Title: Catalogue of the National museum of Arab art [Electronic Edition]

Author: Herz, Max, 1856-1919
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"Original edition appeared in French in 1895" (xiii)
File size or extent: xxxii, 91 p. illus., plates. 19 cm.
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Publication date: 1896
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Origin/composition of the text: 1896
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  • Art -- Egypt -- Cairo -- Catalogs
  • Art, Islamic
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Catalogue of the National museum of Arab art [Electronic Edition]



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Sketches of its History, Monuments, and Social Life.

Author of ‘The Art of the Saracens in Egypt,’ ‘Studies in a Mosque,’ &c.
With Numerous Illustrations on Wood by G. L. SEYMOUR
and others; and a Plan of Cairo, showing the
positions of the Principal Mosques.
The Times.—‘As good wine needs no bush, so Mr. Lane-Pole needs
no merit but his own to recommend his work on Cairo
Very charming illustrations.’
The Saturday Review.—‘Will prove most useful to the innumerable travellers who now every winter visit the Nile valley.’
The World.—‘A most interesting as well as valuable publication.’
Daily Telegraph.—‘Most interesting and instructive sketches of the
history, monuments and social life of this ancient city.’
Manchester Guardian.—‘This beautiful book…of so many fascinating
chapters is a thing to accept gratefully.’
The Scotsman.—‘A volume full of entertaining and instructive
pictures—written with abundant learning, but in an easy,
popular and readable style.’
Liverpool Mercury.—‘Likely to become the favourite authority for
The Guardian.—‘Its pages are crowded with elegant and careful
illustrations of architecture, scenery and characteristic types of
mankind. Mr. Lane-Poole has poured out freely into these
pages the wealth of his knowledge of things new and old.’
London: J. S. VIRTUE & CO., Limited,
26, Ivy Lane, Paternoster Row, E.C.



Author of ‘The Art of the Saracens in Egypt,’ ‘Cairo,’ ‘Studies in a Mosque,’
‘The Mohammadan Dynasties,’ ‘The Speeches of Mohammad,’
‘The Moors in Spain,’ &c.





Room Page
Preface ix
Author's Note xiv
Chronological Table xv
Introduction xix
Stucco, Stone, and Marble I & Annexes 1, 91
Metal-Work II 18
Metal-Work VII 77
Metal-Work Passage 86
Metal-Work Annex I 89
Glass III 30
Texts, etc. III 44
Wood-carving and Inlay, etc. IV 45
Wood-carving and Inlay, etc. V 60
Wood-carving and meshrebīyas VII 75
Wood-carving and meshrebīyas etc. Passage 83
& Annex I 89
Pottery VI 64
Bookbindings VIII 79



Slab from a Prayer-niche. I, 19 face 10
Marble jar and stand. I, 34, 108 11
Inlaid silver and brass kursy. II, 12 face 23
Inlaid silver and brass kursy of En-Nāsir. II, 13 24
Koran case, brass inlaid with silver and gold.
II, 57
face 25
Enamelled glass lamp of Sultan Hasan. III, 20 35
Enamelled glass lamp, xivth c. III, 38 38
Enamelled glass lamp of Sheykhū. III, 76 42
Bronze lantern, 1419. III, 130 face 44
Kursy of inlaid ivory and ebony. IV, 59 face 55
Carved side of a Sheykh's tomb 55
Mihrāb of Seyyida Rukeyya. IV, 62 face 56
Panelled door of Ashrafiya. IV, 64 56
Filigree bronze lantern, xivth c. IV, 66 57
The Kaaba in enamelled tile-work. VI, 167 71
Enamelled tile. VI, 172 72
Panel of Meshrebīya. VII, 1 76
Door from el-Azhar. Passage, 1 face 83
Brass lantern. Passage, 86 87
Note.—A few of the above are reproduced from Lekegian's
plates in the French edition of the Catalogue.


The traveller who visits the temples of the Nile has
not seen all the art of ancient Egypt: he must
supplement his view of the monuments by a study of
the matchless collections of the Gīza Museum. In
the same way, it is not enough to make the round of
the mosques of Cairo: one must also visit the Arab
Museum. As the Gīza collections illustrate the
ancient art by their classified series of objects found
in the tombs or rescued from the sand, so the Arab
Museum contains those remains of the Saracenic art
of the past twelve centuries which have been gathered
from the ruins of vanished mosques and palaces.
The introduction of a bastard European style, the
laying out of new streets, and the broadening of old
ones, during the past fifty years, are responsible for
more havoc among the monuments of Saracenic art
than the centuries of former neglect. The street
fights of Mamlūk Beys and Turkish Pashas did less
damage to the mosques of Cairo than the futile
attempt to Europeanize a medieval Eastern city.
The ruins of demolished buildings became the happy
hunting-ground of collectors and dealers, and the
Museums of Europe and the houses of dilettanti are
full of the spoils.


