I'm in Egypt once again after two years. After the Abdel Fattah El-Sisi military coup in 2013, I never thought that I would come to Egypt again. Egypt is being administered with a military willpower since 1952. Egypt is a land of contradictions. On one side, arts belonging to a magnificent past, rich history and civilization; an African country where poverty and misery reigns, on the other.
The poverty and bottleneck that Egypt had been experiencing for many years are still being felt everywhere in the Old Cairo, in the streets, mosques, markets… There are also no signs indicating that they might be able to escape this bottleneck. An Egypt/Cairo, a great majority of whose community has been imprisoned to misery, poverty and to crawl on the floors, is being observed. In the last two years, the situation is getting worse in the country. There are almost no traces of the wealth, splendor and civilization in the period of Ayyubids, Mamelukes and Khedives. Egypt has been brought down to this after the British invasion in 1882 and through military dictatorships – especially starting from the Nasır period-. All the institutions –the famous Câmatu'l-Ezher being in the first place– also got their own share from this situation.
Cairo, the capital of Egypt, is the oldest, most crowded of the exotic cities in the Middle East. Fustat's history, which is the old Cairo at the skirts of the Mukattan Mountain, dates before Islam. However, the actual establishment of the city had been carried out during His Holiness Omar's era, right after the invasion of Egypt by Amr Bin As. When Amr Bin As had set up a tent with the Islam army at the field in Fustat, where there is a mosque named after him, Cairo's history and Egypt's Islamic history had begun.
The city, which had been developed greatly during the era of Ikhshidids, Ibn Tolun and Fatimids, experienced it's brightest eras during the period of Ayyubids and Mamelukes. In the 16th century, following Sultan Selim “The Stern” 's Egypt Excursion, the city joined the Ottoman lands. Cairo experienced it's final bright period in the 19th century during the times of Egypt's mayor, Muhammad Ali and his children (Khedives Period). As for the British invasion that started in 1882; it continued till the end of World War II.
The old Cairo had been worn out greatly due to squalor in the last century, especially since the Nasır coup in 1954, and had been exposed to wars; the city is giving the display of a town that just came out of wars. Especially due to the dust arising from the endless desert around it, it's even in a more tragic state. The dust, which comes from the desert through wind and storms, completely covers the whole city. Besides, due to the intense migration from Southern regions, Nubia and Said, it's carrying the weight of a population that is more than it's limit.
Thus, other than Nasr City and New Cairo, a merciless poverty , which is emigrated by justice and compassion/mercy, is still reigning in all of the districts and neighborhoods. The formidable gap between the various layers of the community is remarkable. The Old Cairo is surrounded by mosques, social complexes and beggars in poverty, who are asking for money at the scale of lunging at us. Their numbers in some mosques are greater than the number of people in the congregation.
Almost no place in the old city, which is referred to as Misr El-Kadime, is prosperous. An unplanned, skew/unhealthy urbanization/structuring is manifesting itself. There are mostly no streets between the high-rise houses in the neighborhoods constructed around the southern ends of Giza. Especially Old Cairo, which harbors a rich past and historical artifacts, is in a miserable state. The state of our civilization signs, which had been formed under the accumulation of centuries, and Islamic artifacts in the city is a disaster. While the churches, monasteries, artifacts etc. that belong to the Copt congregation, which forms 10-12% of the country, are being cared/repaired under the care of Western countries, Islamic arts/masterpieces are crawling on the floors due to squalor/poverty and apathy.
Alongside poverty and penury, the development of the stern, Salafi-ailing, shallow mentality, which looks at the artifacts of the Islamic civilization with polytheism/state of ignorance, is increasing the apathy. An unbelievable poverty reigns around Fustat, Karrafe, Imam Eş-Şafii and Mukattam Mountain. Many neighborhoods look like a wasteyard between the piles of dump. Egypt's Conqueror, Amr Bin As' Cami-I Şerif is in squalor and dirty; due to dirt and dust it's even difficult to pray on the carpets. Along with the People of the House, Seyyide Nefie Cami-i Şerifi and around Külliye, where commemorative ceremonies are held due to the anniversary of his birth, all the country is under poverty…
Cleanliness being in the first place, it's as if there are no municipal services in Old Cairo. Having no hygienic environment is providing a platform for the formation of any kind of infectious diseases.
The Tomb-Külliye of Imam Eş-Şafii, Ibn Ataullah El-İskenderi Mosque and Ezher Külliye being in the first place, many important Islamic artifacts are under the risk of collapsing…. On top of squalor and wrong restorations, the underground waters and dampness caused by the Nile is damaging these historical artifacts gravely. Especially the Imam Eş-Şafii Külliye is being considerably damaged due to the breakdowns in it's base. Fatimid, Mameluke and Ottoman artifacts are abandoned to their own fate. Despite the archaelological dig sites continuing around the pyramids, there are lots of woodcutters around the Pyramids and Giza.
In brief, the general display in Egypt/Cairo after two years is miserable and in a heartbreaking state.