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This video provides an overview of the Sultan Foundation’s work in the “City of the Dead” in Cairo, Egypt. British documentary filmmaker Mark Hammond traveled there for several weeks in the fall of 2018 to capture the unique setting in which community and arts events take place in and around Sultan Qaitbey’s Maq’ad Cultural Center.

Unlike Western cemeteries, the “City of the Dead” in Cairo was always meant to be a city of the living. Rulers and dignitaries built not only tombs, but huge religious complexes that included mosques with teaching madrasas, convents of Sufi mystics, as well as various charities, and housed many people. Today, the cemeteries, which stretch for more than eight kilometers, include some of Cairo’s most important historical monuments and are home to populated communities.

For some years now, Cairo-based ARCHiNOS Architecture has been conserving monuments within the funerary complex built by Sultan al-Ashraf Qaitbey in the 1470s. The works are mainly funded by the European Union and carried out under the auspices of the project of the Historic Cairo within the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.

Experience has shown that the long-term preservation of cultural heritage cannot be achieved in isolation from communities in historic quarters, and ARCHiNOS’ work has increasingly included components of social and cultural development. A large reception hall in the former residence of the sultan (maq’ad) has been adapted to become a center of art and culture in the district. ARCHiNOS has also upgraded the small urban square in front of the building to make it a suitable setting for the various cultural events organized in and around the MASQ: Sultan Qaitbey’s Maq’ad.

In 2016, the non-profit Sultan Foundation was established to promote the links between the preservation of cultural heritage and social and economic development, and to provide access to culture and the means of development to disadvantaged communities while contributing to the heritage preservation. Convinced that culture and heritage can be vectors of development, we work to guarantee access to culture and art, to improve the living and working conditions of the local community and to modernize services, to create sustainable sources of income and develop educational activities. We particularly target women and young people, as well as artisans practicing their trade in the low-income neighborhood.

Our goal is to reintegrate the region’s rich cultural heritage into community life in a way that benefits both locals and heritage.



About Wesley V. Finley

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