Egypt antiquities ministry committee decides against registering Beit Madkour

Salma Shukrallah , Nevine El-Aref , Tuesday 2 Jun 2015

The Cairo Governor gave one months notice for either antiquities ministry to register house or it would continue to face demolition

Beit Madkour
A courtyard in Beit Madkour in Cairo's Darb Al-Ahmar neighborhood (Photo: Mai Shaheen)

The Antiquities Ministry will not register Beit Madkour (House of Madkour), located in historical Cairo’s Al-Darb El-Ahmar that stirred much controversy last month regarding its potential demolition.

A committee for Islamic and Coptic antiquities was to inspect whether Beit Madkour would be registered as a historical building, consequently saving it from being torn down. However, the specialised committee voted against saving it.

While the owners of the house want it demolished, the residents, together with the Save Cairo campaign, have worked to save it. The Cairo governor gave a one-month ultimatum for a solution to be reached.

Only two options were available, either for the antiquities ministry to register it or for Save Cairo to fund raise enough to buy it from its owners who seek its demolition.

“We still haven’t given up on the house” Omneya Abdel Bar of Save Cairo told Ahram Online after she announced that the antiquities ministry refused registering the house as a historical building.

“We will file a lawsuit against the prime ministerial decision that delisted the house in 2011 as one of heritage value,” she said.

“Now more than ever we need an explanation about the decision to declassify the house.”

Beit Madkour was listed as a building of heritage value, thus making it immune from demolition. However, a ministerial decree delisted the house in 2011.

Secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mostafa Amin, told Ahram Online that the Islamic and Coptic Antiquities Committee assigned to inspect the house has refused to register it on Egypt's antiquities list for Islamic monuments because the house has lost most of its authentic value and architectural elements.

Amin continued to say that he was leading the committee himself and found that large and deep cracks have spread all over the house's walls that threaten its demolition. The garden of the house has totally deteriorated and was subjected to encroachment by the neighbours who built a small house in the garden during the1970s. Amin pointed out that Beit Madkour originally consisted of three floors (a ground floor and two stories) but now the second floor no longer exists. It has been demolished.

"Registering Beit Madkour on Egypt's antiquities list is against the antiquities law and its amendments because it does not bear any of its distinguished architectural style, authentic and historical values," Amin told Ahram Online. He added that in 2010, it was suggested to list the house on Egypt's Antiquities List for Islamic Monuments but after inspection the committee at that time also refused the request because of its very deteriorated condition.

"In order to protect the house from demolition, Cairo Governorate and the National Organisation for Urban Harmony (NOUH) should find a reason to relist the house of the NOUH list. Madkour house was delisted from the NOUH," Amin suggests.

He told Ahram Online that now negotiations are taking place between Cairo Governorate, NOUH and the ministry of antiquities to find a solution and a way to save the historical building.

Beit Madkour was originally built in the 14th century for a Mameluk Emir and during the 19th century the building was renovated. 

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