Today thousands of tourists from different countries of the world are interested in visiting many different attractions which include parks and historic places, gardens and zoos, museums and art galleries. Many visitor attractions are considered to be the key component of tourism industry. For example, thousands of tourists prefer to visit historic Cairo, the colorful city of ancient civilization (Attractions of Cairo, 2012). Cairo is the capital of Egypt where it is possible to find a great variety of different attractions. Moreover, it is known that tourism in Egypt plays an important role in the successful development of the country’s economy. According to the statistics, 86% of visits to Cairo are connected with recreational tourism (Egypt Tourism, 2007). The major task of this paper is to discuss a visitor attraction that has been used as a catalyst for urban or rural regeneration and critically evaluate how successful it has been strategically and operationally. In this paper, the urban regeneration project for historic Cairo will be analyzed as this historical place includes a variety of visitor attractions used as a catalyst for urban regeneration project, including Al-Azhar park.
BRIEF OVERVIEW OF THE VISITOR ATTRACTION
It is known that Cairo hosts a great number of historically significant monuments which include not only magnificent ruins of Al-Fustatthe Fatimid, nucleus of Medieval Cairo, the citadel and surrounding Mamluk palaces, but also unique urban Arab domestic architecture, many mausoleums and bazaars, Nilometre and some other inventions. Most of visitor attractions demonstrate the wealth and power of historic Egypt (Urban Regeneration Project for Historic Cairo, 2011:1). Historic Cairo (Fig.1) was included in the list of World Heritage in1979, and it was recognized as the place of “absolutely unquestionable historical, archeological and urban importance” (Urban Regeneration Project for Historic Cairo, 2011:1).
Fig. 1 Historic Cairo
Al-Azhar park is one of the numerous visitor attractions in historic Cairo. It occupies the territory of 30 hectares. The park was founded by the Historic Cities Support program developed by Aga Khan Trust for Culture in 2004 (Cairo: Urban Regeneration in the DarbAl-AhmarDistrict, 2005). The video recording Construction of Al-Azhar Park Cairo, Egypt gives an opportunity to learn more about Al-Azhar park and about modern urban problems of Cairo (Construction of Al-Azhar Park Cairo, Egypt, 2010). In the park, one can find many historic monuments and buildings, including the restored Ayybid Wall of the12-th century (Fig.2).
Fig.2 Ayybid Wall in Cairo
CRITICAL EVALUATION OF THE VISITOR ATTRACTION
It is known that the Urban Regeneration project for Historic Cairo has been specially developed to improve the failures of past experience which included delimitation of the site and unclear protective measures for maintenance of urban and architectural values (Urban Regeneration Project for Historic Cairo, 2011).The Urban Regeneration project for Historic Cairo (Fig.3) has been requested by the World Heritage Committee and is considered to be an effective “initiative for the elaboration of the conservation/management tools for historic Cairo”. (Urban Regeneration Project for Historic Cairo, 2011:1).
Fig.3 Historic Cairo Heritage
It is known that conservations projects of historical urban areas are focused on “restoration of buildings and monuments side by side with cultural, social and economic development of the inhabitants” and promotion of commercial business (Lamei, 2011:49). The Urban Regeneration project was successfully initiated in 2009 with the participation of Egyptian Cultural Heritage at UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Besides, in 2010, the project has been adopted by local authorities who are interested in successful development of tourism industry in Egypt. Today it is known that the project is focused on several objectives which are included in the project’s long term strategy. The first one is focused on the conservation and rehabilitation strategy specially developed to preserve the heritage values of Cairo and to regenerate social and economic environment (Urban Regenerating Project for Historic Cairo, 2011).The second objective is based on the establishment of a special management system for historic Cairo. The third objective is focused on public awareness-raising activities for urban conservation (Urban Regenerating project for Historic Cairo, 2011).
Today it is found that the impact of Al-Azhar park on the life and development of the city is tremendous (Fig.4). The park as one of the most popular visitor attractions in Cairo has been specially planned with a multitude of activities for tourists, and it “incorporates a conceptualized hilltop lookout kiosk, a children’s play area, an amphitheater and stage, playing fields, a viewing plaza and a historical wall promenade” (Al-Azhar Park, 2011).
Fig.4 View of Al-Azhar Park
Moreover, Al-Azhar park can be considered “a tool” for improving the culture and aesthetics of the neighborhood (Fig.5). Today the Al-Azhar development project has proved its effectiveness. There is a special microcredit program in the project which is specially designed to improve living condition of the residents, to restore their dwellings and create new businesses in order to reduce the level of unemployment in Cairo (Al-Azhar Park, 2011). Besides, this project includes a number of specially developed programs to provide training and healthcare services for local population. It means that the life of all residents has changed. Many people have got jobs or set up their own businesses. In addition, creating this park in Cairo entailed restoring or reconstructing many historical monuments in the district of Darb Al-Ahmar (Cairo: Urban Regeneration in the Darb Al-Ahmar District, 2005).
Fig.5 Aerial View over the Al-Azhar Park
In conclusion, it is necessary to say that such visitor attraction as Al –Azhar Park in historic Cairo, Egypt is really a catalyst for urban regeneration. This visitor attraction helps to improve the life of local population as Al-Azhar Park attracts thousands of tourists each year. Those programs and projects of urban regeneration that have already been developed and implemented in Cairo give an opportunity to maintain sustainability in the local community, although the surrounding territory still requires reconstruction. It means that the visitor attraction discussed in this paper has met its long-term strategic goals and is rather successful as a visitor attraction.
Al-Azhar park. (2011) Project for Public Spaces. Parks. Retrieved from:<http://www.pps.org/great_public_spaces/one?public_place_id=812>
Attractions in Cairo. (2012) Maps of World. Egypt. Retrieved from:<http://www.mapsofworld.com/cities/egypt/cairo/attractions.html>
Cairo: Urban Regeneration in the Darb Al-Ahmar District. (2005) Aga Khan Trust for Culture. Historic Cities Support Program. Retrieved from:<http://archnet.org/library/documents/one-document.jsp?document_id=11401>
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Lamei, S. (2011) Regeneration of Historic Cairo & the Sustainable Development Process. City & Time, Vol.5(1). Retrieved from:< http://www.ceci-br.org/novo/revista/docs2011/C&T-2011-170.pdf>
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