Sultan Al-Ghuri Complex

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Sultan Qansuh Al-Ghuri Complex
Al-Ghuri Complex 0930.JPG
Sultan al-Ghuri's complex, with mausoleum/khanqah (left), and mosque/madrasa (right).
Ecclesiastical or organizational statusMosque
Year consecrated1503-1505
LocationEgypt Cairo, Egypt
Sultan Al-Ghuri Complex is located in Egypt
Sultan Al-Ghuri Complex
Shown within Egypt
Geographic coordinatesCoordinates: 30°2′45.78″N 31°15′35.57″E / 30.0460500°N 31.2598806°E / 30.0460500; 31.2598806
Architect(s)Tariq AlMurry
Architectural typereligious
Architectural styleMamluk

The Sultan Al-Ghuri Complex was built between the years 1503 and 1505. This huge complex consists of a khanqah, mausoleum, sebil-kuttab, mosque and madrasa and is located at the Fahhamin Quarter, al Mu'izz li-Din Allah street in Cairo, Egypt. The structure lies on both sides of the al Mu'izz li-Din Allah street, with the congregational mosque-madrasa built on the western side, and the khanqah-mausoleum-sabil-kuttab on the eastern side.[1]


A well-known drawing of the Ghuriya buildings and the market street in between them, made by David Roberts in 1839.

The second last of the Mamluk sultans, Sultan Qansuh al-Ghuri was the last Mamluk sultan to enjoy a regin of any duration (1501–16). He was called 'Al-Ghuri' after the barracks Al-Ghuri, where he was garrisoned.[2] He was the governor of Tarsus, then the chamberlain of Aleppo and he was involved heavily in the military campaign against the Ottomans in 1484. Al-Ghuri died of a heart attack while fighting the Ottoman Turks outside Aleppo, following the defection of Amir Khayrbak in the midst of the battle. His body was never found, and was not buried in his mausoleum on which he had spent a fortune.[1] Like other Sultans of his time, Al-Ghuri is portrayed as energetic, cruel, superstitious and despot leader. Harsh punishments were imposed on people during his reign for crimes committed or during money collection. Despite cruelty, Al-Ghuri had a huge fond of music, poetry and flowers and was attracted to Sufis and other pious men. He was a great patron of architecture, and a man of refined cultural tastes. Although the economic conditions was somewhat miserable, the sultan pursued to the very end of his reign a passion for regal pomp, spending considerable funds and confiscating properties to build representative buildings.[2]


The funerary complex has a remarkable layout as a double architectural composition, with two blocks straddling the main street in the heart of medieval Cairo. There are two blocks: the western - consisting of a Mosque with its minaret; the eastern one is a funerary complex, consisting of a mausoleum, a hall called Khanqah, a maq'ad, a graveyard and a sabil-maktab (or sabil-kuttab).[3] Both the buildings are built above shops connected to markets stretching along the side street. To provide shade for the street a wooden roof links the buildings. Although the dome and the minaret are separated by the street, they were conceived as a single, harmonious composition and were united by blue ceramic decoration. These blue ceramics is similar to the blue ceramic decoration other the sultan's minaret at Al-Azhar.[4]

The complex was designed to reveal its minaret-and-dome composition to an onlooker coming from the south. Unlike other religious complexes, the facades of the complex are not adjusted to the street alignment. They rather follow the orientation of the two sides of the complex. This creates a square and is semi-enclosed at the north end by the projection of the sabil-kuttab of the mausoleum, and at the south end by the projection of the minaret of the Madrasa. The open space was rented to people to create market stalls. The market economy and the rents helped maintain and upkeep the architecture.


The facades of the two buildings are not identical, however they have similar features such as the high-relief carving running along their upper walls. The portal recesses have marble paneling in dots of black and white. The columns at the corner of the Mosque have capitals of Coptic and Byzantine styles, indicating that the Mamluk craftsmen were imitating pre-Islamic designs.[4] The huge minaret is visible from near Bab Zuwayla, and is a four storied rectangular tower of a considerable height. This tower had a four-headed upper structure and was the first of its kind to be built in Cairo. The present top with five-headed structure is a modern addition after the collapse of the top in the nineteenth century. The interior is richly paved and paneled with black and white marble. However the stone carving covers the walls but it is of poor quality, shallow and repetitive.

Khanqah and mausoleum[edit]

The main facade of the funerary compound is paneled with recesses crowned with a rectangular muqarans crest, including windows of various shapes.[5] The main portal leads to an unusual vestibule with two opposite entrances, the one on the right-hand side leading to the mausoleum and the other to the Khanqah. On the northern edge a sabil-kuttab projects into the street with three facades. The mausoleum on the south side of the interior presently has only its rectangular base and transition zone. The dome, made of brick and covered completely with green tiles, collapsed at the beginning of the century.

On the left or north side of the entrance resides the Khanqah, though no living units were attached to it. The waqf deed says that Sufis had their meetings there, but there are no living accommodations provided for them. however, there are a few living units attached to the Madrasa across the street. The khanwah is a T shaped hall with a mihrab, decorated like the mausoleum and the Mosque with a polychrome marble dado and pavement. Each of the three mihrabs of the complex has a distinct pattern of marble mosaics. The polychrome marble pavement of the sabil, displaying a dense composition of twenty-pointed geometric stars, is one of the most elaborate in Cairo.[6]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Archnet".
  2. ^ a b Behrens-Abouseif, Doris. "Cairo of the Mamluks". Cairo:AUC Press, 2008. p 295
  3. ^ Behrens-Abouseif, Doris. "Cairo of the Mamluks". Cairo:AUC Press, 2008. p 296
  4. ^ a b Behrens-Abouseif, Doris. "Cairo of the Mamluks". Cairo:AUC Press, 2008. p 297
  5. ^ Behrens-Abouseif, Doris. "Cairo of the Mamluks". Cairo:AUC Press, 2008. p 300
  6. ^ Behrens-Abouseif, Doris. "Cairo of the Mamluks". Cairo:AUC Press, 2008. p 302

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