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The Reshaping of Cairo's City of the Dead

Rural Identity versus Urban Arena in Cairene Cultural Narrative and Public Discourse

Anna Tozzi Di Marco

Cairo's City of the Dead embodies the social and cultural stratification that has occurred over the course of Egyptian history. Nowadays, its syncretic culture is a mixture of urban and rural aspects - a 'rurban' culture. In an effort to escape from the poverty of their hamlets, rural migrants started to move to the capital during the last decades of Ottoman rule, ending up in the fringe zones of the city. During the second wave of migration in the twentieth century, the poorest segments illicitly occupied abandoned or rarely visited funeral courtyards. The article explores how this district has been restructured by the occupation. It analyses the meaning of the physical and cultural transformations of funerary spaces, as well as the migrants' role in the formation of the locality.