HANDS ON Traditional Crafts at The City of the Dead in Cairo

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Rab‘ of Sultan al-Ashraf Qaytbay (No.104), ca A.D.1474 / 879 A.H.

This is the northernmost surviving part of the enormous religious complex founded by Sultan Qaitbey, who turned the area into a “royal suburb” spread around the mosque/madrasa in its centre.

 

One of the few surviving examples in Cairo of a once popular type of communal residential building comprising multi-storeyed sections that included storerooms on the ground floor and residential units on the upper floors, each with its own staircase and bathroom (Sufi convents were often built following the same arrangements). The rab‘ of Sultan Qaytbay consisted of sixteen such units placed on either sides of the entrance gate; its façade is 85 meters long. The façade is entirely of stone; other parts of the structure are of brick and stone. Although the façade is plain, the entrance porch is ornately carved in knotted mouldings, floral motifs, inscriptions, and the sultan’s blazons. It is covered with a trilobe hood with muqarnas niches in the central semi-dome. The façade and some other parts of the structure were conserved by the Comité de Conservation des Monuments de l’Art Arabe, but the building is inaccessible, unused and ruined. The building was used to house travellers, with the income supporting the upkeep of the mosque at the centre of the complex and its associated charities. Almost every religious building in Cairo was supported by such endowments held by a charitable trust, known as waqf.