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Egypt slams rumours of destruction of ancient Islamic cemeteries as 'untrue' despite concerns by experts Open in fullscreen

The New Arab Staff

Egypt slams rumours of destruction of ancient Islamic cemeteries as 'untrue' despite concerns by experts

The government denied the bridge claims [Getty]

Date of publication: 21 July, 2020

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Egypt's government has denied it was destroying ancient Islamic cemeteries to make way for a bridge.
The Egyptian government was forced to deny claims that ancient Islamic cemeteries and artefacts were being destroyed to open-up space for a bridge project in Cairo.

The historical artefacts in Cairo’s City of the Dead, some of which date back five centuries, were plastered online in posts that accused the government of destroying them to make way for a bridge.

A social media campaign launched on Facebook demanding the government drop the project and save the historic Mamluk Desert Cemetery gained traction online, prompting the government to respond to the alleged false rumours.

In a statement, the Head of the Islamic, Coptic and Judaic Antiquities Sector Osama Talaat said the rumours that the cemetery was to be destroyed were “completely untrue”.

He added that images shared of tombs on social media websites were not of registered historic monuments.

In fact, he went on to say the Secretary-General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities had ordered the formation of a scientific technical committee to examine the tombstones and determine if they could be displayed in museums.

Archaeologist Hisham Auf said cemeteries were being demolished in an archaeological site registered since 2009, and added it was illegal to damage them.

This “made the area a part of modern history as well as ancient history,” he told Arab News.

“The region as a whole went through changes, all of which were against the law as this tampered with Egyptian history and Egypt’s international pledge to UNESCO.

“It is true that during the construction of the Salah Salem Road during the time of (Egyptian) President Gamal Abdel Nasser, parts of graves were removed, but this does not legitimise what is happening now and does not mean anything in the debate about the graves.”

Auf added: “We were informed only 10 days ago of the decision to demolish. It was an official report and was conducted by the person responsible for my mother’s family tombs in El-Ghafir, in which its two-room reception and large vacant space will be destroyed.

“As the tombs are on a side street, the cemeteries themselves are still safe. I don’t know if we have to move the remains of the dead. The state did not provide us with alternate graves.”

“This is not a process of moving the graves. This is the demolition of the graves, which is untenable behaviour. I am disgusted by the attempts to defend this sad day in the history of Cairo,” Auf added.

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