Neighbourhood of Al-Darb al-Ahmar & Funerary Mosque of Amir Aytimish al-Bajasi, Cairo

Une rue du Caire
[A street in Cairo]
Publisher: Vegnios & Zacbos

Google Street View.

The area south of Cairo’s city walls, between Bab Zuweila and the Citadel, was initially the site of Fatimid and Ayyubid-era cemeteries. Under the prosperous reign of Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad (between 1293 and 1341) the population of the city reached its peak and the area began to be developed in earnest. The city expanded southwards and many Mamluk elites were eager to build new establishments closer to the Citadel, the seat of the sultan’s power. Al-Nasir himself encouraged this development and even built some of the palaces northwest of the Citadel for his amirs (such as the Palace of Amir Qawsun), just as he was building his own palaces inside the Citadel. The Bab al-Wazir Cemetery also developed next to the neighbourhood at this time, just outside the old Ayyubid city walls.

As a result of this period’s development, most of the neighbourhood’s notable historic monuments date from the 14th century. From the late 14th century onward, however, Cairo suffered from the Black Plague and its population declined and did not recover until centuries later. Nonetheless, the area did develop further during the Ottoman period. The Qasaba of Radwan Bey (now part of the Tentmakers’ Street), for example, was a commercial urban complex developed in the 17th century along the old Qasaba road (now al-Mu’izz Street) and partly aimed at promoting urbanization of the area. The area received further urbanization impetus during the 19th century when Muhammad ‘Ali Pasha again redeveloped the nearby Citadel as a seat of power. He granted various plots of land in al-Darb al-Ahmar to important army officers who were thus encouraged to build in the area. The district was a center of craftsmanship for generations, but in recent years it has suffered from the liberalization of Egypt’s economy and the neighbourhood is hampered by poverty

Aytmish was an emir of Sultan Barquq who became a regent for Barquq’s son Farag, and subsequently fled Cairo when Farag came to power and was killed in Damascus in 1400/802 AH. His foundation here includes a mosque, tomb chamber, and sabil, along with funduq/rab adjacent to the mosque which may survive partially in the structure to the right of the main facade. A seperate haw-kuttab outside of the Bab al-Wazir were also included in the foundation. The (empty) tomb chamber has a distinctive brick and plaster dome, with ribs that rise straight up for the first quarter of the dome, then bend to the right and spiral up to the top, an example of the experimentation with ribbing that was popular from 1360 to 1400. . . The grille below is not original and the ground level has now risen above the bottom of the window. The Comité de Conservation des Monuments de l’Art Arabe restored the stonework on the main facade. The interior of the mosque is plain, and is in use as a neighborhood mosque. There is a newly-tiled mihrab, a damaged painted wooden ceiling over the main iwan, and a roof with a lantern over the courtyard.

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