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City of the Dead (Al Qarafa)

Unearth the timeless mysteries of Egypt's City of the Dead (Al Qarafa). Explore an ancient necropolis where history's whispers echo through the ages.

City of the Dead Cairo, Egpt - Egypt Tours Portal
Overview
City of the Dead (Al Qarafa)
Location Eastern Part Of Cairo, Egypt
History 7th century AD
Name in Arabic Al Qarafa
Famous Tomb Mausoleum of Imam al-Shafi'i

Summary

  • UNESCO World Heritage Site: The City of the Dead, located in Cairo, Egypt, is a legendary monument housing a series of Islamic cemeteries. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and part of Historic Cairo.
  • Location and Access: The City of the Dead is situated beneath the Mokkattam hills, spanning about 4 miles. It can be accessed by taking a flight to Cairo and arranging a tour through a trusted travel agency.
  • Historical Significance: The City of the Dead dates back to the 7th century AD, founded during the reign of Amr Ibn Alas. It became the official cemetery of old Cairo in the 9th century. Throughout the centuries, it saw expansions, renovations, and the burial of prominent figures.
  • Name and Etymology: The Arabic name "Al Qarafa" is derived from a Yemeni clan, and the term became associated with the urban cemeteries of Cairo.
  • Attractions: The City of the Dead is divided into Northern and Southern Cemeteries, each featuring a wealth of historical and architectural marvels, including mosques, mausoleums, and funerary complexes.

Across the endless streets and milestones of Egypt is a legendary monument called the City of the Dead which houses a number of incredible Islamic cemeteries that became part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site under the wonders of Historic Cairo.

Cairo is a blessed city filled with the artistic and grand elements of the golden Islamic age that ruled half of the world for more than 1400 years. In this magical attraction is a number of the most majestic group of Islamic art and decorations worthy of enchanting the eyes of everyone who comes across it. It remains an active city that embraces both life and death.

Location and How to Get City of the Dead

The location of the city of the dead gained the name Cairo Necropolis or Qarafa which acted as an extensive Islamic-era burial found in the golden capital of Cairo which spanned from the north to the south of the Cairo citadel just beneath the Mokkattam hills, beyond the legendary historical walls of the city. It has a length of around 4 miles (6.4 km) which became part of UNESCO's World Heritage Site "Historic Cairo".

It is divided into two complete main areas known as the Northern Cemetery which is called the Eastern Cemetery or Qarafat Ash-sharq due to its position east of the old city walls, plus the older southern cemetery is found on the southern part of the Cairo citadel. There is also a smaller cemetery found north of Bab al Nasr.

The city of the Dead can be accessed through a number of ways which include catching a flight to Cairo and then booking with a trusted travel agency that will arrange the needed vehicle, expert driver, and knowledgeable tour guide who will showcase all the historical, artistic, and cultural significance plus you will get a closer look into the unique customs and habits of the city.

Geography and Facts about the City of the Dead

Overview About the City of the Dead - Egypt Tours Portal
Overview About the City of the Dead - Egypt Tours Portal

The city of the Dead "Al Qarafa" is found extending to the northern and southern sides of Cairo Citadel just below the Mokattam hills which covers an area of about four miles (7 square km) long.

The entire city is divided into two parts the northern Cemetery which is also known as the Eastern Cemetery and the southern Cemetery which is another minor cemetery just north of Bab Al Nasr. The city holds a population of more than 500,000 up to 5 million.

City of the Dead History

The City of Dead, the Northern Cemetery, Cairo, Egypt - Egypt Tours Portal
The City of Dead, the Northern Cemetery, Cairo, Egypt - Egypt Tours Portal

The city of the dead can be traced back to the seventh century AD when the city of Fustat was founded by Amr Ibn Alas. In the middle of the 8th century, the necropolis was founded to cover about 300 hectares. During the Abbasis' rule, it became the official cemetery of old Cairo in the 9th century Ahmed Ibn Tulan and the Islamic scholar Imam Al Shafi was buried there. It expanded to new areas such as Al Qata’I which is close to Ibn Tulun Mosque and Salah El-Din Citadel.

In the Fatimid dynasty in the 10th, 11th, and 12th centuries, they renovated the entire area and changed the character of the entire cemeteries, and the custom of visiting the graves and dead family members and ancient ancestors was popularized. Most of the Calipha were buried in their own personal mausoleum which is found in Khan Al Khalili Bazaar. Due to the burying of the city of Fustat in 1168 AD, where the city of the dead lost its importance. In the 11th century was used as a burial ground that was abandoned by a famine.

In the Mamluk dynasty across the 13th, 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries, many of the sultans and elites were buried next to and attached to a mosque, and the area also was enlarged to be called the greater Qarafa. In the late 14th century the plague spread and many cemeteries were built. It was later declined under the start of the Ottoman and Khedival empires from the 16th and 19th AD the religious buildings and cemeteries were repaired and the family of Mohammed Ali Pasha built an incredible mausoleum filled with the most incredible decorations.

