By: Virginie Nguyen
View of the City of the Dead. The Sayeda Nafisa Mosque is visible in the background.
The streets of the City of the Dead are often silent and dusty, in contrast to Cairo’s usual noise, as no cars can enter the area’s narrow passageways.
Young boys playing cards in a courtyard of the City of the Dead.
Siham has been living in the City of the Dead since she was a child. The house belongs to her family, and the tomb of her ancestors is underneath the floor of the living room.
Some people live here because they have nowhere else to go. Although their living here is not a new phenomenon, the City of the Dead is still an example of Cairo’s acute housing crisis.
Fathi Salama is an undertaker’s assistant and has been working in the City of the Dead for 15 years. He lives in a room with two tombs with his wife and 2-year-old daughter. Fathi throws water on the floor to get rid of the dust.
An Egyptian balady cafe near Sayeda Nafisa Mosque, on the way to the City of the Dead.
Don’t miss The City of the Dead - Part one.
By: Virginie Nguyen
The City of the Dead, situated at Cairo’s Arafa necropolis, is a necropolis and cemetery below the Mokattam Hills. Stretching out for 6.4 km, the streets in the City of the Dead are quiet, narrow and often unpaved. There, one can find a dense grid of tomb and mausoleum structures, where some people live and work among the dead. Some reside here to be near ancestors, but most of them live there after being forced to move from central Cairo due to urban renewal demolitions and urbanization pressures. Other residents emigrated in from the agricultural countryside, looking for work.
The necropolis has been around for more than 700 years, but no one is sure of the exact number of people living among the million or so tombs.
In the past, the Arab conquerors chose the area as a burial ground in order to be far away from the city but a deserted location. In the Egyptian society, the cemeteries are not considered as a place for the dead but rather a place where life begins..
Among the cemeteries of the City of the Dead lives a community of Egypt’s urban and poor residents. There are five major cemeteries: the Northern Cemetery, Bab el Nasr Cemetery, the Southern Cemetery, the Cemetery of the Great, and Bab al-Wazir Cemetery.
Egyptians don’t really see cemeteries as a place of the dead, but rather a place where life begins.
Although they are tolerated, the residents living in the City of the Dead are insecure about their status, as they are living there illegally.
A young boy walks around the tomb of an important business man. His parents are the undertakers of the family of the business man. They are living in a small house just next to it.
A young woman praying at Sayeda Nafisa Mosque on Prophet Mohamed’s birthday.
Nowadays, the population of the City of the Dead is growing quickly due to rural migration and a housing crisis that has grown worse since the revolution.
In the past, Cairo rulers chose this area for their tombs in order to be outside the crowded city in a deserted location. This area was used as a burial ground for different dynasties, including the Fatimids, Abbasids, Ayyubids, Mamlukes, and the Ottomans, among others.
Part two here.
By: Virginie Nguyen
Fighting broke out on the night of 19 November in Cairo during a mass demonstration to commemorate last year’s clashes on Mohamed Mahmoud Street. Protesters were throwing rocks while police fired birdshot and tear gas at them.
A field hospital was organized near Mohamed Mahmoud Street, then in Tahrir Square.
Central Security Forces were on the other side of the wall in Sheikh Rihan Street.
One week after the beginning of the clashes, a massive new concrete wall was erected on Qasr al-Aini Street leading to Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
Since 19 November, clashes still have continued near the Interior Ministry and Mohamed Mahmoud Street. Police and protesters threw rocks at each other. Police used tear gas and, reportedly, rubber bullets, while protesters threw Molotov cocktails.
Thousands of protesters marched Monday to commemorate the death of activist Gaber Salah, also known as Jika, who was a member of the April 6 Youth Movement. The funeral procession moved from Omar Makram Mosque to Mohamed Mahmoud Street, then from Tahrir Square to the cemetery where he was buried.
Salah died Sunday after being shot during protests Friday.
Several demonstrations have been organized to protest the decree granting new powers to President Mohamed Morsy. Meanwhile, clashes between the Central Security Forces and young protesters continue near Omar Makram Mosque, close to Tahrir Square.
Protests across Egypt have continued into their ninth day, as Egyptians demonstrate against President Mohamed Morsy’s constitutional declaration, which gives him sweeping new powers.
Clashing with security forces: Who, why and what for?
By: Virginie Nguyen
With its 88,000,000 inhabitants, Vietnam is one of the fastest growing economies of Southeast Asia. As a result of the country’s 3,444 meters of coastline and various islands, tourism has affected the economic situation and lifestyle of Vietnamese since the end of the war. Among the tourist attractions that are highlighted in Lonely Planet and any other tourist guidebook is Sa Pa.
The village of Sa Pa is in the district of the same name, located 380 km from the Vietnamese capital Hanoi in Lao Cai province in the northwest of Vietnam.
Sa Pa village was at first a sanatorium for the French elite and military families during the French colonization of Vietnam from 1858-1945.
Surrounded by rice paddies and beautiful valleys bathed in the yellow-green light of the rainy season, Sa Pa is also a district home to 36 000 people, mostly from minority ethnic groups.
The main ethnic groups living in the scattered villages of Sa Pa District are the Black Hmongs, Tay, Dao, Muong Thai, Giay, Hoa and Xa Pho, distinguishable by different styles of clothing and jewelry.
Going from one village to another by foot or by motorbike, the main ethnic that we meet in the region of Sa Pa is the Black Hmong. Many tourists are attracted to their handmade clothes, the jewelry they wear around their necks and the woolen carriers that they hold their babies.
They often stop to take pictures, and mainly feel obliged to buy handicraft products from them.
But being a Hmong in Vietnam is not as colorful as it appears. Originated from southern China, they started to settle in Vietnam during the 19th century, fleeing from Chinese feudal authorities.
Initially practising shifting cultivation on the slopes of the mountains, they started to be sedentary while establishing hydraulic systems to develop terraced fields and growing crops. However, the Hmong have to face dry season droughts, a lack of rice, illnesses such as malaria and poverty.
The Hmongs’ difficult position is also due to their past. Indeed, the Hmong society is characterized by great solidarity among members of the same family and among villagers.
They value their independence and tend to live at high altitudes, away from other tribes.
Hmong women try to sell their handicrafts in the center of town while men stay at the village to work on the fields and farms. Nevertheless, during the last decade, many of the young girls have tried to find their way into the tourism industry. Hotels started to employ them as tour guides, as nobody else knows the region better.
Step by step, young people are beginning to learn English and become a real asset to the Vietnamese tourism industry.
Although Hmong women are building up Sa Pa, they are often kicked off of the streets by the authorities, who won’t allow commerce without paying charges. Therefore, it seems that the Vietnamese government tends to forget that if Sa Pa is one of Vietnam’s favorite tourist attractions, it is mainly thanks to the Hmong that animate the place, such as with their role as tour guides.