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The Mosque of Qijmas al-Ishaqi

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Gazbeya El-Hamamsy


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

al-Ahmar area.

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. 



Gazbeya El-Hamamsy

The American University in Cairo