Life meets death in Egypt's Cairo Necropolis

Wed Dec 30, 2015 8:03am EST
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By Asmaa Waguih

CAIRO (Reuters) - In a sprawling Cairo neighborhood known as the City of the Dead, life and death are side by side.

Amid a housing crisis in Egypt, and with the population of the capital estimated at 20 million, thousands of people count themselves lucky to call Cairo Necropolis home.

For some in the neighborhood of cemeteries, final resting place to hundreds of thousands people over centuries, the graves themselves provide a livelihood: with people taking care of tombs, digging new graves, or selling flowers to visitors paying their respects on Fridays.

Others who live amid the tombstones are copper workers and carpet makers, their handiwork then sold in Khan al Khalili, Cairo’s tourist market.

Some families have lived here, away from the hustle and bustle of the capital, and in a country with a booming population of 90 million, for three or more generations.

"Living with the dead is very easy and comfortable," says Nassra Muhamed Ali, 47. "It's the people who are living who harm you."

Nassra, who lives there with her two brothers and 16-year-old daughter, says the relative peace and quiet of the area has its downsides. Some from outside the neighborhood use the graves to deal drugs, with theft also an issue, she says.

Her parents moved there after they married and worked tending the graveyards. Some moved to the neighborhood after they were forced out from central Cairo in the 1950s.   Continued...

A woman sits on a chair in an alley inside the cemetery area where she lives east of Cairo, Egypt, September 6, 2015. . REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih