Cairo's City of the Dead, a slum where 500,000 people live among tombs

Illustration for article titled Cairos City of the Dead, a slum where 500,000 people live among tombs

Almost 20 million people live in the Cairo metropolitan area, and housing is tight, even in the suburbs. In a neighborhood known as al-Arafa, residents have moved into a necropolis dating back to 600 A.D. In this City of the Dead, there is limited electricity and sanitation, and the deceased take up residency among the living. Here's how one visitor described the layout of these tombs in 2010:

In the city of the dead, there is a cemetery guard and a neighborhood headman. The residents of Cairo build cemeteries to be able to live together in the hereafter. The cemeteries stand upon a great deal of land that is closed off by walls on all four sides. The deceased person is interred in the basement. There are two separate rooms for men and women in the tombs. When a person dies he is brought to the tomb if, before he died, he said he wanted to be interred there. There is an opening in the ground that is covered by a stone slab. When there is a funeral, the stone is removed and the body is placed on a shelf, which concludes the interment process.

City officials have discussed moving residents out of the necropolis, but Cairo's burgeoning population has made land an increasingly precious commodity. For another strange and destitute suburb of Cairo, see the "trash city" of Zabbaleen.


[Via Atlas Obscura]

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I have been there, back in the 1980s (Sadat was President for Life until he was made unalive in '82).

These are old Mamluk Dynasty tombs, and are actually far more soundly built and commodious than many of the more modern tenements in Cairo ... hardly as bad as it sounds on the face of it, really. The streets were somewhat cleaner (the dead dogs and such were of identifiable breeds, rather than your usual dead cur) and the stench no worse than most of the city.

Happens when you cram 14 million into a city built to house 4 million.