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Creswell Photographs Re-examinedNew Perspectives on Islamic Architecture$

Bernard O'Kane

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9789774162442

Published to Cairo Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5743/cairo/9789774162442.001.0001

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The Mamluk Mosque of Amir Husayn: A Reconstruction

The Mamluk Mosque of Amir Husayn: A Reconstruction

(p.163) 7 The Mamluk Mosque of Amir Husayn: A Reconstruction
Creswell Photographs Re-examined

Chahinda Karim

American University in Cairo Press

Abstract and Keywords

The mosque of Amir Husayn ibn Jandar is a magnificent example of mosques from the first half of the fourteenth century. This mosque, which lies west of Bur Sa'id Street and to the north of the Museum of Islamic Art, has not attracted the attention of many art historians because of its bad state of preservation. This chapter tries to bring to light the forgotten mosque of an important and powerful amir of the sultan al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qalawun with a tentative reconstruction of its original plan, based on the few remains and on photographs and drawings of parts that are no longer extant. It shows that the present mosque occupies only about one third of its original size and that it should therefore be considered one of the major mosques of its period.

Keywords:   mosque, Bur Sa'id Street, Museum of Islamic Art, Amir Husayn ibn Jandar

The mosque of Amir Husayn, which lies west of Bur Sa‘id Street and to the north of the Museum of Islamic Art, has not attracted the attention of many art historians because of its bad state of preservation. This essay will try to bring to light the forgotten mosque of an important and powerful amir of the sultan al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qalawun with a tentative reconstruction of its original plan, based on the few remains and on photographs and drawings of parts that are no longer extant. This essay will show that the present mosque occupies only about one third of its original size and that it should therefore be considered one of the major mosques of its period.


Amir Sharaf al-Din ibn Abi Bakr ibn As‘ad ibn Jandar Bek arrived in Egypt from Turkey with his father during the reign of the sultan al-Dhahir Baybars al-Bunduqdari.1 He accompanied the amir Husam al-Din Lajin to Syria when the latter was posted there. Then when Lajin became the sultan, Amir Husayn was promoted to amir tablakhana (the one responsible for the musical processions accompanying the sultan) in Damascus, where he stayed until his return to Egypt during the third reign of the sultan al-Nasir Muhammad ibn (p.164) Qalawun, who then promoted him further to amir alf (amir of one thousand). Amir Husayn was apparently a good hunter, because it is mentioned that he received a gift of a collection of special birds from the sultan, who also made him amir shikar, the one responsible for the royal hunt, with the added responsibility of supervising the digging of canals and building bridges. In fact, he was even allowed to go six times on pilgrimage with the sultan, but on the last journey he broke his leg on the way and had to be left in Damascus. When his health began to fail him, he went to live in Damascus for a while, then in Safad, but returned to Egypt where the sultan granted him the iqta‘ of the amir Aslam al-Baha'i.2 It seems clear that Amir Husayn was a favorite Mamluk of Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad, but the latter's trust and favors ended when the amir completed building his mosque. The reason for this is that when the amir finished his mosque he built a bridge over the khalij leading to it. He then asked the sultan to allow him to open a gate in the western wall of the city to facilitate access to his mosque.3 The wali of Egypt complained to the sultan that the opening was much bigger than what was agreed upon and could be compared to Bab Zuwayla,4 suggesting that the amir was planning to overthrow the sultan and to rule Egypt himself. This angered the sultan, who ordered the amir to be banished immediately to Syria. He lived there until he was allowed to return on account of his weak health; shortly afterward he died in Egypt. Amir Husayn was described by Ibn Taghribirdi as pleasant, soft spoken, and generous;5 he adds that he died in 728/1327 and was buried in his mausoleum attached to his mosque.6

In addition to the mosque and mausoleum that are studied in this paper, Amir Husayn constructed several nearby buildings that are no longer extant. These included a house beside his mosque on the west bank of the khalij and overlooking it, where he died, and a qantara, or bridge, over the khalij leading to both his house and his mosque. The bridge was still in use until the year 1897 when the khalij beneath it was filled in. Its position today, according to Muhammad Ramzi, would be the northwestern corner of Bab al-Khalq facing the entrance of Harat al-Amir Husayn.7 Finally, there was the gate in the western wall that led to his demise and which is no longer extant.

