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HANDS ON Traditional Crafts at The City of the Dead in Cairo
Mosque,Madrasa and Mausoleum of Sultan al-Ashraf Qaytbay (No.99), A.D.1472-74 / 877-879 A.H.

Sultan Qaitbey was one of the few Mamluk rulers who died of natural causes at an old age, and throughout his long reign he was a great patron of architecture. Along with other buildings he erected in Cairo, this complex is among the most important and artistically significant in the city. Its basic plan is that of a small cruciform madrasa with a covered central courtyard, typical of late Burgi Mamluk architecture in Cairo. Besides the mosque/madrasa with a minaret, it comprises a domed mausoleum, a sabil-kuttab, and additional tomb-chambers with a separate side entrance.


The stone-built structure once stood at the heart of a very large funerary complex forming an entire “royal suburb”, of which some parts are still preserved.


The carving of the façades (which include black and white marble ablaq sections) is of the highest quality. The dome, set over an exceptionally rich scrolled zone-of-transition, uniquely combines two superimposed patterns of carved decoration: a raised geometric star pattern and floral carvings interlacing with it. The minaret, typically late Mamluk with its pavilion of marble columns supporting an onion-shaped top, is decorated with similarly elaborate stone carving.


The interior has been aptly described by Caroline Williams: “The richness of the decoration is remarkable, and yet the total effect is well proportioned and subdued. Everything there is beauty—the marble pavements, the walls, the windows, the ceiling.”


The building was thoroughly restored by the Comité de Conservation des Monuments de l’Art Arabe in the late 19th century, and then again recently: the conservation of woodwork was still ongoing in 2014.


The mosque is open for prayers and visited by tourists.

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