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Rehabilitating an historic monument in Darb Al-Ahmar, Cairo
The monumental complex of Tarabay al-Sharify stands at the southern end of Al-Azhar Park. The cluster of monuments formed by a mausoleum, madrassa, and sabil-kuttab (place to obtain fresh drinking water that is also the site of a school) of Tarabay al-Sharifi is one of the most significant historic monuments in Bab el-Wazir, dating back from the end of the Mamluk period roughly considered to be the twelfth to fifteenth centuries. During the last decades, its location in the cemetery of Bab al-Wazir has isolated it from city life and has contributed to a lack of maintenance of the monument. Debris and rubbish accumulated around the buildings to a depth of four to five meters, damaging stones and diminishing the condition of the structure. Thanks to the high quality of its materials and construction, the complex of Tarabay is still standing. The earthquake of 1992 caused serious cracking in the madrassa and sabil-kuttab, calling for temporary support. The old city gate of Bab al-Wazir is still used and the continuous addition of new asphalt layers has buried several meters of the buildings.
HOW WE HELPED
After Tarabay al-Sharify’s placement on the 2006 Watch, WMF partnered with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in a program of conservation and rehabilitation of the urban fabric in the Darb el-Ahmar district. The project, conducted between 2006 and 2009, included the removal of several meters of rubbish accumulated around the monument, structural consolidation, and conservation of both interior and exterior surfaces of the mausoleum, madrassa, and sabil-kuttab, and the organization of exterior spaces in order to prepare the area as the southern entry point to al-Azhar park.
WHY IT MATTERS
The Darb el-Ahmar community, one of the poorest in historic Cairo, did not have the resources to undertake this important conservation project. The goal, however, was not only the conservation of historic buildings, but the social and economic improvement of the neighborhood by bringing an important cultural asset back to use and appreciation. A major component of the Tarabay al-Sharify project was training for local residents in traditional building crafts and conservation activities.