City of the Dead Name and Etymology

City of the Dead Name and Etymology - Egypt Tours Portal
City of the Dead Name and Etymology - Egypt Tours Portal

The city of the dead is known in Arabic as Al Qarafa which are both frequently used. The Arabic name is a toponym that is derived from a Yemeni clan descended from the Banu Ma'afir tribe called the Banu Qarafa ibn Ghusn ibn Wali clan that once owned a land plot in the city of Fustat.

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After the famine of the 11th century, the area was completely abandoned and then transformed into a burial ground under the name Qarafa which became associated with the urban cemeteries of Cairo. The term became highly specific to the cemeteries found in this area only.

City of the Dead Attractions

Khanqa and Mausoleum of Sultan Faraj ibn Barquq City of the Dead - Egypt Tours Portal
Khanqa and Mausoleum of Sultan Faraj ibn Barquq City of the Dead - Egypt Tours Portal

The Southern Cemetery is the oldest and biggest necropolis dating all the way to 642 CE beginning from the Cairo citadel in the north all the way south district of al Basatin. Some of the finest Monuments in the Southern Cemetery are:

  • Sayyida Nafisa Mosque
  • Mausoleum of Imam al-Shafi'i
  • Hosh al-Basha
  • Sayyida Aisha Mosque
  • Mashhad of Sayyida Ruqayya
  • Mausoleum of Shajar al-Durr
  • Mausoleum of Amir Qawsun
  • Zawiya of Shaykh Zayn al-Din Yusuf
  • Sultaniyya Mausoleum

The Northern Cemetery was mostly created in the Mamluk era (1250 – 1517 AD) as it is now known as the Mamluk Desert Cemetery found between the Kobri Al Ebageah to the east and the Shari'a Salah Salem to the west in Cairo. It holds the cemetery of Bab Al-Wazir and the cemetery of Bab Al Nasr. Some of the marvelous Monuments in the Northern Cemetery include:

  • The funerary complex of Sultan Qaytbay
  • Khanqah-Mausoleum of Sultan Barsbay
  • Khanqah of Faraj ibn Barquq
  • Funerary complex of Emir Qurqumas
  • Mausoleum of Qansuh Abu Sa'id
  • The funerary complex of Sultan Inal
  • Qubbat Afandina
  • Tomb and Khanqah of Khawand Tughay (or of Umm Anuk)
  • Mausoleum of Tarabay al-Sharifi (in the Bab al-Wazir Cemetery)

City of the Dead Facts

City of the Dead Facts - Egypt Tours Portal
City of the Dead Facts - Egypt Tours Portal
  • The city of Cairo has a meaningful historical significance which dates all the way to the 7th century as it is one of the world's oldest cemeteries.
  • Across the entire burial ground are a number of houses and homes found living among the tombs.
  • The cemeteries are filled with a great number of tombs which are grouped and enclosed with a wall structure or a massive courtyard.
  • All the necropolis contains a number of massive monumental mausoleums and funerary complexes which contain a number of famed scholars, Islamic Saints, state officials, and rulers with their families.
  • It is a renowned repository of Islamic architecture from all ages from the 7th century till today.
  • The City of the Dead is a bustling place filled with magnificent markets, shops, and other economic activities where everyone engages in various trades for a living.
  • The city holds a number of great historical monuments that hold marvelous spiritual value plus it is able to showcase the development of Islamic architecture and the culture of Cairo.

Timeless Cairo: City of the Dead and Ancient Treasures Tour

The immortal golden city of Cairo is able to cross the boundaries of life and death and showcase the harmony of both the living and dead. Exploring this marvelous place will make a very interesting story and the sights of the city are a true sight to behold. Book your Cairo day tours and experience the rich history and culture of Egypt! Visit iconic landmarks such as the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Sphinx, old Cairo attractions, and the Egyptian Museum. Don't miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore the ancient wonders of Cairo.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why Is Egypt Called The City Of Dead?

The prestigious City of the Dead is a historical cemetery which is located in the northern part of the capital city of Cairo. It is filled with a number of necropolis that hold a number of numerous tombs, mausoleums, and burial grounds dating back over a thousand years from the Islamic period.

Who Lives In The City Of The Dead?

The city of the dead which is found in the northern part of Cairo, is not entirely inhabited by the deceased as it acts as a residential area which is filled with many living homes which many date to many centuries as many of the people in that area have transformed the mausoleums and tombs into house and buildings due to economic reasons and housing shortages which is highly dense when it comes to the population.

Why Was Cairo, Egypt Known As The City Of The Dead?

"City of the Dead" refers to the Cairo Necropolis which came from the historical and architectural significance of the cemetery district within Cairo, where people have lived among the tombs and mausoleums for various centuries. It highlights the unique coexistence of the living and the deceased in this district of the golden capital city of minarets.

What Are the Finest Destinations to Visit in Egypt?

