El Azhar Park
A New Horizon for an Old City
In response to the formal realization that Cairo as a city severely lacks in open green spaces and pure oxygen, the Azhar Park project was initiated, creating the largest park of its kind in the Middle East and Africa.
This achievement was made possible through the patronage of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), and its specialized branch The Historic Cities Support Program (HCSP). The location of the park was chosen for its significance and uniqueness, the site of El-Darassa, surrounded by some of the most popular historic areas in Islamic Cairo, including Al Azhar and Salah Salem streets. The park is of staggering proportions and a pleasant contrast to the surrounding environment of the crowded Cairo city.
Reminiscent of the type of facilities that were standardly designed in previous times of Islamic grandeur, it is an entirety of green areas, pavilions, pristine pathways, fountains, and stunning architecture. As one enters through the main gates of the park, the pure sense of fresh air is noticed almost immediately, and after adapting to the beauty and colors of greenery and foliage one comes to realize that the park is mesmerizing as it provides a stunning view to the entire country.
Gleaming marble floors and a grand fountain welcome visitors as they enter, giving way to extended pavilions laid out in what seems like all directions. To the right, vast green fields and a landscape of rare trees and colorful exotic plants fill the park, with a distant view of the park's Islamic-style restaurant courtyard. To the left, and down a gradual slope, there's what appears to be an infinite array of trees, flowers, green open spaces, picnic areas, and yet another distant view of Islamic-style architecture.
It is a true sight for sore eyes after the crowds, busy traffic and smog of Cairo. The original location of the current park used to be a huge, accumulated, and ancient garbage disposal site. Apparently, since the earliest days of Old Cairo, it was common practice that waste was disposed of at the edge of the city. This had accumulated to such an extent that it created an anourmous hill of garbage, which had not only covered the beuaty of Egypt's landcspae, but had also completely buried artifacts and remains of an old city wall dating back to the 13th century. The wall is 1.3 kilometers in length and has survived from the Ayyubid period despite the atrocious conditions under which it was buried. Other items that resurfaced during the excavations for the Azhar Park project include artifacts, coins, inscriptions and pottery.
Today the Azhar Park exists on an aesthetic slope due to surprising history of its underground land. The Park welcomes all visitors at a very humble entrance fee, providing an accessible venue for Egyptian families, school trips, tourists, and residents of Cairo who seek a quiet stroll in a breath-taking atmosphere; and not to mention a spectacular view of Cairo and Giza.