Essential Architecture-  Egypt

Madrasa Complex of Qalawun


Founder: Sultan Qalawun






Islamic  Mamluks


Dynasty: Bahri Mamluk


  Exterior View
  Facade of Qalawun's Complex
Qalawun ruled Egypt from 1279 to 1290. The massive edifice lies on the site that was once the Western Fatimid palace. Byzantine influence is apparent throughout the monument. The clear Gothic shaped windows on the facade were inspired by Crusader architecture from Qalawun's military campaigns in Syria. The alternate black and white ablaq marble strips around the doorway at the entrance are an innovatition of the period.

A left-side entrance halfway down the long corridor leads to the four iwan madrasa, distributed around an open courtyard. The orientation of the sanctuary iwan overlooks Sharia al-Muizz. The main iwan's magnificence seems to have faded along the years due to poor preservation. On the opposite side of the corridor An antechamber leads to perhaps the most unique and magnificently decorated mausoleum in Cairo, rich in every architectural and decorational aspect ranging from woodwork, inlaid marble to massive pharaonic pillars supporting the dome. The qibla niche is embedded with turquoise stones and colored marble. At the center of the chamber is a mashrabiya wooden screen enclosing the cenotaphs of al-Sultan Qalawun and his son al-Nasir Muhammad whose madrasa is adjacent to Qalawun's on Sharia al-Muizz. The complex also consisted of a bimaristan (hospital) whose remains lie at the back of the structure.
Special thanks to
The complex of Sultan Qalawun was built for the sultan by Amir 'Alam al-Din Sanjar al-Shuja'i in 1284-5 and consisted of the founder's mausoleum, madrasa, and a maristan (hospital). The complex was located on al-Mu'izz Street.

The mausoleum's central, domed plan is connected to the madrasa by a long entrance passage, and the plan of both spaces is shifted to accommodate the qibla orientation.

The mausoleum, which is separated from the madrasa by this long corridor, is accessible via a small courtyard surrounded by an arcade with shallow domes. The octagonal structure was roofed by a dome which was destroyed in the 18th century. The current concrete dome, which is a replica of that covering the Mausoleum of al-Ashraf Khalil ibn Qalawun (1288), was built by Max Herz Bey in 1903. The octagonal base is transformed into a circle by means of wooden muqarnas.

The elaborate interior decoration includes marble revetment, carved, painted, and gilded wood, carved marble, and stucco.


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Special thanks to the Islamic architecture website