UN objects to plans for Cairo's mediaeval citadel

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CAIRO, Sep 17 (Reuters) The United Nations has objected to plans to build a hotel and offices overlooking Cairo's historic citadel, and recommends the planners scale back by five or six floors, the Egyptian government said today.

UNESCO (the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) said in a report that the high buildings would damage the appearance of the citadel, the mediaeval fortress which for centuries was the seat of the government in Egypt.

''These (the upper floors) would constitute a major infringement on the visual integrity of the citadel,'' the ministry quoted UNESCO as saying.

The citadel, which is associated with the 12th-century warrior sultan Salaheddin or Saladin, is part of the mediaeval city of Cairo, which became a World Heritage Site in 1979.

The fortress stands on a rocky outcrop about 75 metres (yards) above the flood plain of the Nile river and is visible from distant parts of the city. Saladin began work on it in the 1170s but the most striking feature today is the mosque of Mohamed Ali, built in the Ottoman style between 1830 and 1857.

The Ministry of Culture has opposed the development project because of the effect it would have on the skyline.

The development, known as the Cairo Financial Centre, would include shops, offices, a five-star hotel, an exhibition and conference centre and an entertainment centre, according to the Web site of the developers, Alkan Holdings.

The office of the director of the project, Khaled Nassar, said the company was meeting to discuss the UNESCO recommendations and might make a statement tomorrow.

UNESCO recommended that the height of the buildings be reduced to 31.55 metres (104 feet) from 59.50 metres so that they do not protrude above the enclosing wall of the citadel.

The developers should remove the top five floors of the hotel they propose to build and the top six floors of the office block in their plans, the government statement said.

''UNESCO would opt for an entire different use for the area, in order to constitute an effective buffer zone for the World Heritage Site,'' the statement added.

A UNESCO committee will visit Egypt soon to inspect a modified model of the development ''after the implementation of the new UNESCO recommendation'', it said.

REUTERS SKB VC1855

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