(p.165) The History of the Mosque

Amir Husayn built his mosque in the year 719/1319. Strangely enough, historians did not pay any attention to the building in spite of the importance of the founder, the location of the building, the bridge he built to lead to his house and mosque, and the opening in the western wall of the city that ultimately led to his downfall. The only description of it was by al-Maqrizi,8 who noted the minaret above the entrance, about which Ibn Iyas added that it collapsed in a storm and was probably rebuilt in 867/1462.9 ‘Ali Pasha Mubarak, writing in the nineteenth century, stated that most of the mosque of Amir Husayn was in ruins but that prayers still took place in the western part of the mosque.10 He added that the mosque had two doors, a large one beside the Hammam al-‘Aziziyya, which no longer survives, and a stone minaret with intricate decoration. The other entrance was on Harat al-Manasra. The hara (alley) included a well and a cistern as well as some trees. He alsoadded that the mosque had a waqf document, but I have searched for it in vain.

The Comité de Conservation des Monuments de ľArt Arabe (hereafter the Comité) mentioned in 1884 that the mosque was in a bad state of preservation and that they restored the door jambs of the main gate, the corner of the minaret, and cleared the area in front of the gate as well as the floor of the mosque.11 Then in 1902 they mentioned building a new roof and the clearing of the stucco carving on the qibla wall.12 In 1910 we are told that there was a project in the Ministry of Awqaf (the ministry responsible for religious endowments) to restore the mosque that was given to the Comité for approval.13 The project suggested rebuilding the arches perpendicular to the qibla wall and not parallel to it as in the surviving parts. The Comité then asked them to move their reconstruction 60 cm away from the qibla wall to preserve its beautiful stucco.14 They also asked for the repair of one of the capitals found in the open space in front of the prayer area and requested that it should be reused in the reconstruction,15 and that the project should take measures against the house encroaching behind the mihrab.

The present mosque occupies about one third of the original size of the mosque; the restoration project of the Ministry of Awqaf did not (p.166) touch the qibla wall. The minaret and the old gate on Harat al-Amir Husayn were removed after the stones were dismantled in 1984. The High Dam Contractor Company (Shirkat al-Sadd al-‘Ali li'l-Muqawalat) was responsible for the dismantling of the stones of the minaret because it was leaning, and also for dismantling the gate, but the company unfortunately did not indicate their original location.

The Egyptian Antiquities Organization (now the Supreme Council of Antiquities) had at the time intended to rebuild the minaret and the gate and asked the architectural firm of Dr. Mostafa Lam‘i to prepare the necessary drawings, but the project was never started.

The Location of the Mosque

The mosque of Amir Husayn lies between Harat al-Amir Husayn and Harat Suwayqat al-Manasra, both roads being perpendicular to Port Sa‘id Street (fig.7.1). Al-Maqrizi also tells us that the location of the mosque was originally a garden on the western side of the khalij;16 ‘Ali

The Mamluk Mosque of Amir Husayn: A Reconstruction

Fig. 7.1. Map showing location of the mosque of Amir Husayn (by Chahinda Karim).

(p.167) Pasha Mubarak adds that the garden was beside Harat Ghayt al-‘Ida which was an important street where only amirs lived.17 The hara had three doors, which were closed at night; no one could enter, except from the main gate, which was near the mosque of Amir Husayn and guarded. He adds that the hara remained important until 1250/1834, then it deteriorated.

Description of the Mosque

The extant original parts of the mosque include the qibla wall, the mihrab, the stucco decoration on the qibla wall, and the mausoleum. Photographs taken by K.A.C. Creswell in the 1960s, by Bernard O’Kane in 1981, by the author in 1986 and 2007, and again by Bernard O’Kane in 2008 show the gradual deterioration of the stucco decoration, which is today in great need of preservation (figs. 7.27.8).

