Cairo: Developing Fustat Park

Nevine El-Aref , Friday 30 Jul 2021

Plans are underway to turn the Fustat Hills Park into a central public park in the heart of the ancient capital

Developing Fustat Park
Amr Ibn Al-Aas mosque

Plans are underway to develop the 590 feddans of the Fustat Hills Park as part of an initiative to develop Historic Cairo. On Sunday, Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli visited the Amr Ibn Al-Aas Mosque in Fustat in Historic Cairo to monitor the work in progress.

The project comes as part of an initiative to develop Historic Cairo and to turn the park area of around 2.5 square km in the heart of the ancient capital into a central public park overlooking many historic and archaeological sites and monuments.

This will help to make the park a regional and international tourist destination. Amusement activities and traditional industries will also be available.

The courtyard area of the Amr Ibn Al-Aas Mosque is planned to be the main entrance to the new park and other religious sites in the area, including the Coptic churches and the ancient Jewish synagogue.

The development plans also include an upgrade of the main entrance to the mosque, more greenery, new wooden terraces, a pedestrian sidewalk and parking areas, and a fountain, as well as the development of the existing Fustat Market.

With the Arab conquest of Egypt in the mid-seventh century CE, Fustat, meaning “tent”, was founded as Egypt’s first Islamic capital city.

Today, it is a part of the Old Cairo District and hosts many important cultural sites, including the Synagogue of Ben Ezra, more than seven Coptic churches, among them the Hanging Church and the St Sergius Church built above the cave where the Holy Family stayed during their journey across Egypt, the Amr Ibn Al-Aas Mosque, and the excavated remains of the old city of Fustat, the Nilometer on Roda Island, the Al-Manesterly Palace, and the Mohamed Ali Palace on Manial Island.

The Amr Ibn Al-Aas Mosque was the first building planned in the city of Fustat, followed by the Emirate House, the residence of rulers in the early Islamic era. Houses were then built around the new city, and soon Fustat became a fully-fledged city with residential areas, commercial markets, lanes, alleyways and paths, all being manifestations of urban expansion and economic prosperity.

At the end of the Fatimid period in the 12th century CE, the city was exposed to a huge conflagration that led to the burning of its eastern half. Over time, this area was concealed by mounds of earth, remaining in this condition until 1912 when the first archaeological excavations began.

The remains of the city’s houses and public baths were then uncovered, along with surviving artefacts such as objects from daily life and coins which are now on display at the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 29 July, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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