Preserving Old Cairo: One Egyptian's Fight to Save a Landmark Building

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A short documentary about a resident of an historic building in Cairo, and his defiance toward authorities who would destroy it. Directed by Ahmed Salih

"This work is dedicated to my mother who taught me loving people and life." A sign referring to "Ahmed Maher Basha Street"
My name is Salah-ElDin Ali Mohamed, born in building no. 5 at El Karabeiah alley in Darb Ahmar. The building in which I live is a historical one, and considered one of the oldest in Fatimid Cairo. It was built before 1900 which makes it almost 120 years old. It is also considered an architectural piece of art built in Ottoman style, which is a 'rare' kind of architecture. The building is somehow luxurious in an aesthetic way but it was the most common feature in that kind of architecture at that time. It was built at a time when electricity and water were not as reachable as today, so they designed it in a way to allow sun-light to enter the house as long as possible; sun-light was used as 'normal' lighting system for the houses from dawn to dusk. Moreover, moon-light was also considered as a lighting system in the evenings, with an aesthetic view. The reason for the beautiful light rays that filled the houses whether day or night is the colored glass on the windows, which is a very natural element using sun-light and moon-light to create beautiful shadows. This building has many pioneers and it gets photographed all the time by tourists or Agha Khan Organization or organizations related to heritages. This building, in specific, is well-known worldwide. The government should care more about the value of this building and engineering students should come here and be given lectures about the art of architecture and study how it was built and how the walls come together that way. It is a 'rare' beautiful piece of art.
A place like Darb Ahmar should be a preserved touristic area in which only pedestrians are allowed to pass by; streets should be designed in a way related to the historical period, and thus it would be invested in tourism to become another source of income instead of destroying these historical buildings and losing our history in order to build a bigger building to gain more money.
This building has been sold to someone twenty years ago. Although I was born in this building, I do not know who built it. Twenty years ago, the heirs of that owner came to the building and sold it to someone who was living in the ground floor which I do not know much about; I only see people coming and going to the ground floor every now and then. Later on, I discovered that these people where trying to ruin the walls since such an old building needs years to be destroyed. One day, I heard great noise and I went down to see what was happening, and I saw a great part of the ceiling of the ground floor destroyed. However, the way it was done must have been based on some studies because tearing down the ceiling led to the damage of other two of the walls next to it. I wish to see this building like it used to be and I'm willing to tell the officials every story about the building. Only then would I be at peace.
My name is Omar Salah-ElDin, the son of Haj Salah. I was born and raised in Fatimid Cairo, and it's hard for anyone born and raised in such a place to live elsewhere. This area is the heritage of this country or rather the whole country. Egypt has always been filled with alleys, and that's what always characterized it. My father, my family and I are strongly attached to that building. My friends as well as I know the value of this place and since we were children we used to come here to study, so it's a great symbol to us. It is hard for us to leave this place because it is our history.

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