Sabil-Kuttab of Katkhuda

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Sabil-Kuttab of Katkhuda
'سبيل وكتاب عبدالرحمن كتخدا'
Sabil-Kuttab of Katkhuda (14613468600).jpg
Sabil-Kuttab of Katkhuda in Cairo, Egypt
General information
Typesabil fountain
kuttab elementary school
residential wing
LocationAl-Muizz Lideenillah Street, Cairo, Egypt
Completed1744 AD
Design and construction
ArchitectAbd al-Rahman Katkhuda

Sabil-Kuttab of Katkhuda is a building from the old part of Islamic Cairo, Egypt, comprising a public fountain or sabil, an elementary Quran school or kuttab, and an adjacent residential wing. A prime example of Ottoman and Mamluk architecture, it was built in 1744 by a pioneer Egyptian architect, Katkhuda of Egypt (Abd al-Rahman Katkhuda). Some architects describe it as "The treasure of Ottoman architecture".[citation needed]


  • Arabic: سبيل وكتاب عبدالرحمن كتخدا
  • French: Sabil d'Abd al-Rahman Katkhuda
  • Sabil and Drinking-Trough of 'Abd al Rahman Katkhuda
  • Sabil-Kuttab of 'Abd ar-Rahman Katkhuda
  • Sabil-Kuttab of Abd al-Rahman Kethuda.


Sabil-Kuttab of Katkhuda is an important monument in Cairo, located on Al-Muizz Lideenillah Street.

Sabils and kuttabs were almost everywhere in old Islamic Cairo during Mamluk and Ottoman times. Sabils are facilities providing free, fresh water for thirsty people who are passing by. Kuttabs are primitive kinds of elementary schools that teach children to read and write.

The architecture of this time was so delicate that even simple facilities like sabils were designed to be pieces of art.


The upper kuttab room

The Sabil-Kuttab was built to achieve the maximum available visibility in Al-Muizz Lideenillah Street. This was achieved through building it with three free-standing sides.

The building consists of two main parts. The southern part is two stories high and contains the sabil and the kuttab from which it derives its name. The northern part is not registered and is being used now as living apartments.

The Sabil-Kuttab was built using the Mamluk style which continued to overwhelm all the styles of such buildings even after the Ottoman conquest in 1517.

The building is open on three sides and consists of grey and white stones inlaid with marble reliefs. There are also, tiles with embedded pillars at its corners.

The entrance of the Sabil has artistic writings which are verses from the Quran about "Ahl Al-Kahf". This is commonly seen in Katkhuda's buildings.

The inside of the sabil room

The kuttab is located on the second floor and is composed of five marbled columns holding the painted roof. The windows are wooden and have beautiful artistic design. This type of window is called "mashrabeyya", which is characteristic of almost all buildings of Islamic Cairo. The door and the cupboards are wooden and are carved and painted.

The structure sits on a triangular site formed by the splitting of Al-Muizz Lideenillah Street into two branches. It serves as a visual focus for the termination of this major spine, especially to those approaching it from the monuments of the Qalawunids in the Bayn al-Qasrayn area.

The three sides of the building (northern, southern and western) are symmetrical, accurately identical, and all equal in length. Each contains all the interface to hold half the circular based on two columns of marble. In the middle of the half-circular structure is a big opening that contains the cups for people to drink. The opening is covered by a uniquely designed copper mesh with holes allowing the passage of the cups in between the holes.

The entrance

The entrance of the Sabil leads to a small corridor with three doors. The first door, on the right leads to the water storing tank; the second door, on the left leads to a room with openings from which the people can drink (the sabil); the third door, opposite to the entrance, leads to the stairs of the kuttab. The horizontal dimensions of the sabil room are 4.0 x 3.5 meters.

The kuttab room is present in the second floor and it has the same dimensions as the sabil room with three windows each called mashrabeyya.


  • Mamluk architecture: Egyptian architecture which has produced many wonders of the Islamic architecture.
  • Ottoman architecture: Big domes, columns and very elegant design.

The builder[edit]

Arabic: عبدالرحمن كتخدا‎- Abd al Rahman Katkhuda

The Sabil-Kuttab of 'Abd al Rahman Katkhuda of 1744 was named for its patron, a Mamluk amir (prince) and leader of the Egyptian Janissaries. He died in 1776. He did much work in Cairo including developments to Al-Azhar University and mosque. He also rebuilt the dome of the Qala'un Mosque after an earthquake in Egypt.


An Arabic word for the place or the building which offers free fresh drinking water to passers-by or whoever asks for it.

Is a place which provides elementary education for children. It was very common in old Islamic Egypt. Kuttabs are still available as an activity of some mosques to teach the children the Quran.


See also[edit]


  • Rogers, Michael. 1974. Al-Kahira, in Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed., vol. 4. Leiden: E. J. Brill.
  • Behrens-Abouseif, Doris. 1992. The 'Abd al-Rahman Katkhuda Style in 18th c. Cairo. Annales Islamologiques 26.
  • Raymond, André. 1979. Les fontaines publiques (sabil) du Caire à l'époque ottomane (1517-1798). Annales Islamologiques 15:235-91.
  • Raymond, André. 1972. Les Constructions de l'Emir 'Abd al-Rahman Katkhuda au Caire. Annales Islamologiques 11:235-51.


Coordinates: 30°3′2.63″N 31°15′41.69″E / 30.0507306°N 31.2615806°E / 30.0507306; 31.2615806