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

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Maq‘ad of Sultan al-Ashraf Qaytbay (No.101), A.D.1472-74 / 877-879 A.H.

This was once part of a huge palace built by Sultan Qaitbey next to his tomb. A maq‘ad (literally, a sitting-place) was part of every wealthy house in Cairo in Mamluk, and later in Ottoman times. It was a loggia raised over storerooms that were located on the ground floor. It opened on the inner courtyard, the central space of every household, with an arcade of arches supported on stone columns. From here, the master of the house overlooked the activities taking place in the courtyard.

 

This maq‘ad is unusual in being an enclosed hall with multiple windows, rather than an open loggia with arches. The peculiar construction of the front wall suggests that this was perhaps a change to the original plan. A similar hall (also with windows instead of arches) was part of the funerary complex of Amir Kebir Qurqumas nearby. The decorative stone carving on the façade and the entrance porch is of as high quality as in other parts of the complex. It includes muqarnas niches, knotted mouldings, floral motifs, inscriptions, and the sultan’s blazons. A maq‘ad was always accessible both from inner rooms and from the courtyard via its own staircase; this is also the case here. These loggias always faced north, never exposed to direct sunshine.