Monday, June 27, 2016

Saliba St.; Wonders Gone to waste. (1)

Saliba street is one of the roads that radiates out of the citadel square, it connects between the citadel and sayda Zeinab squares. The first time I visited Saliba St. was about 7 years ago. I remember falling in love with the place.
Old monuments side by side with old mosques and old neighborhoods, narrow alleys and coffee shops. The first time with my friends was an expedition to discover old Cairo. It was on Friday I guess and we wanted to have breakfast along the way, we came across a simple Falafel restaurant but there where no place for us to sit and enjoy a simple meal, I remember how the people were nice to us, a supermarket owner pulled us chairs and offered us a place to eat.
I wonder if there were more future to the place than getting lost between expanding dwellings.
One day I realized that I had to enter each mosque on that road and discover the difference between each of them, whether it was in structure or time of building or any other. 
I started with two.

location of the two mosques from the distinctive landmarks
Figure 1 Madrasa of Amir Sarghitmish
(Photo credit: Facebook Page إدارة الوعى الاثرى بمنطقة الجمالية)
When you reach this point on Saleba St. you come to notice the huge Ibn Tulun mosque, it catches your breath away with its size and famous long minaret that overlooks Cairo. But you might want to stop at the corner of the street heading to ibn tulun to notice the beautiful madrasa of Amir Sarghitmish El Nasry.

Figure 2 The hallway that leads to the courtyard

© 2016 Samaa Allam All Rights Reserved

Figure 3 The cat and walls of the

© 2016 Samaa Allam All Rights

At the beginning, I thought it was only a part of the huge complex of the madrasa and mosque of ibn tulun.

but then I realized it was on its own, I decided to dig a little deeper and found out that The Amir Sarghitmish’s career began under Sultan Al-Muzaffar Haji, and he died during the reign of Sultan Hasan. He built his madrasa adjoining the mosque of Ibn Tulun.

The madrasa taught the Hanafi rite and its students were Persians.

The moment I entered the madrasa I felt isolated from the entire surrounding I entered from the remarkable gate into a few small steps to the corridor and then to the main courtyard, it’s a place where you can sit and relax from the outside noise of Cairo just for a little while, a cat is always there to accompany you and the mosque is not so often visited by tourists so it’s a place where you can maintain a calm state of mind.
You might find an old woman or few old men at the time of prayers but other than that the mosque is almost always empty.

Figure 4 The sky view from one of the IWANS
© 2016 Samaa Allam All Rights Reserved
The main façade is on the west side with a stalactite portal, the façade facing Ibn Tulun mosque has shops in it.

The madrasa plan is cruciform with four unequal Iwans. An unusual feature in Cairo madrasas is the large dome that covers the prayer hall.
The original plan has
collapsed and has since been rebuilt using an old photograph.
In the middle of the courtyard is an ablution fountain in the shape of a pavilion of eight marble columns.

The walls are covered with marble slabs and the decoration of the slabs varies from one wall to the other.
The exotic character of the domes of the madrasa is likely to be related to the Persian students as several similar domes are found in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
An octagonal minaret decorated with two colored inlaid masonry forming sunrise motifs on the first story and zigzag motifs on the second story.

The Mosque of Taghri Bardi (1440)

Figure 5 The main facade of Taghri Bardi's Mosque (Photo Credit: Moustafa Hassan Pinterest)
I was on my way to attend a lecture nearby Saliba St. when I stumbled upon Taghri Bardi’s mosque. What was significant to me about it was the brick walls, But like any other on Saliba St. the façade and structure was almost as interesting.

I entered from the main gate and left from another one where I found myself in a narrow alley, for a moment there I felt a time lapse or a little bit lost but a second later I realized it was just a sideway from the main street.

I didn’t have much time back then as I was late for a lecture but Later I looked up the mosque for any amusing facts and I did find a few.  

Figure 6 The second façade
(Photo credit: John A. and Caroline Williams)

Ibn Taghri Bardi was an Egyptian historian who wrote about 17 books, the most interesting one among them was his book al-Nujum al-zahira Fi Muluk Misr wa'l-Qahira, the book lists Egypt’s history since the Muslim conquest to Egypt till the time he wrote the book.

It contains two facades the main one is on Saliba St. while the other is on the left side of the mosque. The gate, the minaret and the façade are supported by stalactites.

Figure7 the roof top from the minaret (Photo credit:
John A. and Caroline Williams)

Figure 9 The walls and lined up oriental chairs

© 2016 Samaa Allam All Rights Reserved

“The mosque was completely built to rely on fresh air and natural light” explained
Naheel Ismail in his
Taghri Bardi Complex’s Presentation. Openings were either made out of wood or left open.

What first came to my interest
was the walls that are made of bricks and the
beautifully oriental chairs
lined up against them.
A stone built dome that
is different than others built at the same construction period. (Mamluk Bahari)
The minaret has a very distinct structure that makes the mosque easily identified if it’s your first tour there. It consists of two stories; the first is a square and the second is cylindrical. The minaret is also decorated with stalactites.

Figure 8 Interior view of The Mihrab topped by round window

(Photo credit: John A. and Caroline Williams)

Sarghatmish Elnasri's and Taghri bardi's mosques are only a fraction of what actually lies on Saliba st., More is yet to come.



  1. Waiting for part 2..

    It would be great if you can add some names and quotes in Arabic to match the atmosphere..

    Great effort!

    1. I was actually intending to write part two all in Arabic for a change, but will keep that in mind for later articles.

      Would love to hear your feedback on the next one, Thanks A lot!

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