At last the Government of Egypt, which had already
placed restrictions upon the exportation of the relics
of ancient art, began to take notice of the spoliation of
the Mohammadan monuments, and concert measures
for the preservation of the remains of the national
art. There was a project for an Arab Museum in
1869, when the Khedive Isma'īl authorized Franz
Pasha, then chief architect of the Ministry of Wakfs,
to select a suitable building; but the plan fell
through, and it was not till 1880 that the East
arcades (or līwān) of the Mosque of El-Hākim were
appropriated to the reception of objects of Saracenic
art. The task of organizing the new Museum was
again placed in the able hands of Franz Pasha, who
in 1883 removed it to its present place in the court
of the same mosque.
With the appointment, at the close of 1881, of the
the “Commission for the Preservation of the Monuments
of Arab Art,” the Museum entered upon a new
and more active phase. Among the leading members
of this Commission were scholars, archaeologists,
and architects, such as His Excellency Yakub Artin
Pasha, the present Under Secretary for Public Instruction,
Franz Pasha, the late Rogers Bey, and
MM. Bourgoin, Baudry, and Grand Bey; besides
the English officials of the department of Public
Works, first Sir Colin Scott Moncrieff, and now
Mr. W. E. Garstin. The Commission, to which
alone we owe the present greatly improved supervision
and preservation of the mosques and other

buildings of Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt, was
empowered by the late Khedive not only to watch
over the monuments and execute such repairs as
were necessary to their preservation, but also to
transport to the Arab Museum any fragments or
detached objects of artistic or historical value which
could not be protected in their original position.
The ruins of mosques and palaces, which were beyond
the resources of restoration, were carefully searched
for such remains, and these form the chief materials
of the collections now exhibited in the Museum.
The objects differ essentially from those in most
public collections, inasmuch as they are nearly all
relative,—dependent upon the monument to which
they once belonged,—and were seldom designed as
separate works of art. All Saracenic art is decorative,
or subsidiary to architecture; and the collections
of the Arab Museum consist mainly of portions
of the decoration and furniture of mosques and
private houses,—such as carved and inlaid doors,
sculptured stone and plaster ornament, painted ceiling-joists,
bronze filigree plating, marble mosaic, and
other substantive parts of the architectural decoration,
every piece of which was designed in relation
to the main structure. Even detached objects, like
the splendid series of enamelled glass lamps, which
is the special glory of the Museum, and the exquisite
filigree bronze tables inlaid with silver, however
beautiful in themselves, were strictly connected with
some mosque and in harmony with its decorative

style. But this relativity of the Arab Museum collections
in no wise detracts from their beauty or
interest. On the contrary, it is only from such
specimens of ornament as are there preserved that
we are able to study some of the more obscure periods
of Saracenic art. The Museum contains fragments
which reveal the style and ornament of several
vanished mosques of periods hardly represented by
any standing monuments. And whilst the carved
and inlaid panelling of a door, or the rich colouring
of a ceiling, inevitably reminds one of the irreparable
loss of the building it once adorned, each individual
panel or painted joist is itself a marvel of artistic
design and skilled handicraft, and suggests valuable
motives and developments to the student of
To study connectedly the history of Saracenic
ornament as elaborated in Egypt, the Museum requires
to be arranged in strict chronological order.
This is manifestly impossible in the present crowded
building, already overflowing into two annexes.
Plans for a new Museum, with which the Khedivial
Library will be combined, have been approved, however,
and by 1898 we may hope to see these unique
collections worthily housed.
Meanwhile the present catalogue provides ample
evidence of the historical and technical knowledge
which Herz Bey, who has been curator of the
Museum under the Commission since 1892, is qualified
to bring to the arrangement and explanation of

the collections in his charge. His constant and
zealous energy in the work of preserving the Arab
monuments, as chief architect to the Commission, has
earned him the gratitude of every lover of Cairene
art; and the present catalogue increases the debt.
The original edition appeared in French in 1895;
but it was felt that the large and yearly increasing
number of English and American visitors to the
Museum called for an English version. The catalogue
in its present form has been somewhat condensed:
Herz Bey's valuable introductions to the
various sections have been in some degree recast; the
orthography of Arabic names has been made uniform
with that adopted in my Art of the Saracens, and the
Egyptian sound of hard g is used for the letter jīm; but
in other respects the catalogue itself is substantially
unchanged. I hope it will induce every English and
American visitor to study the exquisite national art
of medieval Egypt, of which the Arab Museum,
after the mosques, offers the most complete representation
now attainable in Cairo. The study may be
continued with advantage among the rich Saracenic
collections of the British and South Kensington
Museums, which present many objects of rare
interest and beauty.
The Athenaeum,
Pall Mall,
1 Jan., 1896



On the 20th April, 1892, the Commission or the
Preservation of the Monuments entrusted me with
the charge of the Museum of Arab Art. For five
years previously, since the retirement of H. E.
Franz Pasha from the administration of the Wakfs
in 1887, the Museum had been without a special
curator, and the collections had been allowed to fall
into some disorder. My first care was to revise the
inventory and re-number the objects. I then drew
up a brief MS. catalogue, which was placed in the
galleries for the use of the public. But as the
number of visitors increased year by year, I considered
it desirable to prepare a fresh catalogue
, which should not merely enumerate, but
supply an historical and technical commentary on
the various objects. For their provenance I have
relied upon the original inventory of Franz Pasha.
In the detail of the descriptions, I have made it a
special point to accurately record the Arabic inscriptions;
and here I must acknowledge the valuable
assistance of Yusuf Efendy Ahmad, the draughtsman
to the Commission, who possesses a wide knowledge
of Arabic calligraphy, and has often been able to reconstruct
mutilated inscriptions. I should like also
to mention the services rendered by Aly Efendy
Bahgad, of the Ministry of Public Instruction. To
Yakub Pasha Artin, who has taken a true scholar's
interest in the Museum from the beginning, I am
indebted for such information as his Excellency is
peculiarly fitted to give.



