American and British Cemeteries in Cairo

American (Protestant) Cemetery

A small little known protestant cemetery lies behind gates in a small courtyard in Old Cairo near El Malek El Saleh metro stop.  The cemetery was established in the second half of the 19th century by the Egyptian Mission of the United Presbyterian Church of North America. Several important people are buried there including professors, artists, egyptologists, musicians, and missionaries. (One is example is pioneer installation artist James Lee Byars.) This cemetery qualifies as an ex-pat cemetery and basically only foreigners are buried here. It felt very strange to read the epitaphs in English because I have been used to trying to constantly translate them this year- or just give up when they are in Arabic. The cemetery is very quiet and small, but you can tell that there are many different stories and narratives that emerge from underneath the stones. It fell to disrepair a few years ago and a group formed called the “Friends of the American Cemetery” with the mission to repair it. They have cleaned it, created an office, designated a small space for visitors, and are committed to keeping track of the history of the site.

 

 

British Commonwealth Cemetery (different from the one in Heliopolis)

Almost all Commonwealth cemeteries around the world appear the same, but this one is quite spectacular because half is a civilian cemetery covered in gravel, while the military graves have a well manicured with green grass. There is a long alley separating these two and the contrast is quite apparent as one walks behind the gates. The military graves are all uniform (only the text and engraved symbolism varies) and they are perfectly placed in a well calculated grid. The civilian cemetery is much more random with varied types of sculpture, a few graves with small gardens, and everything is a different size and shape. This was a beautiful place and the contrast between the two halves made the site very interesting.

 

And another Scene from Al-Khalifa. I love the circle embellishment juxtaposed with the square window and the web of the bare tree overarching next door.

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