Survey / Heritage values in the World Heritage site

In response to the need to carry out a comprehensive and systematic assessment of urban heritage values in Historic Cairo, the URHC project team launched a preliminary field survey in 2011 to outline a conservation zoning plan and related protection measures for the area. The assessment also aimed to confirm or revise the proposed perimeters of the World Heritage property, defined by the comparative analysis of historic maps carried out earlier.

Five parameters, detailed below, were set to evaluate the physical integrity and intangible values of the historical urban fabric, in compliance with the proposed Statement of Outstanding Universal Value (SOUV), and using the administrative subdivisions of qisms and shyakhas:

  • Architectural heritage
  • Street alignments
  • Land subdivision patterns
  • Continuity and compactness of the built-up fabric
  • Activities and uses of the urban space
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The team initially undertook preliminary field visits to test the grading system for the evaluation. This was followed by a systematic survey carried out between September and December 2011 by shyakha, or part of shyakha, to cover the proposed perimeters of the World Heritage property. At the same time, photographic documentation was completed for a number of streets in Historic Cairo to verify their urban heritage values.

Eighty-nine shyakhas belonging to 11 qisms were initially included in the field survey. However, due to the contingent political situation and for security reasons, it was impossible to carry out the visits as planned in some areas, such as Bulaq and the cemeteries. The assessment for these areas was based on non-systematic visits and documentation in 2010 by the team consultants, satellite views from Google Earth, and references in other publications. The survey was ultimately implemented in 69 shyakhas covering a continuous area between Qism Bab el Sha’ria and the Citadel area, with photographic documentation of around 350 streets in the property.

Each shyakha was visited according to a pre-determined path, starting from major spines and proceeding into smaller lanes within the residential blocks. An average of four to five streets was chosen for each shyakha including:

  • Main streets representing the shyakha’s borders
  • Streets representing typical urban patterns
  • Streets presenting peculiar heritage features

The survey results are summarized in this website as well as in a printed album distributed to the institutions involved, according to a system of standardised sheets subdivided by qism and further subdivided by shyakha. A uniform set of information was provided for each shyakha including its location, the surveyed street’s location, photographic documentation, notes on heritage features, a table with the grades assigned to each parameter and finally a grading based on an average of the street’s records. The sum of the grades assigned to the parameters defined the heritage values of each street and surrounding area visited during the survey. The average of these grades defined the overall grading of the shyakha.

Survey / Urban components in the action area

Based on the URHC Project’s assessment of urban heritage values (2011) and other sector studies, some priority areas of dilapidated urban fabric have been identified. A detailed analysis of the urban fabric was required to obtain more in-depth information about the heritage value of the buildings and open spaces.

The Action Project area identified by URHC offers a complete palimpsest of the WH Property’s heritage features and values. It comprises a part of Historic Cairo that is set at a “hinge” located between downtown Cairo, the cemeteries and, the urban areas that stretch to the foot of the Moqattam Hills. It includes every type of “pre-modern” and “transitional” urban fabric that is characteristic of the evolution of Historic Cairo.

Therefore, the detailed analysis was based on a plot-by-plot field survey in the Action Project area Project conducted by URHC in 2013-2014. It led to the establishment of an Inventory of the components of the historic residential fabric, which can be extended to the rest of the Historic Cairo World Heritage Property, in order to produce a comprehensive Conservation Plan.

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Following a plot-by-plot survey for the areas of Darb al-Hosr, al-Hattaba, and Darb al-Labbena; information collected in the database was displayed through GIS in map format. A detailed set of queries was identified and a group of thematic maps was produced. These thematic maps helped show the heritage value of the buildings and open spaces for the purpose of classifying them and defining a rehabilitation strategy.

The buildings survey covered 885 plots in the Darb al-Hosr area, situated in the shiakha of Darb al-Hosr and parts of shiakhas of al-Khalifa, al-Boqali and al-Sayeda Aisha; 381 plots in Darb al-Labbena area, including almost the whole shiakha of al-Mahgar; and 388 plots of al-Hattaba area, covering the shiakha in the area attached to the Citadel.

The open spaces survey covered 182 open spaces in the Darb al-Hosr area; 115 open spaces in the Darb al-Labbena area; and 63 open spaces in the al-Hattaba area.

Moreover, an additional field survey was carried out for the shiakha of Arab al-Yassar, as part of the sector study on frozen assets.