639—641 Conquest of Egypt by
Mosque of 'Amr, 642,
frequently restored
641—868 Governors (98) appointed
by Caliphs
868 Ahmad ibn-Tūlūn Mosque of Ibn-Tūlū
883 Khumāraweyh
895 Geysh; 896 Hārūn; 904 Sheybān
905—934 Governors (13) appointed
by Caliphs
934 Mohammad El-Ikhshīd
946 Abū-l-Kāsim;
960 'Aly; 966 Kāfūr; 968 Ahmad
969 El-Mu'izz Foundation of El-Kāhira
(Cairo), 969
Mosque El-Azhar, 971
975 El-'Azīz Azhar made a University
Mosque of El-Hākim,
996 El-Hākim 990—1012
1020 Ez-Zāhir
1035 El-Mustansir Gates and 2nd wall of
Cairo, 1087
1094 El-Musta'ly


1101 El-Āmir Mosque El-Akmar, 1125
1130 El-Hāfiz;
1149 Ez-Zāfir
1154 El-Fāïz
1160 El-'Ādid Mosque of Talāi' ibn Ruzzik,
1172 Salāh-ed-dīn (Saladin) Citadel and 3rd wall of
1193 El-'Azīz; 1198 El-Mansūr
1199 El-'Ādil (Saphadin) Tomb of Imām Esh-Shā-fi'y,
1218 El-Kāmil Medresa of El-Kāmil, 1224
1238 El-'Ādil II
1240 Es-Sālih Ayyūb Medresa and mosque of
Es-Sālih, 1242
1249 Tūrān Shāh Tomb of Es-Sālih, 1249
1250 Queen Shejer-ed-durr
1250 El-Mu'izz Aybek
1257 El-Mansūr ‘Aly
1259 El-Muzaffar Kutuz
1260 Ez-Zāhir Beybars Mosque of Ez-Zāhir, 1268
1277 Es-Sa'id Baraka Khān
1279 El-'Ādil Selāmish
1279 El-Mansūr Kalāūn Māristān and mosque of
Kalāūn, 1284
1290 El-Ashraf Khalīl Portal of En - Nāsir
brought from Acre
1293 En-Nāsir Mohammad. (1st
1294 El-'Adil Kitbughā
1296 El-Mansūr Lāgin Restoration of mosque of
Ibn-Tūlūn, 1296
1299 En-Nāsir Mohammad. (2nd
Medresa of En-Nāsir,


Restorations of El-Azhar,
El-Hākim, tomb of Es-Sātih,
Talāi', etc. 1302
Khānkāh of Beybars, 1306
1309 Bey bars el-Gāshenkīr
1310 En-Nāsir Mohammad.
(3rd reign.)
Mosque of En-Nasir in
Citadel, 1318
Medresa of Sengar
El-Gāwaly and Salār, 1323
Mosque of Kūsūn, 1329
Mosque of El-Māridāny,
1341 El-Mansūr Abū-Beker
1341 El-Ashraf Kūgūk
1342 En-Nāsir Ahmad
1342 Es-Sālih Ismā'īl
1345 El-Kāmil Sha'bān
1346 El-Muzaffar Hāggy
1347 En-Nāsir Hasan. (1st reign.) Mosque of Aksunkur,
1347, restored by Ibrāhīm
Āgā, 1652
1351 Es-Sālih Sālih
1354 En-Nāsir Hasan. (2nd reign.) Mosque of Sheykhū, 1355
Mosque of Suyurghātmish, 1356
Mosque of Sultān Hasan, 1358
Restoration of El-Hākim,
1359, and El-Azhar,1360
1361 El-Mansūr Mohammad
1363 El-Ashraf Sha'bān Medresa of El-Gāy El-Yūsufy, 1372
Mosque of Umm-Sha'-bān, 1368
1377 El-Mansūr Aly
1381 Es-Sālih Hāggy


1381 Ez-Zāhir Barkūk Medresa of Barkūk, 1384
1399 En-Nāsir Farag (interrupted by
'Abd-el-'Aziz, 1405)
Tomb-mosque of Barkūk,
1412 El-ādil El-Musta'm ('Abbāsid
1412 El-Muayyad Sheykh Mosque of El-Muayyad, 1420
1421 El-Muzaffar; Ez-Zāhir Tatār
1421 Es-Sālih Mohammad
1422 El-Ashraf Bars-Bey Medresa of El-Ashraf
Bars-Bey, 1423
Tomb-mosque of El-Ashraf
1438 El-'Azīz; Ez-Zāhir Gakmak Mosque of Gakmak, 1453
1453 El-Mansūr 'Othmān
1453 El-Ashraf Inal Tomb-mosque of Inal, 1456
1461 El-Muayyad Ahmad
1461 Ez-Zāhir Khōshkadam
1467 Ez-Zāhir Temirbughā
1468 El-Ashraf Kāït-Bey Mosque of Kāït-Bey, 1472
Tomb-mosque of Käït-Bey
Mosque of Abü-Bekr ibn
Mazhar, 1480
Mosque of Kigmās, 1481
Wekālas of Kāit-Bey
1496 En-Nāsir Mosque of Ezbek El-Yū
1498 Ez-Zāhir Kānsūh sufy, 1495
1500 El-Ashraf Gānbalāt
1501 El-'ādil Tūmān-Bey
1501 El-Ashraf Kābnsūh El-Ghūry Mosque and tomb of El-Ghūry, 1503
1516 Tūmān-Bey
1517 Egypt annexed by the 'Othmānly Sultān Selīm I of
S. L.-P.



