The Mosque of Qijmas al-Ishaqi
The subject of this thesis is the Burji Mamluk mosque of Qijmas al-Ishaqi
built near the end of the fifteenth century during the reign of sultan Qaytbay. It was
founded at a time when the city of Cairo had already become heavily built-up and
when much maneuvering was needed in order to find a good spot in the city to build
on. Qijmas al-Ishaqi, being a powerful emir of sultan Qaytbay, managed through
several acts of istibdal to acquire the plot he wanted on al-Tabbana street in the Darb
At a time when the focus was on extensive decoration and not so much
architectural innovation, the mosque of Qijmas still managed to show ingenuity in
both its structure and its decoration. Most striking is the mosque’s staggered façade
that unfolds like a fan before the eyes of the passerby, and the bridge linking the
mosque to its dependencies on the other side of the street. The mosque did not only
accommodate the street contours, but it took complete charge of it, and fully
integrated it into its plan. This in itself constituted an architectural feat given the odd
triangular plot the mosque was built on. The decoration of the mosque is both
innovative and surprising at times. It does not simply conform to the Qaytbay
decorative repertoire but it displays its own decorative language, especially in its
mihrab, its portal and its extensive epigraphy.
Also adding to the interesting aspect of the mosque were its oddities such as
the minaret and the dome, which were decorative misfits that appeared to have been
left in an almost unfinished state. The kuttab lost its usual place above the sabil and
was moved altogether to the other side of the street from the mosque.
In my research, I relied on a number of primary sources – most notably the
Comité bulletins and the waqfiyya of the mosque – and secondary sources. In my
discussion on the restoration of the mosque, I conducted a close reading of the Comité
bulletins, which provide a thorough documentation of the preservation works. The
waqfiyya was important in clarifying the function of certain areas of the mosque,
which may have otherwise been unclear to me.
The mosque is a highly impressive architectural piece that relies heavily on
the element of surprise, with unexpected elements scattered throughout it. In many
ways, it is an unusual building that not only followed the Qaytbay building style, but
it altogether surpassed it.
The American University in Cairo