The round-arched mihrab recess is framed with a column on each side, with ribbed bell-shaped capitals carved with an unclear stem-and-leaf design (figs. 7.2, 7.3, 7.5, 7.6). This combination of round column and ribbed capital and base are reminiscent of the columns of the mihrab of the dome of Qarasunqur. The two columns support a pointed arch that is enclosed in a larger round arch resting on the sidewalls. The mihrab was faced with black, red, and white marble panels, but the panels one sees today are clearly replacements, since the dominant color is gray and the ones in the middle of the recess are painted (fig.7.5). These are framed at the top and at the bottom with a 20-cm-wide band carved with a trilobed leaf on a base represented alternately upright and inverted in black and white marble. These bands are framed by a projecting frieze that continues outside the recess of the mihrab, reaching the columns. The upper decorative frieze is topped by a row of double columns with Corinthian capitals supporting seventeen arches, and the areas between the arches show flat relief marble carving. The conch is decorated with colored marble in a zigzag design ending in joggled voussoirs and is framed by an inner pointed arch resting on the columns and the round arch resting on the sidewalls. The joggled design of the outer arch consists of a vase with a round body and a flared neck on a stand. Finally, the spandrels were decorated with an interlacing design, white on a black background, where the bands form (p.168) a stylized bird with two wings, similar to the design on the portal of the complex of Sultan Qalawun, which is of Syrian influence and which appears first at the Mashhad al-Husayn in Aleppo (569/1173–74) and in later examples, such as the mihrab of the al-Firdaws Mosque (633/1235). In the most recent restoration the band of birds was replaced by a plain pinkish stone (fig.7.3).

The Stucco Decoration above the Mihrab

The stucco decoration covers the area surrounding the spandrels and above the mihrab recess to the ceiling (figs. 7.27.4). The center of the decoration shows a trilobed window divided at the center by a Y-shape, where the lobes are keel-arched, the central upper one being taller than the lower two. The stucco grilles of the windows show a poorly carved design of circles (which does not appear to be original) but this has disappeared in the two lower windows (fig.7.3). The stucco grilles

The Mamluk Mosque of Amir Husayn: A Reconstruction

Fig. 7.2. Mosque of Amir Husayn, mihrab, 1981 (left) andFig. 7.3. Mosque of Amir Husayn, mihrab, 2008 (right) (photographs by Bernard O’Kane).

The Mamluk Mosque of Amir Husayn: A Reconstruction

Fig. 7.4. Mosque of Amir Husayn, detail of stucco above mihrab, 2008 (photograph by Bernard O’Kane).

of the windows consist of a stem-and-leaf design including trilobed leaves and half palmettes and the three keel-arched windows as well as the round arch surrounding them are framed by a band showing an undulating stem-and-leaf design. The spandrels of the round arch have in their center a square that curves on the side of the arch, imitating its shape. Each square has at its center a circle with a loop on each side, where each loop forms part of the white stucco framing the square. The circle in the middle of the square is filled with a geometric grille, while the corners are filled with a stem-and-leaf design. The area around the square is filled with a repetitive three-lobed arch filled with a stem-and-leaf design. The workmanship is of excellent quality and in both high and low relief. Below this area one sees on both sides a band of trilobed leaves framed by two narrow bands of interlacing designs. Underneath this band are eight lobed arches, four on each side of the mihrab conch, which are similar to those on Salar's mihrab at the mosque of ‘Amr ibn al-‘As (703/1303).18 The eight arches rest on three tiers of muqarnas, the lower consisting of four recesses, the second three, and the top just one recess. The arches rest on stucco columns with bell-shaped capitals and bases and are filled with geometrical and (p.170) leaf ornaments in two patterns. The outer pair of each four show a star pattern surrounded by intersecting hexagons, the inner pair an interlocking inverted Y-pattern.

The two squares on the side are decorated with a bukhariyya (fig.7.4), similar to the ones carved in the outer transitional zone of the dome of the amir Sunqur Sa‘di (715/1315), which are almost contemporary to those in the mosque of Amir Husayn. Beyond the two bukhariyyas, on each side is a rectangular window within a pointed arched recess. The windows were covered with stucco grilles showing a star design combined with a trilobed leaf, but these are no longer extant (seefigs. 7.2,7.3). The spandrels of the pointed arch shows one- and two-lobed leaves coming out of an undulating stem framed by a band carved with a geometric design consisting of upright and inverted triangles.