Although the conquest of Egypt by the Saracens
was completed in 641, we have no Arab monument,
still standing in its original form, of an earlier date
than 876. During these two hundred and thirty-five
years of artistic silence, Egypt was merely a province
administered by a succession of governors appointed
by the Omayyad and 'Abbāsid Caliphs who had their
seats at Damascus and Baghdād. The capital of
Egypt was a provincial town, and no temporary
governor, except its first conqueror,1 cared to waste
1 'Amr's great mosque, founded at the conquest for the
new capital called El-Fustāt, ‘The Tent,’ after the general's
pavilion, has unfortunately so often fallen to ruin and been
restored, that scarcely anything of the original building can
be proved to remain; and it supplies no evidence for the
history of Arab art. See E. K. Corbet Bey, ‘The History
of the Mosque of ‘Amr,’ in Journ. R. Asiatic Society, vol.
xxii. N.S., 1891. The only other monument prior to 876
is the mikyās or nilometer at Rōda, which has a kufic
inscription of the date of its restoration by the Caliph
El-Mamūn when he visited Egypt in 217 A.H.=832 A.D.

upon it the wealth, and labour necessary for great
monuments. Where no monuments are
built, Arab art cannot flourish: for to
the Saracens architecture was the art par excellence,
and all other branches of art were merely its handmaidens.
Sculpture, painting, carving, inlaying,
glass-work, were all cultivated mainly as auxiliaries
to architecture. Hence, the period of mere governors
is sterile not only in architecture but in the subsidiary
arts, and but for a number of tombs discovered
among the rubbish-mounds south of
Cairo we should
be without any early evidence as to the origin of the
Arab style. The ornament, especially in woodcarving,
of these tombs, however, shows beyond
doubt that in the first centuries of the Hijra the
Byzantine decorative manner prevailed in Egypt
among Arabs, as among Copts; though as time
went on the Muslims gave it a new development
which made their architecture and all their arts
individual expressions of their genius.
In 868 Ahmad ibn Tūlūn, the son of a Turkish
slave of Bokhārā in the service of the Caliph El-Mamūn,
was appointed governor of Egypt, and in
the following year he declared himself an independent
ruler. With him begins the
history of Egypt as a distinct Mohammadan
Power, and his mosque—which was but one
of the many splendid, but alas! Vanished, buildings
with which he adorned his new faubourg ‘El-Katā‘i,’

N.E. of Fustāt—inaugurates the history of Saracenic
architecture in Egypt. The mosque of Ibn-Tūlūn,
built in 876—878, is familiar to every visitor to
Cairo. Its great court surrounded by cloisters, with
deeper rows of arches at the east or Mecca side
(līwān), is a type of the earlier plan of Cairo mosques
—a plan which was copied for centuries, even after
other plans had come into vogue. The whole
building is of plastered brick, except the curious
corkscrew tower which, with some later additions, is
of faced stone.1 The massive piers are ornamented
with engaged columns, the bases of which are imitations
of ancient models. The capitals are campanulate,
and the decorative foliage bears some relation
to the acanthus. These and other details, such as
the wavy pattern of the bordering of the arches, the
mosaic plateband above the prayer-niche (mihrāb),
etc., point to the dominating influence of Byzantine
models, and identical ornament may be seen in some
of the early tomb-carvings referred to above. On
1 The only minaret standing, of the two originally placed
at either end of the līwān wall, is of brick. The large
stone tower in masonry and various architectural details
appear to belong to a different period from the rest of the
mosque. [Its remarkable resemblance, however, to one
other monument, and one only, the corkscrew tower of
Samarrā, built during the Caliphs' residence there in the
IIIrd c. of the Hijra, justifies the belief that there was an
original tower of the same form. See the woodcut of the
Samarrā tower in Rich's Kurdistan, vol. ii., p. 151.—Ed.]

the other hand, on the intrados of some of the arches,
where the original ornament is still preserved, we
find already in the IXth century polygonal designs
mixed with true arabesques, which are not Byzantine
at all, but typically Saracenic.
The Tūlūnid dynasty, despite the promise of its
birth, withered away in 36 years. A succession of
thirteen governors for the Caliph again reduced
Egypt for 30 years to the subordinate position of a
province; and though the Ikhshīdid dynasty maintained
its independence in Egypt and Syria for 36
years more, its princes never found the settled peace
and leisure necessary for the undertaking of artistic
monuments; even their tombs were at Damascus.
There is not a vestige of any art during this interval.
But in 969 Gōhar, the general of the
Fātimid Caliph El-Mu'izz of Kayrawān,
conquered Egypt, and with the accession of the new
dynasty Egypt took its place as the most powerful
oriental State on the Mediterranean. The Fātimids
had already been great builders at Kayrawān, Mahdīya,
and in Sicily: they did not abandon the taste
when they transferred their capital to the new site
of El-Kāhira, ‘the Victorious,’ italianated into
Cairo , which they founded immediately after the
conquest. El-Kāhira was originally no city but only
the new Caliphs' vast fortress-palace—or rather pair
of palaces—surrounded by the houses of their officers
and slaves, and enclosed with massive walls. The

