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

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Qubba Ma‘bad al-Rifa‘i (No.108) A.D.1432 / 835 A.H. or 16th cent. A.D.

This building is quite different in appearance from other Mamluk domed mausolea in the Cemetery. A huge and squat stone-built chamber and a plain stepped zone-of-transition are covered with a plain plastered brick dome braced with a double iron ring. The construction of the dome is unusual (but not unique in Cairo), where arches spanning two windows in each corner provide the transition from square to octagon. The dating of the building is disputed. It may be an oratory described by mediaeval authors, which was built as part of the complex of Sultan al-Ashraf Barsbay for the Sufis of the Rifa‘iya order, which was very popular in Mediaeval Cairo. Other parts of this complex, including the Sultan’s tomb, are preserved on the other side of the main street. However, the present building is most probably a later structure that replaced the original in this location.Until recently, the building was used as a carpenter’s workshop. Now it is inaccessible and decaying, with burning of the surrounding garbage damaging the walls.