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

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Mosque / Khanqa of Sultan Farag Ibn Barquq (No.149), A.D.1400-11 / 803-13 A.H.

This huge multifunctional religious complex was founded by Sultan Farag Ibn Barquq (reigned 1399-1405 and 1405-1412) in honour of his father, who at the end of his life expressed the desire to be buried in the Eastern Cemetery and is interred here. Farag himself, who ascended the throne when he was ten, was killed in Syria aged twenty-three and was buried there.

 

Built of stone, the complex is among the most important and impressive in Cairo. It includes a courtyard mosque that also acted as a khanka with cells for Sufis, two sabil-kuttabs, two minarets, two domed mausolea, and an arcaded gallery joining with the earlier tomb of Anas. There were more associated residential and service buildings, indicating that Farag intended to turn this part of the desert into a living quarter of Cairo.

 

The riwaqs of the mosque (arcades around the courtyard) are covered by shallow domes supported on square pillars, an unusual feature in Cairo, where stone columns and wooden roofs are more typical. The minbar, or pulpit, donated in 1483 by Sultan Qaitbey is a rare example in marble; its carved decoration imitates the more usual wooden minbars of the period.

 

The domes over the two mausolea, decorated with zigzag patterns and with scrolled zones-of-transition, are the earliest in Cairo to be built of stone on a grand scale. They are about fourteen meters in diameter and are remarkable examples of Mamluk engineering. They include an early instance of grouping round windows in the “one-over-two-over-three” scheme typical of Burgi Mamluk architecture. Inside, the domes are decorated with elaborate painted patterns. Marble tomb markers are preserved in the mausolea, and walls and mihrabs are decorated with remarkable marble panelling and marquetry. The simpler and smaller ribbed brick dome in front of the mihrab resembles earlier Mamluk models. The arches leading to the tombs are fitted with ornate wooden grilles. The minarets are typically Burgi Mamluk, with open pavilions of marble columns supporting onion-shaped tops. The original main entrance was in the opposite corner of the building from the one used at present. Its impressive portal can be seen from the garden at the back.

 

The complex was extensively restored by the Comité de Conservation des Monuments de l’Art Arabe, including the rebuilding of one minaret.

 

The mosque is open for prayers. To the west and north of the building is a huge garden belonging to and maintained by the Ministry of Antiquities.