During foreign travels, we often seek to explore unusual landmarks not encountered in our daily lives. Planning a trip to Cairo, I noticed a place with a peculiar name - the City of the Dead. There isn't much information about this place online, and reviews often described it as eerie and dirty. Mustering our courage, we decided to visit and witness the real Cairo.
We reached the City of the Dead by taxi from the Boulaq district. The cost of the trip was 55 Egyptian pounds one way and 50 pounds for the return journey (April 2022). Due to online warnings, we only explored a small part on the outskirts of the area, but I hope the photos will give you an idea of this place.
The City of the Dead, located in the eastern part of Cairo, is a vast necropolis. It was established during the Mamluk Sultanate (13th-16th centuries). Burials continued here for centuries, but today, the living have also found shelter in the City of the Dead.
Despite its name, the City of the Dead is a lively district. It is home to both cemetery workers and those who moved here due to financial constraints. Strangely for a European tourist, the necropolis structures serve as free housing for many city residents. Unofficial estimates suggest that around half a million people live in the tombs of the City of the Dead. Entire families reside in the crypts.
It's worth noting that as we walked through the City of the Dead, we saw a different scene than we had imagined before the trip: tombs are hidden behind high walls, making the area unlike a cemetery in our understanding. Instead, it resembles a large labyrinth of buildings in varying states of preservation.
The streets of the district are lively, with locals offering assistance in navigation and asking to take photos with a European visitor. Small shops with popular drinks and baked goods can be found here and there.
I've seen comments online that you can explore the City of the Dead with a tour led by a local resident. Such trips can be arranged, for example, near the Cairo Citadel located nearby.
Have a nice trip!