Egyptian government converts antique building into hotel

Egyptian government converts antique building into hotel
This photo taken on July 26, 2020 shows the derelict dome of the Mamluk Sultan Abu Said al-Zahir Qansuh al-Ashrafi (AD 1498-1500) amidst ongoing roadworks at the historic City of the Dead necropolis of Egypt's capital Cairo. (AFP)
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Updated 25 October 2020

Egyptian government converts antique building into hotel

Egyptian government converts antique building into hotel
  • Wakala Al-Sultan Qaytbay is one of the most beautiful examples of Islamic buildings that characterized architecture in the Mamluk era

CAIRO: The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities is converting Wakala Al-Sultan Qaytbay in Cairo into a private hotel.

This project is the first of its kind in Egypt. The Islamic archaeological site will be redesigned as a hotel, at a cost of around EGP100 million ($6.3 million).

The history of the urban caravanserai and apartment complex dates back to the Mamluk era in the late-fifteenth century. It was built by Sultan Al-Malik Al-Ashraf Abu Al-Nasr Qaytbay, one of the rulers of the state of the Circassian Mamluks, who later ruled Egypt. He loved architecture and the arts, reflected by the timeless monuments that he left.

Wakala Al-Sultan Qaytbay is one of the most beautiful examples of Islamic buildings that characterized architecture in the Mamluk era. It consists of three floors and overlooks a spacious inner courtyard. The ground floor was used for trade, with the two upper floors for housing.

Archaeologist Mahmoud Abdel-Baset, director general of the Historic Cairo Development Project, said that it was scheduled to be completed within 2021.

He said the project will create a unique hotel while preserving ancient archaeological heritage.

Abdel-Baset added that the hotel will be provided with a suitable furnish for the history and location of the building.

He said that the shops at the complex’s front will be preserved and that they will continue as commercial outlets for tourists and visitors.

The Historic Cairo Development Project told Arab News that the economic return from the hotel will contribute to the continuity of maintenance work, creating a mutually beneficial relationship between the complex and the surrounding community.

The project is being headed by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities with funding from the Ministry of Housing, Fatimid Cairo Authority. Hania Mamdouh, the supervisor of the Engineering Unit in Historic Cairo, confirmed that the Venice Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites and the requirements of the tourism ministry for heritage hotels were taken into account.

The team has used different bricks from those found in the original construction to guarantee that visitors can easily distinguish between the two eras of development.

Mamdouh said that red hollow bricks were used because they are lighter and do not affect the structural integrity of the original elements of the facility. She added that the bricks were previously used in a restoration effort from the 1940s.

Hajj Samir, the owner of one of the shops in the area, said that the project is special to the local community. Previously it was a filthy place neglected by government officials.

“In the past, the cleaners did not work...Now things are completely different, and the region will become global in the full sense of the word,” he added.

 


Sudan schoolbook picture sparks angry reform debate

Sudan schoolbook picture sparks angry reform debate
Bookseller Yaqoub Mohamed Yaqoub, 45, sits by his roadside stall where he has been working for 15 years, in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, on January 14, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 16 January 2021

Sudan schoolbook picture sparks angry reform debate

Sudan schoolbook picture sparks angry reform debate
  • Unrest ricocheted beyond North African country, triggering uprisings, crackdowns, civil wars

KHARTOUM: As Sudan’s transitional government shifts the nation from the Islamist rule of ousted strongman Omar Bashir, a new schoolbook has sparked controversy for reproducing Michelangelo’s iconic “Creation of Adam.”
Khartoum’s government has embarked on deeply controversial reforms in a bid to boost its international standing and rescue its ailing economy — but bringing it into a confrontation with those who see changes as anti-Islamic.
The offending picture, in a history textbook for teenagers, has become a flashpoint in the argument. “It is an ugly offense,” said Sudan’s Academy of Islamic Fiqh, the body ruling on Islamic law, which issued an edict banning teaching from the book.
Michelangelo’s fresco, depicting the Biblical story of God reaching out with his hand to give life to Adam, is a flagship piece of 16th century Renaissance art that forms part of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling in Rome.
“The book glorifies Western culture in a way that makes it the culture of science and civilization — in contrast to its presentation of Islamic civilization,” the Fiqh academy added.

BACKGROUND

In a viral video, a preacher broke down as he waved the book during Friday prayers, accusing it of promoting ‘apostasy’ and ‘heresy.’

Furious Muslim clerics have railed against the book and other changes to the school curriculum.
In one video widely shared on social media, a preacher broke down as he waved the book during Friday prayers, accusing it of promoting “apostasy” and “heresy.”
Another urged followers to “burn the book.”
But others defended the changes, saying they were part of necessary education reforms.
“The picture is not in a religious book,” teacher Qamarya Omar said.
“It is in a history book for the sixth-grade under a section called European Renaissance, which makes it placed in context.”