Travel tips you can trust
City of the Dead
in Cairo is special
Our world has many necropolises, but Cairo has several where people permanently live in tombs still occupied by the deceased. Al Aarafa is the largest, best known, and most touristed.
Why people live here
Poverty is the overriding reason for squatting. Many people migrated from poor rural farms and encountered a severe shortage of jobs and affordable housing in Cairo. Tomb-living was their only option. Where else could they live?
A devastating 1992 earthquake also brought an influx of inhabitants.
Why tourists come
Regrettably, some come as slum voyeurs. But others come with good intentions of learning about a unique subculture of over a half million people.
You can visit on a tour or (better choice) with a private guide. It's wise not to come by yourself.
About the City of the Dead
It dates back to the 7th century. The burial buildings were architecturally house-like to accommodate relatives staying for extended mourning periods. The structures range from basic edifices to elaborate mausoleums fit for sultans.
Today, this destination has stores, schools, small factories, and more. While some residents live in actual tombs, most inhabit buildings constructed next to burial venues or where they once stood. Many dwellings have electricity and sometimes sport satellite discs while a minority lack even basics like adequate waste management.
Location in Egypt