The qibla wall is pierced by four other windows, two on each side of the mihrab, all of similar size. The wall is also decorated with stucco bukhariyyas, two on the right as one faces the mihrab and three on the left, all decorated with leaf elements and two with calligraphy (figs. 7.5,7.6). The large inscription band that runs across the middle of the bukhariyya on the right of the mihrab is in high-relief naskhi script and reads, “There is only one God, the Exalted, the Wise.”19

The recess of the first window on the right projects slightly from the wall. Only part of the arch and the spandrels have survived. The spandrels of the arch show remains of stucco carving consisting of two-lobed leaves in a stem-and-leaf design on a floral background. The whole window recess is framed by a heavily restored geometric band forming triangular spaces filled with trilobed leaves; its stucco grille has disappeared.

The second bukhariyya on the wall that did not survive was similar in shape to the first, but its interior was filled with interlacing bands that were filled with six-lobed leaves (fig.7.6).

The second window lies also within a pointed arch resting on two stucco columns with plain capitals and bases. The front of the arch is decorated with a repetitive leaf design around half palmettes. Remains of the stucco grille can still be seen showing a star pattern that was filled with five-lobed leaves on bases. The spandrels are filled with a stem-and-leaf design. The window is then framed on the outside by a band showing a (p.171)

The Mamluk Mosque of Amir Husayn: A Reconstruction

Fig. 7.5. Mosque of Amir Husayn, qibla wall to the right of the mihrab (ComitéBulletin, 1910).

The Mamluk Mosque of Amir Husayn: A Reconstruction

Fig. 7.6. Mosque of Amir Husayn, qibla wall to the left of the mihrab (ComitéBulletin, 1910).

(p.172) repetitive five-lobed leaf like the ones in the stucco grille, while the corners are filled with small squares filled with a geometric design.

The left side of the qibla wall has a bukhariyya identical to the one on the right of the mihrab but with the addition of a central band with an inscription in naskhi that continues in the other window where it reads, “Religion to God is Islam” (fig.7.7).20

Beside the bukhariyya one can see the first window on this side, which is almost identical to the window on the right of the mihrab but in a better state of preservation. The difference is in the detail of the stucco carving where the front of the arch shows a one-lobed leaf in a repetitive design combined with half palmettes, and the spandrels have undulating stems with half palmettes. The window is then framed with a geometric design of small squares filled with intersecting bands (fig.7.8). The bukhariyya beside the window that is filled with a geometrical pattern is similar to the one on the right side of the mihrab but is in a poor state of preservation.

The Mamluk Mosque of Amir Husayn: A Reconstruction

Fig. 7.7. Mosque of Amir Husayn, first bukhariyya to the left of the mihrab, 2008 (photograph by Bernard O’Kane).

The Mamluk Mosque of Amir Husayn: A Reconstruction

Fig. 7.8. Mosque of Amir Husayn, window recess on left with intact grille, 1981 (photograph by Bernard O’Kane).

The second window on this side, judging from the remains, was probably similar to the one on the right side of the mihrab, and also the bukhariyya that follows, judging from the drawing of the Comité in 1910, was similar to the one mentioned above.

One can conclude that the stucco carving of the qibla wall in the mosque was of high quality and typical of its period where Fatimid influence was still predominant.21 It can be compared to the stucco on the qibla wall of the iwan of Mustafa Pasha,22 with the windows of the original wall of the mosque of Amir Qusun, and with the stucco carving of the madrasa of al-Jukandar, but in Amir Husayn it is of even better quality carving. It is very different from the stucco on the minaret of the madrasa of Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad from the beginning of the fourteenth century and from the stucco of its mihrab, where the first shows the influence of al-Andalus and the second of Persia.

