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

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Tomb of Amir Tashtimur (No.92), A.D.1334 / 735 A.H.

Tashtimur was known under a nickname Hummus Akhdar, or ‘green chickpeas’. Similar monikers were not unusual among the Mamluks (for example, Sultan Barquq’s name means ‘plum’.) Amir Tashtimur was the saqi, or Cup-Bearer of Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad. After the Sultan’s death, his two sons were installed on the throne successively within a year, the second only six years old. Tashtimur helped to depose the child and install as Sultan an older brother, Ahmad I. He was made the Viceroy of Egypt, but soon afterwards the ungrateful Ahmad had him arrested, sent in chains to Syria, and executed.

 

This tomb, built eight years before the amir’s death, is the oldest in this part of the cemetery, when the area, then called Midan al-Qabaq was used for parades and for military training. With its stepped zone-of-transition, one-over-two keel arch windows, and a ‘jelly-mould’ dome built of bricks and plastered, it is typical of early Mamluk tombs that had changed very little from the preceding periods. This dome, and the neighbouring ones also dating from Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad’s reign, make an interesting comparison with the nearby mausoleum of Sultan Qaitbey, showing how dome-building evolved during the Mamluk period from plastered brick to its ultimate sophistication and mastery in stone-carving.