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

Tomb of Sultan Qansuh Abu Sa‘id (No.164), A.D.1499 / 904 A.H.

The mausoleum that now stands on a traffic island in the middle of a busy road is the only surviving part of a much larger complex. Its location at the northern end of the “Mamluks’ Desert” earned it a sobriquet Qubbat al-Ghafir, “Dome of the Watchman” (although there are Mamluk tombs located even further north.)


Qansuh was a mamluk of Sultan Qaitbey under whose protection he rose to high offices. As an amir of Qaitbey, he built a domed tomb next to the Citadel. After his master’s death Qansuh was made the custodian of his heir, and eventually became sultan himself. Then he commissioned the much larger and more sumptuous mausoleum in the Eastern Cemetery. He only reigned for a year, however, before being deposed, exiled to Alexandria, and finally killed.


The complex pattern of interlacing triple arrows carved on the stone dome is unique in Cairo. It harmonises perfectly with the crystalline forms of the zone-of-transition under the dome, which is typical of the final period of Mamluk architecture.

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