(p.174) The Mausoleum

The mausoleum lies behind the qibla wall and is entered through a door on the left side of the qibla wall; it also has a window overlooking the qibla riwaq (fig.7.11). It is square and its dome cannot be seen from the outside. It was described by Creswell as having a shallow plain dome that is lower than the walls of the mosque and resting on plain squinches.23 Although architecturally not of great interest, it is important as the earliest known mausoleum attached to a jami‘, or Friday mosque.

The Entrance

The entrance was demolished in 1984 but can be analyzed from a drawing of the Department of Antiquities dated 1981 (fig.7.9 and also by photographs taken by Creswell and O’Kane (fig.7.10;pl.7.1). The location of the main entrance was in the southwestern part of the mosque overlooking Harat al-Amir Husayn. The height was 7.6 m and the width 6.45 m; it was topped by a stepped cresting. The pointed arch of the entrance was 3.25 m wide and 1.6 m deep and was framed by a molding.

The conch of the arch is decorated with ribs and flutes radiating from a pointed, arched center and ending in intersecting half circles. The foundation inscription lies under the conch where one can see a thuluth inscription that reads:

This blessed mosque was built by the grace and generosity of God on the orders of the poor slave of God Husayn, son of Jandar Bek, may God forgive him, in the year seven hundred and nineteen. [This was preceded by a verse, 9:18, of the Qur'an.]

Under this inscription one can see a joggled relieving arch in a bad state of preservation above an undecorated lunette, all framed by a molding.24 The joggled red or black and white lintel is also framed by a molding. The door was 1.6 m wide and 2.43 m high. The whole entrance extended inside the mosque and was covered by a vault 3.71 m deep, over which stood the minaret. The entrance had no side maksalas. The Comité restored the upper sides of the entrance, as well as the corners of the minaret, built five steps leading down to the entrance because of the rising street level, and also-cleared part of the court in 1884.25 They (p.175)
The Mamluk Mosque of Amir Husayn: A Reconstruction

Fig. 7.9. Mosque of Amir Husayn, drawing of the entrance and minaret (Egyptian Antiquities Department).

also removed a 4.25-m-high wall that led to the present mosque. This wall had two windows that resembled those of the present mosque, so it was probably built at the same time. This wall could still be seen in 1987, but is no longer there, having been replaced by a plain new one.

The Minaret

The minaret (fig.7.10) that was dismantled was not original. We are told by Ibn Iyas that in the month of Jumada al-Akhir in the year 866 (p.176)

The Mamluk Mosque of Amir Husayn: A Reconstruction

Fig. 7.10. Mosque of Amir Husayn, minaret, 1981 (photograph by Bernard O’Kane).

(March 1462) a thunderous storm occurred and lightning hit the minaret of Amir Husayn, causing the upper part to burn and fall down, so the rest of the minaret was removed.26 One can assume that the minaret in the photograph was rebuilt around the same year or shortly after. The minaret was dismantled in 1984 and the figure drawn by the Department of Antiquities (fig.7.9) are therefore of the minaret built around the year 866/1462 and not the original one.

The minaret of 866/1462 stood on a square base, with each side measuring 3.05 m, and was 26.5 m high. Above this was the octagonal (p.177) area that rested on a transitional zone of four inverted triangles. The octagonal area had eight recesses, four with rectangular and four with blind windows. Each window lay within a trilobed arch that stood in a muqarnas recess resting on two columns with bell-shaped capitals and bases. The muqarnas recesses were framed by a molding forming keel arches with a loop at the apex; then every two arches were separated by two vertical moldings with a loop in the center. Above those recesses were the remains of an illegible inscription. This octagonal area then ended in a balcony resting on four tiers of muqarnas. Above the balcony the minaret was round for 6.45 m and decorated with a three-dimensional zigzag design that is very similar to that on the minaret of the complex of Sultan Inal in the Northern Cemetery (855–60/1451–56). The third section, which was 5.2 m high and also round, appears to have been a Turkish restoration. Whether this minaret was a copy of the original one is difficult to ascertain because it resembles both the minaret of al-Khatiri (740/1340) and that of Inal, which was contemporary to its reconstruction.27

