Population and Migration WHEN IS A PLACE OVERPOPULATED?
an you imagine living in a cemetery? In a section of Cairo the homes of more than 500,000 people are located in a cemetery called al-Qarafa. This historic cemetery contains hundreds of tombs, mausoleums, and shrines built from the late 14th century onward to commemorate Muslim religious leaders and dynastic families. They were designed as much for the living as for the dead, with many tombs containing one or two extra rooms for family members to spend time in, remembering the deceased.
Since World War II, Cairo’s population has grown explosively, climbing from about 2 million people in 1947 to more than 12 million today. But housing construction has not kept pace, and many people have taken up residence in al-Qarafa’s vacant rooms or have made makeshift dwellings between the tombs. Media reports usually characterize al-Qarafa as an overcrowded slum—an illustration of Cairo’s overpopulation. The residents, however, have mixed feelings. While thankful to have a place to live, they are also frustrated by the lack of basic services such