palaces have long vanished, but some of the gates
of the walls remain in the places where they were
built by Bedr El-Gemāly for the Caliph El-Mustansir
in 1087: they are the Norman-looking Bāb-en-Nasr
and Bāb-el-Futūh, close to the Arab Museum, and
the Bāb-Zuweyla in the Sukarīya. Of the mosques
of the Fātimid period (969—1171) there still remain
the great university mosque El-Azhar (‘the Splendid’),
the mosque of El-Hākim (in the court of which the
Museum has its temporary asylum), the small mosque
El-Akmar, and that of Talāi' ibn Ruzzīk, vezīr of the
last Fātimid Caliph. Of these the oldest is the
Azhar (971), but it has been so often restored that
its original features are considerably obscured. The
keel-form of the arches is characteristic of Fātimid
work, though we find the pointed form on the next
mosque, the ruined El-Hākim (990—1012), which
in this and many other respects (e.g. carvings on
wooden ties of piers, and of the door, see below,
Passage No. 1) resembles the style of Ibn-Tūlūn.
The mosque of Talāi' ibn Ruzzīk (1159) near the
Bāb-Zuweyla, shows a marked advance in decoration.
The simple arabesques of El-Hākim's inscriptional
friezes have here developed into rich detail which
gives the effect of filigree-work. Indeed the art of
arabesque ornament as seen in the ruins of this
beautiful mosque has reached a perfection which is
not surpassed by any later decoration in Cairo. The
mosque El-Akmar in the Sūk-en-Nahhāsīn built by

the Caliph El-āmir in 1125, small and ruined as it
is, has the feature, unique among Fātimid mosques,
of a fine façade (unfortunately hidden by a formless
erection which the Monuments Commission has
vainly sought to obtain power to remove) very unlike
the ordinary plain exterior of the early mosques, and
deserving special notice for the shell ornament of its
fluted niche, the rosette of open tracery composed of
inscriptions and ornament, and the side niches,
surmounted by a kufic frieze. Moreover, the angle
of this mosque shows the earliest example of that
mode of stalactite transition which afterwards became
a chief characteristic of Saracenic architecture in
The last Fātimid Caliph was deposed by Saladin
(Salāh-ed-dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb), who
founded the dynasty of the Ayyūbids
(1172—1250), fortified the citadel of
Cairo, built his
palace there (no longer existing), and enlarged the
circuit of the city walls. The influence of the
Crusaders, who had covered Syria with fortresses,
and with whom Saladin was constantly at war, may
be traced in the military architecture of his dynasty.
Another influence was the return of the Government
of Egypt from the Shī'ism of the Fātimids to orthodox
Sunnism. In order to encourage orthodoxy, the
Ayyūbids founded a number of theological colleges
(medresa), in which the religion of Islām, as taught
by the Four Doctors, was systematically expounded.

These medresas are really mosques, with an open
court in the centre, and a prayer-niche (mihrāb),
pulpit, etc. in the eastern līwān or sanctuary at the
side towards Mecca; but instead of cloisters round
the court, the sanctuary and the three other sides
are formed by arched transepts or porches, open to
the court, which give a cruciform appearance to the
building. In these four porches, divines expounded
respectively the Shāfi'ite, Mālikite, Hanafite, and
Hanbalite systems of Mohammadan theology. This
cruciform plan afterwards became usual for small
mosques, as well as for medresas, though the older
cloistered form was still preserved for the great
congregational mosques (gāmi') used for Friday
1 In El-Makrīzy's Khitat, or ‘Topography of Cairo,’ etc.,
the distinction between the gāmi' (congregational mosque),
mesgid (small mosque), medresa, etc., is carefully observed,
and so it was when Lane wrote his Modern Egyptians,
1836; but in the present day the people of Cairo call any
sort of mosque a gāmi', or, roughly, gama.
The oldest medresa still in existence2 is that of
El-Kāmil, the nephew of Saladin, built in 1224, but
now an utter ruin, where only the plan can just be
traced. Some remains of the decoration are in the
Museum (Room I, nos. 83—87) and serve as complement
2 The earliest medresa, the Nāsirīya, founded by Saladin
near the mosque of 'Amr, where the Shāfi'ite doctrine was
taught, has disappeared.

to those of Talāi'. The college of Es-Sālih,
1242, and adjoining mosque, are also ruins, but
some characteristic details remain: e.g. the façade
with shell-ornament like El-Akmar, new stalactite
forms, especially in the minaret (part of which,
however, is restored), toothed borders, etc. Great
progress had been made in the construction of domes,
the angles of which were masked by a series of
niches, as may be seen in the adjoining tomb of
Es-Sālih (1249) and that of the Imām Esh-Shāfi'y
(1211). In the former one traces western influences,
especially in the introduction of a false gorge
sculptured with foilage, in the entablature of the
façade. The wood-carvings of the tomb show a
greater delicacy than anything we have of the
Fātimid period (even the beams of Talāi'), and it is
much to be regretted that we have no monuments
between the two by which we could trace the growth
of this branch of art, which was cultivated with
peculiar success in Egypt. The sober marble
panelling of Es-Sālih's tomb also deserves notice, as
contrasting with the more elaborate dados of a later
With the Mamlūk Sultāns of the Bahry or Turkish
dynasty (1250—1382) we enter upon the richest and
most flourishing period of Saracenic
art and architecture. 'The Mamlūks
offer the most singular contrasts of
any series of princes in the world. A band of

