Death is something I hate thinking about, let alone writing about. But when choosing photos from Egypt in 1942, there are so many whose subject is death that I will inevitably have to consider them. I selected this image which, since my childhood, has always turned me cold but curious, simply because of the caption my father wrote beneath it: Dead City, Cairo. Until last week when I was researching the cemetery near the pyramids (see my entry for the ‘Contrast’ challenge), I never knew that Dead City was a cemetery.
Today there are about half a million people living in the City of the Dead due to Cairo’s exploding population. They live in the tomb buildings as slum-dwellers and have no electricity or sanitation. However, some good people are growing micro-gardens in the Dead City complex which give the residents a way to produce some food for themselves and sell the surplus at the markets. Tomatoes and strawberries, mint, aubergines and peppers are popular and grow well because of their shallow roots, not in soil but in a layer of minerals laid on top of the sand. Read more about the project here: http://www.abitare.it/en/liveinslums/the-microjardins-in-the-city-of-the-dead/
The building in the foreground is in the Mamluk cemetery. It’s the mausoleum of Sultan Al-Ashraf Barsbay, built in 1432 AD.
So through blogging I’ve learnt of three unusual things: Dead City is actually a city built for the dead; half a million people are living amongst the dead; a few others care enough to start vegetable gardens here and improve the lives of poor cemetery dwellers.