Rehabilitation of the architecture of cultural heritage

The architectural of cultural heritage witnessed a serious deterioration that includes a set of buildings with diverse activities, representing a national treasure and a reflection of the great civilization of Egypt, as they form numerous monuments contributing in forming the cultural and civilizational background of which we are all proud. Thus major importance should be given to preserve these treasures and prolong them which requires adapting a scientific and systematic method to maintain and preserve them, guaranteeing safety and security and promoting the process of preserving the heritage.

The architectural cultural heritage is a genuine expression of the history and culture of a society, thus heritage is a manifestation of cultural and civilizational values reflecting peoples’ civilizations with the religious, social, cultural, political and socio-economic environment of past generations. Cultural heritage includes many attributes; one of them is the built environment which is represented in the architectural heritage of buildings and historic cities.

There is a line that bridges different historical stages, this line is a key player in constructing human culture and reveals the environmental characteristics of a place. Therefore, preserving the cultural heritage is part and parcel of preserving the human identity. Accordingly cultural heritage preservation strategies have to be activated and diversified by qualitative, gradual or holistic upgrading and development as well as improving the quality of life leading to preserve the heritage due to the raised awareness of its importance. In addition to strategies for improving the antiquities environment and urban area planning as an entryway for architectural heritage projects, setting the scientific methodology for restoration projects and importance of maintenance according to the international conventions

 By adapting convenient strategies to preserve heritage, it is a must to study the antiquity condition and the surrounding area to develop it through analyzing the preserving and maintenance programs and strategies and rehabilitate, develop and upgrade it architecturally urbanely. As each civilization has its own features and characteristics which be preserved to be passed on to future generations as an   inheritance, whose ownership is not confined to us but to the next generations’ as well and it is our duty to preserve it and maintain it for them without distortion or damage to leave them with a rich inheritance as our ancestors did.

  1. Environment has an influential impact on architecture on terms of form and unique nature that comes from the surrounding, has to be studied and understanding the environmental conditions at time of building the antiquity to simulate and improve the environment.
  2. Taking advantage of the condition that helped in creating the architectural heritage and problem solving and evaluating these problem solving techniques scientifically aiming at nourishing and developing the modernized environment that is surrounding the antiquity.
  3. Setting criteria and specifications to improve the historical and archaeological environment.
  4. Setting measures to control at the improvement procedures in order to suit the current environment with the archaeological environment, stimulating its architectural heritage items.
  5. Preserving the archaeological and environmental identity by archaeological studies and dating for the antiquity.
  6. Setting scientific methodology to deal with historic and archaeological areas for its maintenance and urban development.
  7. Formulating an environmental legislation constitution to protect and safeguard the architectural heritage.

 

An example is the restoration and rehabilitating of Al-Muʿizz li-Deen Illah Al Fatimid Street- Cairo –Egypt

The street is named for Al-Muʿizz li-Deen Illah Abu Tameem Bin Mansour Al Abeedy , the fourth caliph of the Fatimid dynasty in Tunisia and the first caliph of the Fatimid dynasty in Egypt who reigned from 953 to 975.  Al-Muʿizz li-Deen Illah sent the highest-ranking military commander of the Fatimids Jawhar as-Siqilli to overthrow the Abbasids rule in Egypt. Jawhar managed to occupy Egypt and he founded the city of al-Qahiratu “the Victorious” (Cairo) in 969 as the new capital of the Fāṭimid caliphate in Egypt. The  new caliph had a great palace  was known as the eastern palace and  the main street of the city  was known as Al-Muʿizz li-Deen Illah Street ,historians were not precise \faultless when they named it  “ The Grand Street” or Al Quasaba Al Kubra.

 

Reopening  Al-Muʿizz li-Deen Illah  Street after its restoration came to turn the street into an open air museum for tourist, as it is the spine of the Historic Cairo Restoration Project  that includes antiquities dating back to consecutive ages over 1040 years , the historic age of the street . The whole length of the street is full of Masajid (Mosques), Madrasas (Schools), Sabeel (water fountain), Kuttabs (quoranic schools),  palaces and Bimaristans (Hospitals) that belong to diverse ages  Fatimid, Ayyubid, Mamluk and Ottoman periods ,the street is even rich with numerous treasures and historical buildings from Mohamed Ali’s era.

The project was divided into four phases, the first phase includes 45 antiquities in Al-Husseyn ,Al-Azhar and Al Darb Al Ahmer areas, the second phase includes 25 antiquities in Al Nahaseen and Beet Al Quadi areas ,the third includes 43 antiquities in Al Gamalia area and the forth includes 28  antiquities in Bab  Zuwelya  and Bab Al Wazir areas.

The historic Cairo city is a city that most of the urban studies were dedicated to  over the modern history,  since the middle of the twentieth century the academic studies  started to conduct researches about the problems of  Al Muizz Street and the historic  Cairo and the ways to  rectify the area and preserve its treasures especially after Islamic Cairo was  registered as on the World Heritage List in 1979 as the second city after Quito, the capital of Ecuador ,still Cairo maintains to be the richest trove of architecture treasures in the world, a city that is peerless in beauty and splendour except for The Italian city Rome.

 

Restoring Al-Muʿizz li-Deen Illah Street is the first step of urban preservation of the historic Cairo city upgrading the whole area, the deteriorating sewage, ground height has been lowered to its original level in the twenties that was with average of 70 centimetre lower than the ground height before the restoration, streets have been  paved with granite and the  pavement blocks have been from granite , banning automobiles although emergency vehicles are allowed access at all times.    

 In an attempt to improve the spatial configuration of the street and upgrading the buildings on the street’s sides the teamwork has fully documented the buildings and shops facades that have not been changed except for those which were considered as a distortion of the architectural value after the approval of the residents and shop owners and rewriting the signs to complement the architectural structure of the street.

 

A whole project was designed for street lighting  at night as “LED” lighting system was installed  capturing  the cultural spirit of the place that embraces Islamic antiquities starting from Bab Al Futuh and the Hakim Mosque which named after  the caliph , Al Hakim bi Amr Allah which was completed in 393 H-1200 BC and Zawiya Abu Al Kheer Al Klibaty , Mosque and Sabil-Kutab of Sulayman Agha Al-Silihdar,  Moustafa Gagfar Mansion ,  Mosque of al-Aqmar , Sabil-Kuttab of Abdel Rahman Katkhuda , Qasr Bashtak ,Hamam (bath) Inal and Al Madrasa Al Al-Kamiliya .