term 'Bahri Mamluk' means 'river slave'; this dynasty were
soldier-slaves stationed on Roda island in Cairo when their
leaders seized power after the fall of the Ayyubids.
period saw much factional struggle and political instability,
but despite this, certain sultans found the resources to undertake
large-scale building projects. Al-Mansur Qalawun (1279-1290)
and his son al-Nasir Mohammed ibn Qalawun (1310-41) were two
such rulers. Their great complexes are situated in the area
called Bayn al-Qasrayn ('between the two palaces') on Sharia
al-Muizz li-Din, near Khan al-Khalili. The Madrasa, Mausoleum
and Maristan (hospital) of Qalawun was built in 1279 and has
been under repair since the 1992 earthquake. Despite the scaffolding
this fabulous building is worth seeing. Also in Bayn al-Qasrayn
are the Mausoleum of al-Nasir Mohammed, built in 1304, and
a complex of the Circassian sultan Barquq.
is actually al-Nasir's son who is buried in his mausoleum;
note the Gothic entrance, taken from a church in Akko during
the Crusades. This ruler also built the only surviving Mamluk
structure in the Citadel, a mosque dating from 1318, and a
huge aqueduct to supply the Citadel with water which runs
all the way to the Nile and still stands today. During the
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the heart of the city shifted
south to the area called Darb al-Ahmar ('the red road') to
the south and east of Bab Zuweila. Two of the earliest buildings
on the Darb al-Ahmar are the Mosque of Maridani (1339) and
the so-called Blue Mosque (1347), more properly called al-Aqsunqur.
earlier building features large re-used Pharaonic columns.
The Blue Mosque gets its nickname from the covering of blue
floral tiles on the walls. These were added to the building
in 1652 and are in the style of ceramics manufactured in Iznik
in Turkey, although the quality suggests they are provincial
imitations, possibly from Damascus. Also on the Darb al-Ahmar
is the later Mosque of Qijmas al-Ishaqi, built in 1481 during
the reign of the Circassian Mamluks.
door to the Citadel is the enormous Mosque and Madrasa of
Sultan Hassan, built between 1356 and 1363. This huge edifice
was paid for out of the savings of victims of the Black Death
that reverted to the state. The Sultan, who did not see the
finished building, placed his own mausoleum behind the Mihrab
(the niche facing Mecca), thus controversially making himself
the recipient of the congregation's prayers. This building
is one of the finest examples of Mamluk architecture, and
even better appreciated if one can find a moment between tour
parties. The other huge building opposite is a nineteenth-century
building in Mamluk style called the Mosque of al-Rifai. Some
of Egypt's royal family, including Farouk, are buried here.