The City of the Dead (Qarafa, Arafa) in Cairo, Egypt

The City of the Dead (Qarafa, Arafa) in Cairo, Egypt

adventure travel & photography

Destinations: Pakistan ◦◦ India ◦◦Turkey ◦◦ Egypt ◦◦ Bulgaria ◦◦ Mongolia ◦◦ Bangladesh ◦◦ Jordan ◦◦ Russia ◦◦ Turkmenistan ◦◦ Iran ◦◦ Kazakhstan ◦◦ Japan ◦◦ Hong Kong ◦◦ Greece ◦◦ Ukraine

Type: Photo stories ◦◦ Places ◦◦ Documentary ◦◦ Black and White ◦◦ Fine Art Prints ◦◦ Seascapes ◦◦ Urban

About the place

The "City of the Dead" (Qarafa, Arafa) is a four-mile-long cemetery extending from the northern to the southern part of Cairo, located at the foot of Moqattam Hill, very close to the centre of Cairo. There are five cemeteries: the North Cemetery, the Bab el Nasr Cemetery, the South Cemetery, the Great Cemetery and the Bab el Wazir.

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It is a dynamic network of tombs and mausoleums where people live and work among their dead ancestors. It is a poor, urban Egyptian community that is essentially illegal but tolerated. It is estimated that more than five million people live there and pursue any work they can find. The "City of the Dead" population is growing excessively due to ongoing migration and a complex nationwide housing crisis.

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It is both an ancient cemetery and a living part of Cairo. In the past, Egyptian rulers used this area to bury the dead, as it was located outside the city itself at that time. However, history has shown that since the time of the Pharaohs, this place has been considered a place where life begins. For many, the "City of the Dead" is a mysterious, magical and foreboding area.

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The cemeteries in the "City of the Dead" differ significantly from those in Western societies. The Egyptians traditionally buried the deceased in room-like tombs, which also served as temporary housing for relatives during the prescribed forty-day mourning period. For this reason, the City of the Dead looks like a typical residential area. Looking behind the walls, you will find not only graves and tombs but also linen, beds and other objects.

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Digital downloads and prints available

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Location

Practical information about the “City of the Dead”

The City of the Dead, or Cairo Necropolis (Qarafa, el-Arafa), is situated below the Mokattam Hills in southeastern Cairo, Egypt. You can reach it very easily by taxi. Another, maybe better option, would be to go there with a private guide. You can book a tour here. Some other options:

If you'd like to learn more about this unique place, here are some recommended books:

More about Egypt

Travel to Egypt

We usually have one or two small groups (max 7/8 participants) per year travelling to Egypt. If you are interested in joining a group setting out from Europe, please drop me a line. We will provide more information, like dates, a program, and other details.

Books about Egypt

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