The Grass is Greener in Dahshour

The economic, social and touristic revitalization of Dahshour


Egypt has lots of rich sites that we canpin on the map. We have the sun, the earth, the water, for which the rest of the world envies us for. One project decided to get the best of Egypt’s lost treasure ‘Dahshour’ reviving the site and boosting productivity among its community. The project has two main objectives: first, to reduce poverty of the local communities in Dahshour (an agricultural community comprising five villages to the south of Cairo) by creating opportunities for the creation of sustainable livelihoods; and second, to enhance the national institutional capacities as to better protect and manage the archaeological and natural resources of the area (the Snefru Pyramids and Birket Wetland).


The UN MDG-F Joint Programme ‘Mobilisation of Dahshour World Heritage Site for Community Development’, is a project which has been financed through the contribution of the Government of Spain towards a Millennium Development Goals Fund (MDG-F) which is managed by the United Nations.  The purpose of the MDG-F is to facilitate the collaboration and partnership of several UN agencies with national partners to deliver as one in development programmes which contribute towards the achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals.This project, which commenced in April 2009, is a collaboration of 5 UN agencies.


Dahshour is a region rich in natural assets and attractions as a tourism destination. From lush rural landscapes, seasonal marshland, flora and fauna, vast deserts with raw beauty, emblematic ancient monuments and traditional local villages, Dahshour possesses a truly diverse natural and cultural landscape. The region’s archaeological heritage is also of particular interest, the three famous pyramids, including the Bent Pyramid, are part of the Memphis Necropolis, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Siteand provide the prospect of viewing icons of ancient Egypt without the busy crowds.


Manchiet Dahshour: located adjacent to the three unique Pyramids of Dahshour: The Bent, the Red and the Black Pyramid, which form part of the Memphis Necropolis World Heritage Site located north of Cairo. First opened to the public as late as 1996, the 3.5 km long pyramid field contains 4th and 12th dynasty structures. The main commercial street runs west from the extended village square towards the boundary of the village with community centre, shopping, restaurants, bakeries, cafes, and additional service facilities. This is also the street that presently is used for wedding processions and is therefore known as a street of joy and celebration. 


Berket Dahshour: located nearby Manchiet Dahshour, is a seasonal papyrus marshland visited in early spring and late autumn by myriad migratory birds. There are 29 species of birds known to have been found within the lake area and over 40 species of mammal known to inhabit the wetlands, as well as 37 species of amphibians and reptiles. The lake area’s southern end provides one of the most unique views to be found anywhere in Egypt and one that has remained untouched for millennia.


Dahshour and ZawietVillages:Dahshour and Dahshour Zawiet Villages combined are the largest population concentration and the main service and commercial centre in the Dahshour Rural Tourism Cluster. There is a narrow shopping street with traditional coffee shops and bakeries, and interesting workshops including, among others, an informal palm frond joinery and basket weaving.


Manchiet Kasseb: The village is unique in Dahshour in the sense that it is extremely distinct with a clear transition from a dense ‘urban’ character village environment to an attractive lush and abundant open agricultural landscape. The main attraction of Manchiet Kasseb is its pristine rural character and tranquillity. The eye meets the attractive green open farmland and the streets and narrow lanes of the village turn into narrow attractive trails leading into lush fields of corn and other cereal crops, vegetable patches or palm groves.


Dahshur comprises an integral section of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Memphis and its Necropolis. The joint programme has sought to effectively ensure that the intervention is fully amalgamated into the Memphite Necropolis Management Plan, as delineated by SCA in coordination with UNESCO and its World Heritage Centre. Additionally, the joint programme will target the preservation of Dahshur seasonal Lake, a unique natural asset within the surrounding community, through coordinated efforts to ensure that the seasonal lake is preserved in its natural state through community-owned conservation.


To ensure effective national ownership and participation at the community level, the area surrounding the Dahshur component of Memphis and its Necropolis has been incorporated into the project. This component of the joint programme focuses on improving the livelihoods and working conditions of the local population through targeted employment-generation activities, with special focus given to women’s and youth employment, as well as the development of locally driven micro and small enterprises (MSEs). The development of community-owned and operated M/SMEs will introduce micro-finance access to the Dahshur community, providing the population at large with technical expertise in small business sector development to complement access to micro-finance mechanisms.


The project succeeded in achieving several goals like enhancing employment, especially of youth and women in heritage arts,crafts,tourism and creative industries increased,contributing to poverty all eviation and empowerment. 250 permanent jobs and 140 temporary jobs were created/sustained. 400 individuals from Dahshour  (345 women- 55 men) have been trained on 5 handicraftsareas, introduced to new design, and showed how to enhance product quality and explore new marketing  channels. Also the local program unit established in Dahshour dispersed 271 loans to beneficiaries  (25%   of   them women). Also Micro-finance facilities were provided to Dahshour and the surrounding communities in addition to enhancing dinstitutional capacity to manage cultural heritage and natural resources.


Success Stories:


Om Ragab, 60+, a Grandmother, Zawyet Dahshour


Om Ragab might be the oldest female who joined the handicrafts workshops. Om Ragab represents the real feature of an average rural Egyptian woman. When you look at her, you can visualize the greatness of the Egyptian civilization and heritage. Om Ragab is the mother of 12 well brought citizens and she has been indulged in handicrafts for over 35 years. “Though I’ve had great knowledge and experience about handicrafts, yet this is the first time for me to learn about “Helfa” and how it could be used to produce such wonderful handicrafts”, declared Om Ragab. She said that the project helped the women get out of their houses in order to produce and be a part of the community. “Indeed learning new handicrafts helps us in increasing our income. We should not stop gaining knowledge as long as we live and I shall carry this knowledge to other people, too!”


Taheya Samy Taha, 36 & Nadia Samy Taha, 42, Mazghouna


These two wonderful sisters are from “Mazghouna”, and they were very interested to get outside their household routines and explore the world. To their astonishment, when the workshop began, they knew how wonderful the “Argoun” is and how many beautiful and useful handicrafts they could produce of it. “The Argoun was not the only thing we benefited from here, we’ve attended plenty of workshops like Financial Negotiation, Poultry Farming, and Halfa” added Nadia. Nadia applied a lot of what she had learnt to her own benefit, especially the part concerning Poultry Farming, and the result was great. “The programme helped in englithening our brains and in making use of our spare time. We are really grateful and we hope that this would be carried out to the rest of the community”, added Taheya.


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