Amir-Hussein Radjy at the LRB:
Ramadan has lived in the tomb of Ratib Pasha, Egypt’s late-19th-century army chief, since he was born. The large chamber of floriated stone, honeycombed walls and coffered ceilings is an example of an Egyptian style of architecture that draws on Ottoman, European and Mamluk elements. But it is marked for demolition, along with thousands of other tombs in the Qarafa, Cairo’s centuries-old City of the Dead, to make way for new roads. The guardian of the tomb opposite, Ramadan showed me, had erased the black arrows that marked it for bulldozing. ‘He thinks that’ll make a difference,’ he laughed.
Earlier that day, we had set out to survey the destruction. I was shocked by its scale. The City of the Dead is a vast, 1300-year-old necropolis, that stretches for ten kilometres along the eastern edge of old Cairo.