The final product is a beautiful, small guide for this area produced for the first time in Arabic.
The final step will be placing the outdoor information panels in two locations displaying map indicating each site and a short text identifying each monument in both Arabic and English. Recognizing that conservation is a community activity, ARCE is committed to publishing the results of its projects to reach a wide audience.
Recognizing the work of ARCE as a service to all those interested in these monuments or visiting them, the American University of Cairo Press is also making this material available online.