lawless adventurers, slaves in origin, butchers by
choice, turbulent, bloodthirsty, and too often treacherous,
these slave kings had a keen appreciation
for the arts, which would have done credit to the
most civilized ruler that ever sat on a constitutional
throne. Their morals were indifferent, their conduct
violent and unscrupulous, yet they show in
their buildings, their decoration, their dress, and
their furniture, a taste and refinement which it
would be hard to parallel in western countries even
in the present aesthetic age. It is one of the most
singular facts in Eastern history, that wherever
these rude Tartars penetrated, there they inspired a
fresh and vivid enthusiasm for art. It was the
Tartar Ibn-Tūlūn who built the first example of the
true Saracenic mosque at Cairo; it was the line of
Mamlūk Sultāns, all Turkish or Circassian slaves,
who filled Cairo with the most beautiful and abundant
monuments that any city can show.'1
1 Lane-Poole, Cairo , pp. 95—97.
There was a transitional period, at first, before the
true Mamlūk architectural style was formed. In the
mouldings of the great mosque of Ez-Zāhir Beybars
(1268), the façades of Kalāūn's monuments, etc., we
have signs of exotic influences; whilst the Gothic
portal from a church at Acre, bodily transported to
form the doorway of the medresa of En-Nāsir in the
Sūk-en-Nahhāsīn, shows alike an appreciation of

foreign styles and an indifference to artistic consistency.
But these exotic influences from Syria
and elsewhere soon found their true place and
became assimilated, so far as they were harmonious,
in the rapidly developing Mamlūk style. The long
reign of over forty years (1299—1341) of En-Nāsir
Mohammad, son of Kalāūn, gave time for the work
of selection, adaptation, and precision, to which the
admirable style of the numerous mosques erected by
by En-Nāsir, his sons, and the officers of his court,
bears witness. The abounding energy of this productive
epoch bore the happiest results for art.
The hesitating experiments of the earlier period
gave place to a rare distinctness of architectural
conception. Despite a remarkable variety and incomparable
wealth of form and combination, the
unity of design stands clearly out and reveals a
finished and singularly adequate style.
In the arrangement of the façade, which is now of
freestone, generally in two shades, the materials of
previous centuries are developed and emphasized;
the larger surfaces are given perspective by a system
of high shallow niches in which the windows are
set in double rows; these niches are brought back
to the face above by stalactite cornices, and the
portals, though wider and deeper, are treated in the
same way and richly coated with marble. A long
inscriptional frieze spreads across the façade, and
the top is crowned by a crenellated moulding. The

general plan of the mosque is the same as in previous
periods, sometimes of the cloistered type with
marble columns, but more commonly cruciform;
but a new importance is given to the founder's tomb,
always covered by a dome, which is, indeed, the
characteristic mark of a tomb-mosque.1 The spring
of the arches round the court is set higher than
before. The joists of the wood roof are magnificently
carved, painted, and gilt. The wainscots or dado
are of marble mosaic, often to the height of several
yards, and the pavements are tessellated in bold
and striking mosaics. The rich and harmonious
effect of the interior is enhanced by the panelled
and inlaid pulpit (minbar), lectern (kursy el-kahf),
bronze lanterns, and enamelled glass lamps. And,
from the few remains that have come down to us,
none unfortunately at all complete, it is clear that
the palaces and private houses of the Mamlūk age
hardly fell short of the mosques in the beauty and
elaboration of their form and decoration.
1 Lane-Poole, Art of the Saracens in Egypt, p. 60.
The accession of the Burgy or Circassian line of
Mamlūks (1382—1517) introduced no fresh element
of importance in the architecture, which continued
its natural development without interruption or
external interference. The mosques in the fifteenth
century are more and more restricted to the cruciform
plan and become smaller, which allowed the

central court to be covered in. A number of
secondary institutions were added to the mosque and
filled up the spaces between its porches and the
streets,—such as theological colleges, public fountains
(sebīl), elementary schools (kuttāb), lavatories,
and rooms for the mosque attendants. The school
is an almost universal feature of Circassian Mamlūk
mosques, and occupies as a rule one of the most
conspicuous angles of the building, where its gracefully
arched window may be seen high up. It first
occurs in this position in the mosque of El-Gāy el-Yūsufy
(1372). The founder's tomb was also given
greater prominence. Instead of being relegated to a
corner of the mosque, as under most of the Bahry
Mamlūks, it is often the principal feature, or commonly
forms a separate and complete monument. Stone was
more generally employed, even for internal walls,
which no less than the façade were covered with
arabesques, geometrical designs, and kufic inscriptions,
every inch of which is worthy of study. As
the mosques of this period are smaller and more
decorated than before, so the private houses are
more coquettes. The mak'ad on its two arches overhangs
the court, and the kā'a or salon is adorned
with mosaics and a richly gilt and painted ceiling,
softly lighted by the graceful meshrebīya lattice.
Many wekālas (khāns or caravanserais), fountains,
etc., like those of Kāït-Bey, are monuments of
rare artistic merit. External decoration reached

its highest point of elaboration under the Circassian
When Egypt became in 1517 a province of the
Ottoman Empire, its art took wings and departed.
The 'Othmānlis imported the form of the Byzantine
church, and gave a new importance to the dome,
but brought no real artistic inspiration. Among
the Turkish mosques may be mentioned that of
Suleymān Pasha (1523), near the tomb of the saint
Sāriyat-el-Gebel in the Citadel, and those of Sinān
Pasha at Būlāk (1571) and Malika Safiya (1610).
A few mosques were still erected by Egyptians
more or less after the Mamlūk style; but the
tendency was in favour of buildings of less importance,
such as fountains, schools, caravanserais, and
darwīsh convents. The sebīls of the Turkish period
especially form a notable feature in the streets, and
are independent buildings, no longer subordinate
to mosques. Ornament suffered an eclipse; the rich
decoration of Kāït-Bey gave place to a simple and
cheap manner significant of artistic and pecuniary
poverty. An exception is seen in the buildings and
restorations of the admirable 'Abd-er-Rahmān Kikhya
(properly Ketkhuda), whose fountain, for example
(1744), is chiefly in the Arab style and stands far
above all contemporary Turkish work, which is
generally beneath contempt. It is devoutly to be
wished that the political and industrial revival which
was inaugurated by the illustrious founder of the

present dynasty, the great Mohammad 'Aly, may
find its corollary in a renaissance of that artistic
fertility which was once among the glories of
Muslim Egypt.

