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The city of the dead

Cairo, Egypt - August 2016. Street of sands, in the Northern Cemetery of al-Qarafa.

Cairo, Egypt – August 2016. Street of sands, in the Northern Cemetery of al-Qarafa.


The city of the dead, photo essay by Michele Cortina


In a city in Egypt of 18 million people, called Cairo, where is chaos and traffic, there is another city, where the streets are sand, people walk calmly and the loudest noise you hear are the voices of children playing. That’s the so-called “City of the Dead”, an area covering more than 6 kilometers that is home to the largest Islamic cemeteries in Cairo since 600 a.C.
The City of the Dead is a cemetery, but it is not just a cemetery. It’s a part of the city where around graves, Living have built their homes and have become residents and at the same time custodians of the tombs.
In the City of the Dead lives about one million and half people and many residents consider themselves lucky. Living in the City of the Dead often means escape from the overwhelming Cairo, where the high cost of adequate houses and the steady and fast growth of the population is generating uncontrolled neighborhoods and hostile places.
Here inside, the Dead are surrounded by gardens, patios, living rooms and kitchens and the Living have water, electricity and other basic services that sometimes lack in certain areas of the same Cairo.
There are Living who weep for their missing loved ones and remember them by spending the day near the tombs, taking care of the flowers, eating and drinking together with family.
The other Living , who stay and live around the tombs, do their normal daily activities and just live, in the City of the Dead.
Here it’s Life and Death, together.

(by michele cortina)


Cairo, Egypt - August 2016. Woman sits in front of her house, and she's also custodian on the inside tombs, in the Northern Cemetery of al-Qarafa.

Woman sits in front of her house, and she’s also custodian on the inside tombs, in the Northern Cemetery of al-Qarafa.

Cairo, Egypt - July 2016. Graves inside an house, in the Northern Cemetery of al-Qarafa.

Graves inside an house, in the Northern Cemetery of al-Qarafa.

Cairo, Egypt - September 2016. A view inside the Southern Cemetery of al-Sayyida.

A view inside the Southern Cemetery of al-Sayyida.

Cairo, Egypt - September 2016. A man walking inside the Southern Cemetery of al-Sayyida.

Cairo, Egypt - September 2016. Woman dressed in black walking inside the Southern Cemetery of al-Sayyida.

Cairo, Egypt - September 2016. Children inside the Southern Cemetery of al-Sayyida.

Cairo, Egypt - September 2016. A view from Southern Cemetery of al-Sayyida, in the background the new Cairo separated by the road.

A view from Southern Cemetery of al-Sayyida, in the background the new Cairo separated by the road.

Cairo, Egypt - September 2016. House detail in the Southern Cemetery of al-Sayyida.

Cairo, Egypt - February 2016. Man in traditional white dress walks in the Northern Cemetery of al-Qarafa, behind him a shop and some graves.

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6 Responses to The city of the dead

  1. Mohamed 28 November 2016 at 5:38 pm #

    I think this a beautiful album and photos very interesting, offering a different view of a place which is outside normal tourist’s visit.
    Photos are light and gentle, without prejudice or criticism.
    In this place people simply live and this place is very uncommon and special, because you find Death and Life together.
    This is almost a metaphysic concept and some philosophy like. Very good!

    • Michele 2 December 2016 at 4:17 pm #

      Thank you Mohamed for your comment, much appreciated.
      This place really touched my heart. The people I have met here I will be always remember.
      Having a friendly and open approach to make documentary photography I believe is the only way to do it.

      Thanks!

  2. maria carmela 29 November 2016 at 10:55 am #

    very good

  3. John M. 29 November 2016 at 8:12 pm #

    I agree with comments above, very good and uncommon photos from a place few people knows, but exists.
    And it must be seen, to know and understand more.
    Because, at the end of the day, everybody just wants to live, in peace.
    Very good job Michele.

  4. Gab Ciab 1 December 2016 at 9:35 pm #

    I very like this work. It’s always interesting take a deep look into a community where it could be very hard to get in touch with.
    The photos are soft and respectful. Thanks.

    • Michele 2 December 2016 at 3:31 pm #

      Thank you Gab for your comment, I really appreciate your words.
      You caught exactly the essential of this work, a respectful and peaceful view of a place and its community.
      It has not been easy to take these photos and it has taken quite a long time, but it was worth it.
      With a friendly approach, without any kind of prejudice or different purposes.

      Thanks!

      Michele Cortina
      http://www.michelecortina.com

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