Al-Ghuri Funerary Complex

Al-Ghuri complex dome

In the pursuit of a bargain in the market outside, or on the way down to Bab Zuweila and the Street of the Tentmakers, it is quite possible to pass between the two halves of the Sultan al-Ghuri funerary complex—a stone’s throw away from the Khan al-Khalili—without a second thought.

The complex—consisting of a mosque and madrasa (school) on one side of the street, and a khanqah (a Sufi gathering place), mausoleum, and sabil-kuttab (a public fountain with a school above) on the other—was built between the years 1503 and 1505 by Sultan Qansuh al-Ghuri (born c. 1441; reigned 1501-16), the penultimate Mamluk sultan, who died fighting the Ottoman Turks outside Aleppo.

His body was not found after the battle, and, rather sadly, he is not buried in the magnificent mausoleum he had built for himself.

The buildings are linked by a roof across the street and the mosque is built above shops (a ‘suspended mosque’). The complex—particularly the pairing of the minaret and dome (which collapsed in the nineteenth century) on different sides of the street—was designed to be best seen when coming from Bab Zuweila (the southern gate of medieval Cairo).

Neglect, a rising water table, and earthquake damage in the early 1990s nearly led to the destruction of the al-Ghuri complex, but, fortunately, the buildings were expertly restored in 2000, and they remain with us as masterpieces of Mamluk architecture—both inside and out.

The image is of the interior of a lantern within the complex, and was post-processed to emphasize the color and geometric patterns.


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