I think it is interesting to compare Egyptians alive and when they are dead. The interesting part is how Egyptians view and feel about death. It is the same i think like the old grand parents who have thought of their after life period and try to prepare for its success.
The city is on one side full of crowd, traffic, loud sounds, and very close to it is the silence, peace and eternal life which you will see across the street.
I think Egyptians learn and recall many spiritual issues when passing by the city of the dead while driving in the morning to their work.
You will be amazed that some citizens are living in the city of the dead since cairo is over populated, so they are the living dead people. God bless them.
This was one of the strangest, but at the same time interesting places I've seen in Cairo. We actually didn't go to visit the so-called City of the Dead but passed nearby many times during our journey there.
The place which was supposed to be the resting place for the dead was transformed in a residential area and today is home for many poor inhabitants.
Dining on the cenotaph? Pretty strange, isn't it?
I have not visited this part of the city as I couldn't find the guide ( I had very short time to do it) and I was told that is not entirely safe to go there alone. However, I was passing by it in taxi several times. The both, left and right, sides to one of the main roads in the city, as far as your eyes can see, the city of dead is spreding. It is not an exotic place for curious tourists it is the way of life, the hard one, for the hundred tousannds of people, who founded their homes here as only deads haven't rejected them.
We wanted to take a hike from the Citadel through Islamic Cairo to the Khan el Khalili. There should have been another exit from the Citadel on the foot of the hill right in front of the 2 Mosque's: Al Rifay and Sultan Hassan. But the exit was closed to the public, so we were forced to go down and around the Citadel to reach the 2 mosque's and the shortest way was through the City of the Dead.
A policeman adviced us not to go there, but there was another man who said it was safe. He sold candy so we called him the Candyman. He stayed with us and we never felt unsafe.
It is staggering to see how people live and work literal on graves.
Don't miss the City of the Dead, in fact two large burial grounds. They're filled with mosques and other ancient buildings...strangely reminiscent of Angkor Vat and Pagan. It may be an off-putting thought to some to be living in a graveyard, but it seems to me the people living in that peaceful, spacious and quiet place are doing better than 4 out of 5 Cairo inhabitants.
Cemeteries are not only places for the dead to rest but also a place for the living too! The Necropolis is doubling as a residential area and the home of hundreds of thousands of Cairenes. Dating back to the Maluk times this area in front of the city walls, offered the Sultans and Emirs unlimited space for their tombs instead of the densely packed city. The huge buildings were also also places for entertaining. Picnicking at the family?s tomb on feast days is an old pharaonic custom. Even the humblest family tombs contained an extra room for visitors to stay overnight.
Nowadays the dead and the living do coexist together. In some tomb houses the cenotaph is used as a table, the tombs as cloth lines, soccer goals or benches. There is running water, gas, a post office and a police station.
Cairo is, as common with Islamic cities, ringed by cemeteries. Of one kind or another. What is particular about Cairo is that the cemeteries are also inhabited by the living, becoming part of the suburbs. If you're not a madly offbeat tourist they are likely to be one of the few reasons to be wandering about in the less-prosperous residential areas and so, being a stranger in a strange land and therefore less sensitive to nuance, the whiff of danger. A certain amount of common sense needs to be applied.
Th Northern Cemetary contains most of the architecturally remarkable buildings, huge complexes housing, in addition to the mausoleum itself, mosques, madrasas, Sufi monasteries, and so on. They are concentrated in a fairly small area, stretching from the exquisite Quaitbey mausoleum complex to the Sultan Barquq comlex less than half a kilomere to the north, linked by one of the major thoroughfares of the area.
We attempted for 3 times (3 days) to go to Alexandria --- first attempt, ticket was expensive at 9am, 1st class only at EGP50, the following day, no available seats (eid holidays) until the 2pm train which is too late and we wanted to do Alex on a full day only. So we bought a ticket for the next morning at 8:15am which costs cheap at EGP25 each of us 3. We were early and we bide the time taking pictures arouond the very grand Ramsis Station and out. We went back inside the station to find that our train is starting to move and people are running after it, we did too but the door won't open, so we thought, we were not really meant to go to Alex, maybe it's blessing in disguise, maybe something bad might happen if we insist -- well, we've got to devise some sour-grapings to make us feel fine after losing EGP75 for the tickets.
Anyways, the train left and we've got to go somewhere and we decided to go to the city of the dead, it was actually dead and the living. We took a taxi, costs us EGP12 ftrom ramsis to there. The taxi driver was wondering and asked us what are we going to do there? Tour, I said.
It's a huge necropolis of more than 6kms. of tombs and mausoleums, places for the dead and so are the living. If you're a photographer, the place is an excellent location for photo-op..
Several flower vendors around the entrances of the cemetery, the street is not very well paved, it's dusty and dirty but it's quite interesting just meandering along the small alleys in between tombs as you go deeper. There's also a very interesting old mosque - or maybe mausoleum - am not sure actually but the guy sitting beside it says it's opening at 11:00am and we were early.
We walked around the interior of the cemetery and chance upon a nice chap who is supervising a prayer for one of the tomb. He insisted on giving us a mini tour of the area, took us inside a huge mausoleum of a very prominent history figure whose name I forgot, but am sure the guy must be rich and extremely important -- having a lavish structure. He took the key from the caretaker, everybody know him in the area and somewhat respected at such a very young age - 18. He said, their family own some hectare on the necropolis and even invited us for a tea at his brother's house inside there, which we declined as we didn't have much time. He even walked us until the nearby AlAzhar Park.
The city of the dead is located just below the Mokattam Hills and the citadel.
Entry is free, but you'll find some beggars and if you start handing alm to one, others will follow -- so avoid. But don't forget to greet the people around with "Salam Alaikum" as a sign of respect, esp. those who are holding big bunch of keys - they're caretakers.
People say it's a dangerous place - well I didn't know - nothing happened to us, maybe at dusk to night time, it would be.