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

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

adventure travel & photography

Destinations/Places: Pakistan ◦◦Turkey ◦◦ Egypt ◦◦ Bulgaria ◦◦ Mongolia ◦◦ Bangladesh ◦◦ Jordan ◦◦ Russia ◦◦ Turkmenistan ◦◦ Iran

About the place

“The City of the Dead” (Qarafa, Arafa) is a four-mile-long cemetery stretching from the northern to the southern part of Cairo, located at the foot of Moqattam Hills, very close to the centre of Cairo. There are 5 cemeteries - the Northern Cemetery, Bab el Nasr Cemetery, the Southern Cemetery, the Cemetery of the Great and the Bab el Wazir.

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It is both an ancient cemetery and a living part of Cairo. In the past, Egypt's rulers used this area to bury the dead because, at that time, it was outside the City itself. However, history has shown that since the time of the Pharaohs, this was considered a place where life begins. For many Cairo citizens, the “City of the Dead” is a mysterious, magical and foreboding area.

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The cemeteries that make up the “City of the Dead” are very different from those in Western societies. The Egyptians traditionally buried the deceased in room-like tombs that also served as temporary housing for relatives during the prescribed forty-day mourning period. This is why the City of the Dead looks like a typical residential area. If you take a peek behind the walls, you will find not only graves and tombs, but also linens, beds, and other possessions.

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It is a bustling network of tombs and mausoleums, where people live and work among their dead ancestors. This is a poor, urban Egyptian community that is an essentially illegal, but tolerated. Some say more than five million people live there, pursuing whatever work they can find. The “City of the Dead” population is overgrowing due to ongoing migration and a complex nationwide housing crisis.

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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

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Books about Egypt

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