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Sustainable Tourism and the Rehabilitation of Cairo's Historical Districts: the Case of the Bazaar Area and the Cities of Dead
Published: 17 October 2012 by MDPI in The 2nd World Sustainability Forum session Sustainable Urban Development
Abstract: The current paper examines the impact of recent tourism-related official policy for rehabilitation of historical Cairo and for gentrification of surrounding inner city areas on urban poor\'s right to the city and their resistance actions against eviction. Despite the main objective of introducing sustainable -tourism principles by improving the environmental quality standards within Historical Cairo through pedestrianisation, urban landscaping and public parks, the overall government policy favoured business investments more than interests of urban population . This is evident in proposed plans for forced relocation of local residents from Bazaar area and for eviction of squatter tomb dwellers within northern cemeteries Cities of the Dead\' to the eastern desert of Kattamiya (New Cairo City). Consequently land developers and investors intend to clear these sites and hold empty land for property speculations and tourism development projects . This could follow the precedent of the Agha Khan organisation\'s development of the Al-Azhar Urban Cultural Park, opened in 2004, and the associated upgrading along the Ayyubid Wall and Darb Al- Ahmar district fringing the eastern edge of historical Cairo. Combining information from interviews with primary stakeholders , local residents from Bazaar area and squatter tomb dwellers within Bab al-Nasr northern cemeteries (Cities of the Dead) , and with secondary stakeholders, NGO activists, policy-makers and urban planners, the paper examines the on-going struggle between advocates of urban poor\'s needs and business and real estate interests over the use of inner city areas for tourism related development. For a critical analysis of spatial contestation and sustainable tourism, the article attempts at weaving official urban policies with local peoples\' narratives through historical Cairo\'s global tourism. Whilst historical Cairo is reinterpreted as a glocal venue for new claims and contestation between global heritage tourism investment and between local urban poor population, the current paper regards the Bazaar area and Cities of Dead as contested sites for collective memory and urban resistance, and for tourism consumption . The study emphasised the need to link the rehabilitation of historical Cairo to concepts of sustainable tourism process based upon the mainstream conservation-for-development perspective, whilst taking into account alternative environments and interpretations of conservation which are the product of socio-cultural, political and economic aspects of local communities. In conclusion therefore the study advocates radical policy action and collaborative planning in consolidating bottom up urban governance and in generating new opportunities for the (re)production of public sphere for sustainable tourism consumption.
Keywords: Historical Cairo – rehabilitation and pedestrianisation – sustainable tourism development – Bazaar area - Cemeteries