Stucco, Stone, and Marble Work

Stucco was used in the Arab art of Egypt from the
earliest times as a material for architectural ornament.
We find examples in the oldest extant Mohammadan
monument, the mosque of Ibn-Tūlūn,
built in A.D. 876-8, which, in spite of its thorough
restoration in 1296, retains a portion of its original
stucco decoration. In the XIIIth century stucco
reached its highest perfection in Cairo, when the
tomb of Kalāūn and the medresa or collegiate mosque
of his son En-Nāsir (1299) furnish admirable examples
of profuse decoration in this material. The
stucco ornaments nos. 83-87, however, are of an
earlier date, for they formed part of the framing of a
window of the long-ruined mosque of the Ayyūbid
Sultān El-Kāmil, nephew of Saladin, which was
built in 1224, and of which, according to the late
James Wild, two sides were still standing in 1845

and displayed ornament which resembled that of the
Alhambra.1 These fragments, nos. 83-87, show us
how the plaster was worked. We see at once that
the design was cut in the solid block and that
the decoration is in two distinct planes: the ornament
of the first plane was finished first, and then
the parts in relief were added in a second layer.
Stucco decoration was used at all periods, even
when sculptured stone held the first place: compare
the kufic frieze of the stateliest of Cairo mosques,
that of Sultān Hasan (1358), and the beautiful
ornament of the dome of Aksunkur (1347) in the
Darb-el-Ahmar. In the second half of the XVth
century stucco was less popular than stone, but the
Kubbet el-Fidāwīya in the suburb of 'Abbāsīya,
which belongs to this period, shows, by the profuse
stucco ornamentation of the whole of the interior to
the very apex of the dome, that the art had not
been lost or degraded, and that the method of cutting
out the designs was the same as in earlier times.
1 Lane-Poole, Art of the Saracens, p. 53. There is no
doubt that the internal decoration of the tomb-mosque of
Kalāūn and a window in the south arcades of the mosque
of El-Muayyad bear a striking resemblance to Moorish
Stucco was also used for filling in windows, in
two ways: the first and more ancient is the clairevoie
or open tracery window cut out of a thick
layer of plaster, often with very happy effect, in a
great variety of designs. This method was used
until the close of the XIIIth century. Examples

may be seen in the mosques of Ibn-Tūlūn1 and El-Hākim,
and the ruined but magnificent mosque of
Ez-Zāhir Beybars, where remains of richly designed
tracery still stand out here and there in the roughly
blocked-up bays. The Māristān (hospital) of Kalāūn
has also some fine and well-preserved gratings of
cut plaster. This kind was used to fill the window-bays
of mosques of the cloistered style; or, when
mosques were entirely closed-in (as the Māristān or
those of Kāït-Bey etc.) they served to protect the
glazed windows proper, which were inside. These
glazed windows (kamarīya ‘moonlights’ or shemsīya
‘sunlights’) are not found before the second half of
the XIIIth c., and are of two kinds. In the earlier
kind (say 1250-1330), after the design was cut in the
plaster, the pieces of thick coloured glass were laid
on the face so as to cover the holes, and were fixed
in their places by little rims of plaster which followed
the lines of the pattern. Examples may be seen at
the tombs of Es-Sālih and Kalāūn and the sepulchral
mosque of Sengar el-Gāwaly (1323). In the
later style of kamarīya, of the XIVth and XVth c.,
the little rims are omitted, and the glass is fixed to
the back of the stucco by pouring a coat of liquid
plaster between the pieces of glass. There are
examples in the medresa of Barkūk in the Sūk-en-Nahhāsīn
(1384), in buildings of the epoch of Kāït-Bey
1 Probably not of the date of the foundation, but of the
restoration in 1296: they are too bold and decided to belong
to the earlier date; but they undoubtedly replaced older
stucco gratings.

(end of XVth c.), the mosques of Abū-Bekr ibn
Mazhar, Kigmās el-Ishāky, etc. The glass of these
later windows is sometimes extremely thin. The
kamarīya of recent centuries will not bear comparison
with the older specimens: the designs become poor,
the execution coarse, and the colours (which had
then to be imported, for lack of local materials) thin
and inharmonious.
Freestone was not generally employed by the Saracenic
architects of Egypt, in place of brick or rubble,
till a rather late date, notwithstanding the examples
set before their eyes in the stone buildings of the
ancient Egyptians. It is true that the Palace of
the Fātimid Caliph El-Mu'izz, begun in 970, is
stated to have had walls constructed of stones ‘so
well joined that one would think they were made in
a single block,’1 and the three city gates, the Bāb-el-Futūh,
Bāb-en-Nasr, and Bāb-Zuweyla (1087-91) are
splendid examples of stone masonry; but all the
mosques up to the XIIth c. are built of brick.2 The
first stone mosque is that called El-Akmar,3 in the
Sūk-en-Nahhāsīn, built in 1125 by the Fātimid
Caliph El-Amir; and here only the façade is of stone,
1 Nāsir-i-Khusrau (A.D. 1040), Sefer Nameh, transl. Ch.
Schefer, p. 129.
2 The stone base of the dome in the court of Ibn-Tūlūn's
mosque dates only from the restoration by Lāgīn in 1296,
as its inscription states. So do, in all probability, the
minaret and the adjacent cloister, which are also of stone.
3 See the 6th Annual Report of the Commission for the
Preservation of the Monuments of Arab Art, 67th rapport,
where I have given a plan of the mosque El-Akmar.