The Present Mosque

The present mosque can only be reached from a door in a new wall along Harat al-Amir Husayn. The door leads to an open court with the façade of the prayer area on the right. In 1986 the mosque was submerged by rising ground water and could not be entered, but after its most recent conservation it has now been dried out. The present prayer area is rectangular. The qibla wall is 28.5 m long and the depth is 13.75 m. The main entrance is now opposite the mihrab, but can only be reached through a small entrance leading to the court in front of it. This prayer hall is the one built in 1910 according to the plan presented by the Ministry of Awqaf that was mentioned at the beginning of this chapter. On each side of the central main gate one can see two recesses, each with two windows. The lintel, relieving arch, and lunette of the entrance are without decoration and are topped by a rectangular keel-arched window. The upper part of the door is framed by a molding forming a square at the apex of the keel-arched rectangular window. All of this is framed by another molding in the shape of a stepped cresting. The upper part of the entrance is decorated with two (p.178) small squares with five larger ones in between, each decorated with a circular design.

The top rectangular parts of the recesses on each side of the entrance are narrower than the base. The lower windows have a wooden grille and are topped by a pointed arch within a larger pointed arch. Above these are two keel-arched windows with a central square one. Each recess is then topped by a stucco molding forming two squares with a rectangular area in between. A vertical molding can also be seen on the corners of the façade. The two windows on the right overlook the staircase leading to the roof of the building. The round-arched window below opens onto a small room that opens onto the ablution area. The cresting on top of the façade is definitely not typical of the fourteenth century.

The court in front of this prayer area measures 15.40 m perpendicular to the building and 37.40 parallel to it. The side facing Harat al-Amir Husayn is 16.5 m. These measurements are based on the map drawn by the Ministry of Public Works in 1937. The side entrance of the mosque opens onto the Suwayqat al-Manasra Road. It is today a plain rectangular opening.

The Interior of the Mosque Today

The present mosque, rebuilt in 1910, is three aisles deep with arches running parallel and perpendicular to the qibla wall for the first two aisles then only parallel facing the qibla wall so as not to interrupt the stucco carving of the original qibla wall. The wooden ceiling has a lantern in the center resting on four pillars. Beside the pillars on both sides and parallel to the qibla are round columns then pillars attached to the side wall. The pillars and columns carry horseshoe arches. The round pillars are of white marble and have muqarnas capitals resembling a lotus flower. Above the capitals one can see the impost blocks with either intersecting star patterns or stalactites at the springing of the arch. The wooden ceilings are carved with geometric designs. The windows of the wall opposite the qibla wall has grilles with a twelve-sided star pattern. There are two interesting wooden arches on each side perpendicular to the qibla wall, but it must be pointed out that these are repairs from 1910 built in front of the original qibla wall. (p.179)

The Mamluk Mosque of Amir Husayn: A Reconstruction

Fig. 7.11. Mosque of Amir Husayn, present interior measurements (by Chahinda Karim).

The Original Ground Plan of the Mosque

No plan or drawing of the original mosque exists and the surviving parts consist only of the qibla wall, so any reconstruction must be a tentative one. The following reconstruction is based on a number of factors and assumptions.

  1. 1. The old plan was presumably similar if not identical to contemporary mosques.

  2. 2. The court in front of the mosque was part of the original building, and the buildings surrounding this area did not encroach on parts of the old mosque. This assumption is based on the fact that the location of the entrance and minaret can be seen on the map of the area.

  3. 3. The present mosque with its three aisles occupies the qibla area of the original building.

  4. 4. The mosque consisted of an open courtyard surrounded by four riwaqs, the qibla side being deeper than the other three.

  5. 5. The proportion of open space to closed was similar to that of contemporary mosques.

(p.180) Architectural ratios can in fact be very helpful in possible reconstructions. These can be summarized as follows:

  1. 1. The ratio of the sides of the building, consisting of its length divided by its width.

  2. 2. The ratio of the area of the courtyard to the total area of the mosque, multiplied by a hundred is represented as a percentage as shown in the following table.

