inside the Fatimid center, an absolute must for all visitors
is the sprawling market known as Khan al-Khalili. The original
caravanserai from which the market has grown was built in
1382 by an official of the first Circassian Sultan, Barquq,
called Garkas al-Khalili.
area is now a labyrinth of twisting alleys full of shops and
stalls. There is almost nothing that cannot be bought in Khan
al-Khalili; apart from a fair amount of tourist kitsch, there
are spices, glassware, jewellery, woodwork, textiles and metalwork
as well as fruit and household objects. With a bit of patience
and a lot of chatting and tea-drinking one can find some great
the complexes of Qalawun and al-Nasir Mohammed in the Bayn
al-Qasrayn area is the Madrasa and Mausoleum of Barquq, constructed
in 1386. Sultan Barquq ruled Egypt from 1382 to 1399, although
at one point he abdicated and was briefly imprisoned in Syria.
It was at this time that the stability of the Middle East
was threatened by the invasion ofTamurlane, who had reached
the River Euphrates by 1394. Barquq's daughter is actually
buried in his mausoleum; Barquq himself is buried in his son's
mausoleum. Barquq's son, Farag ibn Barquq, was only eleven
when his father died, but hemanaged to hold power until 1412;
he was subsequently murdered.
Barquq built a great complex in the Northern Cemetery as well
as the Zawya of Ibn Barquq (1408), a small school and shrine
dedicated to himself next to Bab Zuweila. Also next to Bab
Zuweila is the Mosque of al-Muayyad, the minarets of which
actually sit on top of the gate (the view from here is phenomenal).
This mosque was built in 1422 on the site of a prison in which
al-Muayyad had been incarcerated before his rise
power and provides a home for several hundred of Cairo's stray
cats. Just opposite the door is a small street branching off
eastwards: this is the Sharia Sukkariyya, or 'Sugar Street',
featured in the Cairo Trilogy of Naguib Mahfouz.
Northern Cemetery, or City of the Dead as it is popularly
known, is the location of many Mamluk burials. As the city
center became more crowded, so the Sultans looked for new
ground on which to construct their huge mausolea. The Mausoleum
of Farag ibn Barquq, built in 1411, has striking carved stone
domes, the earliest use of this type of decoration. Nearby
are the ruinous Complex of Ashraf Barsbey (1432) and the stunning
Mosque of Qaitbey (1474), which appears on the Egyptian £1
note and features a beautiful carved dome in a flower and
star pattern. The structures of Ibn Barquq and Qaitbey are
undoubtedly among the finest buildings Islamic Cairo has to
offer, but the location may put off the less adventurous visitor.
The City of the Dead has housed many of Cairo's poor since
the medieval period and is to this day full of people living
among the tombs. The Sultan Qaitbey also built a Wikala (a
hostel for merchants and their animals) between the Mosque
of al-Hakim and Bab Futuh. Built in 1481, this is still used
for shops and housing.
second-last Mamluk Sultan, Qansuh al-Ghouri, held the collapsing
Mamluk state together despite unrest, plague and attacks by
both Europeans and Ottomans, securing some ten years of uneasy
peace. His building works, all completed in 1505, cluster
on Sharia al-Muizz li-Din to the west of the al-Azhar Mosque.
The Wikala of al-Ghouri, now a center for arts and crafts,
contains some fine mashrabiyya windows (made from turned-wood
lattice work). The courtyard was for housing pack animals,
while the rooms were for merchants and their families; the
mashrabiyya windows were designed to protect women
from lustful eyes.
building is up an alley towards al-Azhar; further up the road
one can see some fine, if tumbledown, Ottoman houses. The
Mausoleum and Mosque and Madrasa of al-Ghouri are on opposite
sides of Sharia al-Muizz li-Din.
mausoleum, to the east, is now a cultural center in which
Sufi dancers (Whirling Dervishes) often perform; the dome
collapsed in the mid-nineteenth century. In al-Ghouri's time,
this area was a silk market where cloth and carpets were sold.
The Sultan was killed in battle at the age of 78; his body
was never recovered. His successor, Tumanbey, was subsequently
hanged by the Turks at Bab Zuweila and Egypt became a province
of the Ottoman Empire.