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Northern Cemetery, Cairo Overview

Stretching over a length of around 6.4 Km, the Northern Cemetery of Cairo contains many tombs and mausoleum structures in all of Cairo. It comprises multi-storey residential buildings and a Post Office. Since the place covers more than half of what is called Cairo Necropolis people also refer to the Northern Cemetery as the ‘City of the Dead.

One of the most fascinating facts about the Northern Cemetery is that most of the people have built their homes as part of the tomb structure of their dead near-ones. A large number of people have opened their shops next to the tomb structures. Egyptians, and more specifically Cairenes consider this as a means to stay close to their dead loved ones. The area is even home to some of the famous funerary complexes such as the Mosque of Qaitbey, the complex of Sultan Aashraf Barsbey and the Mausoleum of Ibn Barquq. During your visit to the Northern Cemetery, one is assured to feel bizarre by seeing the lifestyle of locals, as well as the architecture of the complexes. In case you are visiting the cemetery on weekends, you may even spot a lot of local people and tourists in the ‘cemetery’, hence making it appear more of a town than a cemetery.

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Sightseeing at the Northern Cemetery

During your visit to the Northern Cemetery, one may spare time to visit and inspire the beauty of the funerary complexes and mosques built as part of the City of the Dead. The Mosque of Qaitbey is another marvel of Egyptian architecture to witness along with the Mausoleum of Ibn Barquq.
Once you have reached the area with all the tombs, you may travel a little bit further just to come across the domed Tomb of Emir Tashtimur. Going slightly ahead on the road will land you at the gate of the former compound of Qaitbey, with his mosque in close proximity to the compound gate. One may even visit the famous Al Azhar Park, which is situated on the other side of the Salah Salem Street.

Tips to Remember

Since the Northern Cemetery has seen an increase in the crime rate and drugs trafficking, it is advised to visit the place along with a local person to ensure safety and security for yourself. You also need to make proper arrangements for transportation to and from the place.

Places to Dine-in

Since there are very few eating places within the boundaries of the Northern Cemetery, we do not want you to go searching for restaurants in a maze of tombs during your visit to Cairo. One alternate solution to this is the restaurants situated inside Al Azhar Park.
Dining in restaurants such as Studio Masr, Alain Le Nôtre and the Lake Side restaurants, one can taste and experience the Egyptian cuisines, that too in the middle of one of the largest parks of Cairo city!

Facts about the City of the Dead

The Northern Cemetery was developed as a Cemetery for people belonging to the ruling class of Egypt.

How to Reach the City of the Dead

The simplest route to reach the Northern Cemetery is to drive East from Midan Al Hussein along Sharia Al Azhar Street. Once you reach the top of the hill, you need to keep to the right and walk for a little distance below the overpass. Going straight on the road coming next will take you to the area where tombs are situated.

The Architecture of Northern Cemetery

When you come to know that there is a place in Cairo where living people are residing with their dead relatives, you ought to believe that the architecture of the place will be different from that of any cemetery.
The roads leading to the Northern Cemetery from the other parts of Cairo city are well constructed. However, the area comprising of the tomb structures have rough and irregular cobbled paths leading to different tombs. As one can clearly observe during their visit to the Northern Cemetery, the neighbourhood is a sort of slum area. Tombs have running water and electricity supply, apartments built over them, shops running inside them and what not.

Tomb in Northern Cemetery built along with Residential places
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cairo,Qarafa1.jpg


In addition to this, two schools have also been constructed during the rule of former President Hosni Mubarak. All the construction people have done there gives it a touch of both ritualistic and modern traditions, attracting tourists from across the globe to witness the same themselves.

City of the Dead - History

With the current population of the Northern Cemetery exceeding half a million people, the place was originally established as a burial place for the Mamluk sultans and emirs due to its vast area. The mausoleums built during the Mamluk reign served the people as places of entertainment and picnicking amidst the graves. This way, the Egyptians were able to carry the legacy of the pharaonic tradition into the modern era.

Early Morning Scene of the Northern Cemetery, Cairo
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:City_of_the_Dead_Cairo.jpg



Further, during the Ottoman acquisition of Egypt, Istanbul became the capital of the Ottoman Empire. Thus, people belonging to the middle and lower economic classes in Cairo were forced to live in the City of the Dead.

Residence built inside the Tomb premises in Northern Cemetery, Cairo
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:City-of-the-Dead.jpg



Gradually, as the population of the Northern Cemetery increased, the place became popular as a hybrid community of Egyptian rural people and citizens. The Earthquake of 1992 was another incident which led to an increase in the population of Northern Cemetery in Cairo.

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