Essential Architecture-  Syria

Bimaristan (Hospital) of Nur al-Din












  Vault on vestibule
The still intact structure of Bimaristan al-Nuri, located southwest of the Umayyad Mosque, reveals Seljuk architectural designs in terms of its plan, form and ornamental elements. The bimaristan has two primary functions: first as a hospital providing treatment to patients and second as a medical school. The hospital was used until the beginning of the 20th century when it was replaced by the modern University Hospital.

Bimaristan al-Nuri was built in two phases: in 1154 the sultan Nur al-Din bin al-Zangi erected the main building; an extension was added in 1242 by doctor Badr al-Din. The extension allowed the hospital to serve a larger number of patients without compromising the building's original form.

The entrance to the bimaristan is located on the western side of the building. The gate is one of the facades' only articulated elements. This grand double gate is made of a solid wooden core wrapped with a layer of copper that is attached with copper nails set in geometric patterns. The gate leads into a square chamber (measuring 5 sq meters) that divided the outer and inner gates. The room is elaborately ornamented with small arches and plaster muqarnas and an inscription band that indicates the great deeds of the Mamluk era across the four walls.

The bimaristan's plan is arranged around an open court (20m x 15m) with a central rectangular pool (7m x 8.5m) made of carved stone. This courtyard is framed on all sides with an iwan flanked by two chambers. These chambers are capped with intersecting vaults. The western iwan is covered with a muqarnas vault. The southern iwan with its marble veneer has a mihrab that is decorated with organic forms. The largest iwan is the eastern one (8m x 7.5m), it was used for the doctors' meetings and lectures. The iwan has two storage spaces encased within the walls that were discovered during a later renovation. They were built-in bookcases that contained many medical books that Nur al-Din had donated to the bimaristan.


Allen, Terry. 2003. "Bimaristan of Nur al-Din, Damascus". In Ayyubid Architecture. Occidental, CA: Solipsist Press. [Accessed August 2, 2005]

Rihawi, Abdul Qader. 1979. Arabic Islamic Architecture: Its Characteristics and Traces in Syria. Damascus: Publications of the Ministry of Culture and National Leadership.


Special thanks to the Islamic architecture website