International desk: Workers perched on scaffolding delicately repair Cairo’s 13th-century al-Zahir Baybars mosque, a vital restoration project in the Egyptian capital’s neglected Islamic quarter.
Halted by the popular protests that toppled dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and the ensuing political and economic turmoil which enveloped the country, restorative work on the Mamluk-era mosque picked back up last month, reports AFP.
On the other side of the quarter, similar work on the 14th century al-Maridani mosque has just begun. The capital’s Islamic quarter, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979 often referred to as historic Cairo, boasts some 600 listed monuments.
But the task to patch up decades of dilapidation is immense, and Egyptian authorities are struggling to come up with the cash after unrest and jihadist attacks have driven away tourists and slashed crucial income.
Islamic Cairo is packed with ornate monuments, mosques and mausoleums, and its narrow streets are punctuated with trinket shops, cafes and traditional old homes — an urban fabric layered in centuries of history.
For Luis Monreal, head of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, refurbishing the area is a never-ending project. “It’s like painting an aircraft carrier: when you finish one side, you have to start over again on the other,” he said.
Part of the Aga Khan Foundation, his outfit has been working on restoration projects in the area since the early 2000s.