Cairo’s green lung Al-Azhar Park: from garbage dump to municipal park.
The impressions of Alexandria I shared in a recent post were largely negative, so here I’ll present a happier picture: a green oasis in Cairo built upon a former garbage dump. The photos are mine; the background information comes mainly from touregypt.net.
Hard to believe, but this delightful site was formerly a municipal garbage dump. Some 80,000 truckloads of debris that had accumulated over centuries were cleared as part of the park’s development.
The 74-acre park was inaugurated in 2005 and funded ($30 million) by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. According to touregypt.net: “The Aga Khan decided to donate a park to the citizens of Cairo in 1984, out of the Islamic belief that we are all trustees of God’s creation and therefore must seek to leave the world a better place than it was before us.”
More from touregypt.net: ”The multidisciplinary project presented a range of complex technical issues, including highly saline soils which first required the creation of specialist nurseries to identify and grow the best plants and trees for the soil, terrain and climate.
“Over two million plants and trees were propagated, of which over 655,000 have now been planted in the park. This also required the incorporation within the park of three large fresh water reservoirs for the city of Cairo each 80 meters in diameter and 14 meters deep.”
“The park’s vegetation varies from dry, succulent plants on the western slopes to lush, grassy meadows with shade trees, to formal gardens and, finally, to bustan-like orchard spaces. “
Of course, all is not rosey in Cairo. Besides the park’s proximity to the historic Citadel and Muhammad Ali Mosque, it is also adjacent to one of the most impoverished areas in Cairo – the City of the Dead, a neighborhood built among the tombstones.
Cognizant of the stark contrast between the lush park and its dire surroundings, the park’s developer – the Aga Khan Trust – has initiated a range of community-based urban renewal projects and offers micro-credit loans to enable residents to open small businesses.
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