The entire country of Egypt deserve to be explored with its every heavenly detail but there are places that must be seen before any other such as the breathtaking Hurghada's red sea, The wonders of Cairo the pyramids of Giza, the great sphinx, the Egyptian Museum, Khan El Khalili Bazaar, the wonders of Luxor like Valley of the Kings, Karnak & Hatshepsut temple and the wonders of Aswan such as Abu Simbel temples, Philea temple, Unfinished obelisk and The Wonders of Alexandria like Qaitbat Citadel, Pompey's Pillar and Alexandria Library. Read more about the best places to visit in Egypt.

What Are Egypt's Visa Requirements?

If you want to apply for a Visa On Arrival that lasts for 30 days then you should be one of the eligible countries, have a valid passport with at least 6 months remaining and pay 25$ USD in cash, as for the E-Visa for 30 day you should have a valid passport for at least 8 months, complete the online application, pay the e-visa fee then print the e-visa to later be presented to the airport border guard. You could also be one of the lucky ones who can obtain a free visa for 90 days. Read more about Egypt travel visa.

What Is the Top Traditional Egyptian Food?

Egypt has a variety of delicious cuisines but we recommend “Ful & Ta’meya (Fava Beans and Falafel)”, Mulukhiya, “Koshary”, a traditional Egyptian pasta dish, and Kebab & Kofta, the Egyptian traditional meat dish.

What is the Best Time to Visit Egypt?

The best time to travel to Egypt is during the winter from September to April as the climate becomes a little tropical accompanied by a magical atmosphere of warm weather with a winter breeze. You will be notified in the week of your trip if the Climate is unsafe and if any changes have been made.

What to Pack for Your Egypt Tour?

You should pack everything you could ever need in a small bag so you could move easily between your destinations.

Why Book With "Egypt Tours Portal"?

We have been creating the finest vacations for more than 20 years around the most majestic destinations in Egypt. Our staff consists of the best operators, guides and drivers who dedicate all of their time & effort to make you have the perfect vacation. All of our tours are customized by Travel, Financial & Time consultants to fit your every possible need during your vacation. It doesn't go without saying that your safety and comfort are our main priority and all of our resources will be directed to provide the finest atmosphere until you return home.

Is it Safe to Travel to Egypt?

You will feel safe in Egypt as the current atmosphere of the country is quite peaceful after the government took powerful measures like restructuring the entire tourist police to include all the important and tourist attractions in Egypt. Read more about is it safe to travel to Egypt.

What to Wear While in Egypt?

Wear whatever feels right and comfortable. It is advised to wear something light and comfortable footwear like a closed-toe shoe to sustain the terrain of Egypt. Put on sun block during your time in Egypt in the summer to protect yourself from the sun.

What are the Best Activities to Do in Egypt?

The best activity is by far boarding a Nile Cruise between Luxor and Aswan or Vise Versa. Witness the beauty of Egypt from a hot balloon or a plane and try all the delicious Egyptian cuisines and drinks plus shopping in old Cairo. Explore the allure and wonders of the red sea in the magical city resorts of Egypt like Hurghada and many more by diving and snorkeling in the marine life or Hurghada. Behold the mesmerizing western desert by a safari trip under the heavenly Egyptian skies.

What are Egypt Festival and Public Holidays?

There are a lot of public holidays in Egypt too many to count either religious or nation, the most important festivals are the holy month of Ramadan which ends with Eid Al Fitr, Christmas and new years eve. Read more about festivals & publich holidays in Egypt.

What are Special Advice for Foreign Women in Egypt?

Egypt is considered to be one of the most liberal Islamic countries but it has become a little bit conservative in the last couple of decades so it is advised to avoid showing your chest, shoulders or legs below the knees.

What are the Official Languages of Egypt?

Arabic is the official language and Most Egyptians, who live in the cities, speak or understand English or at least some English words or phrases. Fewer Egyptians can speak French, Italian, Spanish, and German. Professional tour guides, who work in the tourism sector, are equipped to handle visitors who cannot speak Arabic and they will speak enough English and other languages to fulfill the needs of all our clients.

What is the Transportation in Egypt?

The fastest way is a car, of course, a taxi. If you are in Cairo ride a white taxi to move faster or you could board the fastest way of transportation in Egypt metro if the roads are in rush hour.

What is the Weather is Like?

The temperature in Egypt ranges from 37c to 14 c. Summer in Egypt is somehow hot but sometimes it becomes cold at night and winter is cool and mild. The average of low temperatures vary from 9.5 °C in the wintertime to 23 °C in the summertime and the average high temperatures vary from 17 °C in the wintertime to 32 °C in the summertime. The temperature is moderate all along the coasts.

What are the Reasons That Make You Visit Egypt?

It is the home of everything a traveler might be looking for from amazing historical sites dating to more than 4000 years to enchanting city resorts & beaches. You will live the vacation you deserve as Egypt has everything you could possibly imagine.

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