Dr. Hala Al-Saeed, Minister of Planning and Economic Development and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Sovereign Fund of Egypt, witnessed the ceremony of signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Sovereign Fund of Egypt (SFE) and ” Bidayat” Misr Company to study the transformation of Bab Al-Azab zone in Salah El-Din (Saladin) Citadel into the first integrated creativity zone in the Middle East and Africa.
Last year, the SFE signed a contract with the Supreme Council of Antiquities to develop, provide and operate visitor services in the archaeological Bab al-Azab zone of the Saladin Citadel.
The study aims to develop the general plan and economic feasibility in order to present it to the Supreme Council of Antiquities for approval to create the first integrated creativity zone in the Middle East and Africa in the heart of Historic Cairo.
This zone has a unique cultural depth as one of the most important World Heritage sites.
The plan of development employs the heritage buildings located within the a Bab El-Azab zone as important attractions that host the basic components of the creativity zone from educational, creative, craftsmanship, commercial, entertainment and promotional content to attract visitors to the zone from inside and outside Egypt.
The plan also seeks to stimulate the outputs of the creative economy in Egypt and link it to global networks and markets.
The MoU was signed by Amr Elhamy, Executive Director of the Egypt Sub-Fund for Tourism, Real Estate Investment and Antiquities Development, and Ahmed El Shaboury, CEO of “Bidayyat” Misr, in the presence of Dr. Mostafa Waziri, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, and members of the boards of directors of Egypt’s Sovereign Fund and its subsidiary fund, members of the board of directors of the Bidayyat Investment Group, heads of advisory offices conducting the study and a group of representatives of the heritage, creative and business community in Egypt.
The Bab al-Azab zone occupies the lower part of the Saladin Citadel, facing al-Rumaila Square, a school(Madrasah) of Sultan Hassan Mosque and al-Rifai Mosque.
For hundreds of years, Bab Al-Azab was the main entrance to the citadel until Muhammad Ali Pasha built the new gate opposite the present-day Al-Hataba area.
This step is considered the first investment projects of the Sovereign Fund of Egypt in the tourism, cultural and service sector in cooperation with the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, which will include the restoration and revitalization of the “Bab Al-Azab” zone in the citadel with the aim of providing and operating services for visitors there; part of a comprehensive plan aimed at rehabilitating an untapped area in the citadel and opening it to the public after restoration and adding it to the list of tourist attractions and historical and cultural destinations.
The project under study creates hundreds of direct and indirect job opportunities for the people of the surrounding area, attracts investment in various creative fields, and creates an atmosphere that contributes to preserving and developing many traditional crafts.
Eng. Rashid Mohamed Rashid, founder of Bidayyat Investment Group, said that the project under study will restore Egypt to its natural position as one of the most important centers of creativity in the world.
He noted that the creative economy is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world.
Ayman Soliman, CEO of the Sovereign Fund of Egypt, said that the fund will work alongside Bidayyat and private investors through the Sub-Fund for Tourism, Real Estate Investment and Antiquities Development, to restore and maintain archaeological or architectural buildings, and rehabilitate and equip other buildings in licensed areas and prepare them for offering services for visitors and tourists.
Soliman also stressed that the sub-fund aims to contribute to sustainable economic development through the management of funds and assets and the optimum utilization of them in accordance with the best international standards and rules to maximize their value and sustainability for future generations.
A general plan for restoration will be prepared under the direct supervision of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, the revitalization of the area, and the identification of the investment project components, as part of the state’s orientation towards a sustainable economy and the preservation of antiquities.
Soliman noted that other developers and specialists will be involved in the remaining components of the project.
Eng. Ahmed El Shaboury, CEO of Bidayyat Misr, indicated that the study is being carried out by 8 international and Egyptian consulting firms.
He affirmed that the project based on previous studies of the Bab Al-Azab zone carried out by a number of Egyptian heritage experts and international institutions during the past two decades.
Translated by Ahmed Moamar