Documentaries explore the old quarters and alleys of Cairo
CAIRO – The Egyptian capital of Cairo, established in 969, is characterized by its various architectural designs and artistic styles, transforming the city into an open-air museum and arousing the curiosity of all.
As part of efforts to shed light on the city’s history and historic buildings, Zizo Abdo, an archaeologist specializing in Cairo’s heritage, has launched an initiative called Cairo biography. The initiative aims to preserve Cairo’s heritage and raise awareness of the need to safeguard it through various means.
Abdo and a team from his initiative have spent months cleaning up and removing trash around some of Cairo’s landmarks that have been neglected over the years. He filmed videos telling the story of the old neighborhoods since the creation of Cairo, as well as the modifications made to the old houses, mosques, sebils (fountains with traditional Islamic architecture) and tekyehs (hospices or poor houses) in the frame of a documentary series entitled âCairo biography through its rich paths.
The documentary – which includes eight episodes posted on the initiative’s Facebook page – aims to shed light on Cairo’s heritage given the city’s religious, historical and architectural importance, Abdo said.
He told Al-Monitor that the initiative was launched in September 2020 to raise awareness of the importance of archeology and the need to preserve the city’s heritage, through tours and clean-up campaigns. around some of Cairo’s neglected old buildings in order to restore them to their luster and sparkle.
Abdo said that together with the initiative’s work team had started filming episodes to introduce Egyptian alleys and neighborhoods and describe their historical and aesthetic details in videos that serve as a guide for a city tour. . Each video tells the story of the alley and lists the ancestral monuments remaining there, he added.
He said he was trying to rediscover the beauty of ancient Egyptian alleys and share this beauty in a simple and interesting way with everyone, especially the people of Cairo, so that they learn the historical and architectural value of their city.
Abdo’s initiative consists of historical geography, which focuses on city streets and district planning, as each historical period has its own architectural imprint and history. Abdo said Cairo is home to many heritage buildings, which the state and individuals must preserve. The state should cooperate and provide the necessary support for initiatives that focus on Cairo’s heritage in order to protect Cairo’s urban features, he said.
Abdo pointed out the details and beauty – essentially impossible to notice at first glance – that are hidden in the alleys and neighborhoods of Cairo. He said old but questionable stories about the neighborhoods prompted him to check out all the information he could find in the history books where town planning was discussed in an effort to dispel myths about some of the landmarks of the Cairo neighborhoods. Before filming the videos, he also listened attentively to the inhabitants of the neighborhoods of Cairo.
Abdo used his cell phone camera for the shoot and included in the videos old photographs and new ones to show how these neighborhoods were in the past and what they have become – this includes changes in terms of population and buildings. So far, episodes have been published on Haret al-Korbieh, Haret al-Hebaniyeh, Haret al-Sakayeen, Haret al-Maghrblin, Bir al-Mich, Haret al-Sitt Miska, Haret al-Hamzawy and Haret al- Sanadeqeya.
Adbo follows a path or map in each of the videos, as each neighborhood has its own start and end. The film takes viewers on a journey that teaches the history of the neighborhood and its ancient buildings via artistic narration providing plenty of historical information. The film details the daily life of the neighborhoods, the character and behavior of its inhabitants and which celebrities have lived there. The videos also have English subtitles.
The first documentary focused on Haret al-Korbieh, located outside Bab Zuweila, in the region of al-Darb al-Ahmar. The neighborhood is known for the details of the Islamic architecture of its ancient buildings, and actress Samia Gamal used to live there.
Abdo sought to shed light on the streets and alleys of Cairo that are not well known so that people can go for a walk, especially if they like the Islamic architectural heritage of the capital. Episode 15 will shed light on the Bir el-Mesh Railway, which is located in the area of ââal-Darb al-Ahmar, behind the Abu Hurayba Mosque (or the Mosque of Amir Qijmas al-Ishaqi) , which appears on the Egyptian 50. -a banknote. The mosque dates from the Mamluk era and is rich in decorative and architectural details.
Episode eight focuses on Sanadeqeya Alley, located next to Al-Azhar Mosque. Zuqaq al-Midaq, which is the title (“Midaq Alley”) of a novel by Naguib Mahfouz, is one of the most prominent features of this alley. Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti (1753-1822), one of the most famous historians in modern Egyptian history, lived in this region.
Abdo said episode nine will focus on al-Musafirkhana Palace in the historic district of el-Gamaliya, and will be dedicated to Gamal al-Ghitani, a writer and novelist who loved el-Gamaliya, his monuments and his tales. .
Archaeologist Moaaz Lafi told Al-Monitor that the documentary series of the Biography of Cairo initiative tells people and researchers about the architectural heritage of Cairo and encourages them to visit these alleys instead of only visiting the famous al- street. Muizz. in the walled city of historic Cairo. There are other neighborhoods in Cairo that are as important as al-Muizz Street in terms of historical and archaeological value, such as Haret al-Syoufeya, al-Hattaba, al-Darb Al-Ahmar and Sanadeqeya, Lafi said.
He said what sets al-Muizz Street apart from the rest of the old parts of Cairo is that it has been developed, is open to the public, provides services and is secure.