  3. 3. The proportion of the qibla area in relation to the rest of the building, consisting of the qibla prayer hall as a percentage of the total area of the building.

The following chart shows these proportions in several contemporary buildings:28

The Mosque

Ratio of mosque area to length

Percentage of court area

Percentage of qibla area

Ulmas al-Hajib 730/1330

1:1, 433



al-Nasir Muhammad 735/1335

1:1, 105



al-Maridani 740/1340

1:1, 102




1:1, 163



Shaykhu 750/1350

1:1, 636



The total area width to length varied from 1:1 to 1:1,667.

The percentage of the court area of the total mosque area was in most cases around 25 percent.

The percentage of qibla prayer hall of the total mosque area varied from 33 to 39 percent.

With all the above factors taken into consideration, we can make the following assumptions.

The depth of the qibla prayer hall in the original mosque was 11.25 m (3 bays x 3.75 m), which is the depth of the present prayer hall.

Assuming that the distances between the columns in the side riwaq and the riwaq opposite the qibla also measured 3.75 m, the depth of the (p.181) side riwaqs would have been 7.5 m (2 x 3.75) and the riwaq opposite the qibla 3.75 m, and therefore the side riwaqs would have been two aisles deep and that opposite the qibla one aisle deep.

The overall size of the mosque would have been equal to the depth (28.5 m) by the width (31.5 m); the total area would therefore have been 897.75 m2. The total of the depth of the qibla riwaqs and the riwaq opposite would then be equal to 15 m (11.25 m + 3.75 m). If we then subtract that from the mosque's depth (28.5 m), we get the depth of the courtyard; 28.5 m - 15 m = 13.5 m. As for the width of the sahn, 31.5 minus 15 (4 x 3.75 which represents the two aisles on both sides) = 16.5 m.

By applying the concept of architectural ratios it appears that:

The ratio of the width to the depth of the mosque was 31.5:28.5 = 1.1:1.

The ratio of the width to the depth was 16.5:13.5 = 1.2:1.

The ratio of the total area of the sahn to the total area of the mosque was 222.75:897.75. The figure of 222.75, which is the total area of the sahn, was calculated as 13.5 (depth of sahn) x 16.5 (width of the sahn), while the figure of 897.75 is the total area of the mosque. In percentage format, multiplied by 100, it becomes 24.81 percent.

The total ratio of the area of the qibla prayer hall to the mosque = the size of the qibla riwaqs divided by the size of the mosque = (11.25 x 31.5) / 897.70 x 100 = 39.47 percent.

Comparing these ratios with those of standing mosques, one can see similarities with the mosques of al-Maridani and al-Nasir Muhammad.Figures7.12 and7.13 show the probable reconstruction of this mosque according to these ratios.

Since the original main gate and the minaret were on Harat al-Amir Husayn, it shows the importance at that time of the hara, which used to lead with a slight curve to the bridge, now a short road that joins Bur Sa‘id Street with Harat al-Khalij al-Murrakham, which then leads to Harat al-Amir Husayn.

In this reconstruction the ablution area on the left of the prayer area was added to the width of the mosque and also the area on the left opposite the ablution area, the wall that today separates the women's prayer area on the left. A perfect symmetry is thus achieved with (p.182) three windows and three bukhariyyas on each side of the mihrab. One must add here that the wall separating the area for women is definitely an addition for it was built against a bukhariyya (fig.7.6). The width now suggests, based on the present interior measurements (fig.7.11), a fourth aisle on the qibla side (figs. 7.12,7.13). The ratios in this reconstruction remain the same, but the width of the prayer area could have supported a dome over the mihrab. This would make this mosque typical for the beginning of the fourteenth century CE and would make it definitely one of the largest.

The Mamluk Mosque of Amir Husayn: A Reconstruction

Fig. 7.12. Mosque of Amir Husayn, second reconstruction (by Chahinda Karim)

The Mamluk Mosque of Amir Husayn: A Reconstruction

Fig. 7.13. Mosque of Amir Husayn, variation of reconstruction (by Chahinda Karim).


The mosque of Amir Husayn ibn Jandar is a magnificent example of mosques from the first half of the fourteenth century CE. Its superb surviving stucco carving, the location and rather low dome of its mausoleum which in fact introduces the tradition of Friday mosques with attached mausolea, and its interesting gateway should be enough reason to draw attention to it in hope of returning the building to its original glory, the glory that made some Mamluks so jealous of Amir Husayn and his mosque as to entice them to come between him and the reigning sultan, ending in his demise.

(p.184) Notes



(1) al-Maqrizi,Kitab al-mawa‘iz wa'l-i‘tibar bi dhikr al-khitat wa'l-athar, 2 vols. (Bulaq, 1854), 2:47.

(2) Ibn Hajar al-Askalani,al-Durrar al-kamina fi a‘yan al mi'a al-thamina (Hyderabad, AH 1348), 50–51.

(3) al-Maqrizi,Kitab al-suluk li ma‘rifat duwal al-muluk (Cairo, 1972), 215.

(4) Bab Zuwayla was the southern gate of the city and the one nearest to the mosque.

(5) Ibn Taghribirdi,al-Nujum al-zahira fi muluk Misr wa'l-Qahira, 16 vols. (Cairo, 1929–42), 9:276–77.

(6) Ibn Taghribirdi,al-Manhal al-safi wa'l-mustawfi ba‘d al-wafi, vols. 1–11 (Cairo, 1984–2005), 3:127.

(7) Ibn Taghribirdi,al-Nujum al-zahira, 9:63, n. 1 by Muhammad Ramzi.

(8) al-Maqrizi,Khitat, 2:147.

(9) Ibn Iyas,Bada'i‘ al-zuhur, 7 vols. (Cairo/Wiesbaden, 1960–75), 2:392.

(10) ‘Ali Pasha Mubarak,al-Khitat al-tawfiqiyya al-gadida li Misr al-Qahira wa muduniha wa bildiha al-qadima wa'l-mashhura (Bulaq 1980–86), 4:203.

(11) ulletin du Comité de Conservation des Monuments de ľArt Arabe (hereafter Bulletin), 1884, 18.

(12) ulletin, 1902, 115.

(13) ulletin, 1910, 110–11 and 116.

(14) ulletin, 1910, 220–30.

(15) npublished photograph of the reconstruction in the K.A.C. Creswell archive in the Rare Books and Special Collections Library of the American University in Cairo.

(16) l-Maqrizi,Khitat, 2:307.

(17) Ali Pasha Mubarak,al-Khitat al-tawfiqiyya, 3:213.

(18) K.A.C. Creswell,The Muslim Architecture of Egypt, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1952–59) (hereafter MAE), 2:pl. 111b.

(19) ur'an, 3:18. (All translations are fromMuhammad M. Pickthall,The Glorious Qur'an [New York, 2004]).

(20) ur'an, 3:19.

(21) usayn Mustafa Hasan,al-Maharib al-rukhamiyya fi Qahirat al-mamalik al-bahariyya (MA thesis, Cairo University, 1981), 204–207.

(22) oris Behrens-Abouseif,Cairo of the Mamluks (Cairo, 2007), 145–47, argues that the stucco may be a fifteenth-century CE restoration by Amir Janibek, who integrated the ribat within his funerary complex, but the style of the decoration rather suggests fourteenth century work.

(23) reswell,MAE, 2:270.

(24) ayf al-Din Nasr Abưl-Futuh,Madakhil al-‘ama'ir al-mamlukiyya (MA thesis, Cairo University, 1975), 193–94.

(25) ulletin, 1884, 229–30.

(26) bn Iyas,Bada'i‘ al-zuhur, 2:392.

(27) Doris Behrens-Abouseif,The Minarets of Cairo (Cairo 1985), 176, pl. 108.

(28) ariq Basiyuni, al-‘Imara al-islamiyya fi Misr (MA thesis, Cairo University, 1982), 289;Chahinda Karim, “The Mosque of Amir Qawsun in Cairo (730/1330),”Historians in Cairo: Essays in Honor of George Scanlon, ed. Jill Edwards, 29–48 (Cairo, 2002). (p.186)