the arches inside are of brick resting on marble
columns. But the stone-work is admirably executed,
the shaping accurate, the joining exact, and the
sculpture of ornament and inscription very skilful.
Evidently this was not a first attempt, though it is
the earliest known to us. It leads the way for a
series of similar buildings with stone façades and
brick interiors, which prevailed till nearly the end
of the XIIIth c., when brick was generally abandoned
in favour of stone, laid with wide joints, and
roughened to receive the mortar.
Before 1330 bricks were almost exclusively used
for minarets. The sumptuous monument of Kalāūn,
which combined mosque, tomb, and hospital, furnishes
the first example of a stone tower.1 Thenceforward
stone minarets increased until they became almost
universal under the Circassian Mamlūks, when stone
was everywhere the favourite material for all parts
of buildings, and it becomes evident that the architect
has mastered the most difficult problems of construction.
This development of constructive skill
came to its perfection in time to assist the decorative
spirit of the Circassian period, and exquisite
arabesques admirably executed in stone are lavished
upon the monuments. At the same time the dome,
which had hitherto been coated with stucco, a frail
material for ornament, is also constructed of stone,
1 El-Makrīzy says that the minaret of Akbughā (1331)
was the first to be built in stone, after that of Kalāūn.—Khitat,
ii., p. 384.

and becomes a subject for elaborate decoration.
The earliest stone domes, those of the tomb-mosque
(1405-1410) of Barkūk, the first Circassian Mamlūk,
in the Eastern Cemetery, are ornamented with zigzags.
Immediately afterwards other domes are
covered with graceful arabesques, which make one
forget the hard material out of which they airily
Presently, different coloured stones began to be
chosen to aid in decoration, and by such variegation
a sort of large mosaic was formed over a considerable
part of the edifice, and eventually, not the gateways
only, but the entire façade was treated in this
fashion.1 The first mosque, we believe, in which
strata of different coloured stone were employed, was
that of Ez-Zāhir Beybars, where the gateways are of
stone of two alternating colours.
1 The vile practice of distempering the walls and façades
of mosques in red and white stripes is a coarse attempt to
revive the effect of varied stone courses. Every effort is
being made by the Commission to suppress this crude
Stone was not used merely in construction, but
also for tombs, pulpits (minbar), tribunes (dikka),
etc., of which no more exquisite example can be
cited than the minbar of white gritstone with which
Kāït-Bey endowed the tomb-mosque of Barkūk; it
is a perfect gem of Arab ornament.
Egypt possesses a considerable variety of stones
suitable for building,
2 but the Arabs, instead of
2 See the collection in the School of Medicine at Cairo.

going to the trouble of extracting their own materials
from the quarries, preferred to rob the buildings of
their predecessors; one often sees hieroglyphics on
an outer wall of a mosque, whilst columns, capitals,
lintels, etc., from demolished Graeco-Roman buildings,
abound. The stone used in the best Arab
period is a white limestone, of a close substance,
which takes a greyish tone with age; or else a
yellowish nummulite stone, too porous for the finest
sculpture. The latter has been almost exclusively
employed during the Turkish period.
Marble was used at all periods by the Arabs, but
especially in the early days of their occupation of
Egypt for tombstones (shāhid), many of which, engraved
(sometimes in relief) with pious formulas, the
name of the deceased, and the date of death, in kufic
characters, have been found in the sandy tract about
'Ayn es-Sīra to the south of Cairo. They date chiefly
from the IXth c., but some go back earlier. A great
many ancient tombstones have also been brought
from the old Mohammadan cemetery near Aswān.
Egypt is poor in marble, and the backs of these
headstones often show that they were taken from
older Greek, Roman, or Coptic monuments. Such
spoliation was very common: we find a Roman eagle
on a capital in the Citadel mosque of En-Nāsir, a
cross and crown on another in the mosque of El-Muayyad,
and Byzantine columns on either side of
the niche (mihrāb) of the mosque of Ibn-Tūlūn—though
this prince put himself to great pains to
procure original materials and generally eschewed

spoliation on principle. Others were less scrupulous,
and cargoes of marble were brought from ruined
cities of Syria, whilst the gothic gateway of the
medresa of En-Nāsir, in the Sūk-en-Nahhāsīn, was
ravished from Acre in 1291 by Khalīl. This habit
of spoliation was injurious to the growth of Arab
style, especially as to columns, which were generally
borrowed; and, except the vase-shaped capitals
(called kulla, after the earthen water-bottles of the
same name), no true Arab capital appears till the
characteristic stalactite form was introduced at a
late date.1 Marble was not generally employed till
the XIIIth c., when it began to be used for veneering,
especially on portals. When sculptured the work is
naturally finer than on coarser stone; but the most
beautiful decorative effects in marble are seen in
mural mosaics and tesselated pavements. The mosaics
were either formed of pieces of coloured marbles set
in a mortar bed, or various small pieces were inlaid
in the solid slab which formed the groundwork.
When the outlines of the space to be inlaid were too
complicated to be filled without needless labour in
cutting the marble, the designs were filled in with
a resinous composition, generally red or black.
Many magnificent examples of mosaic may be seen
in the mosques.
1 The earliest occur in the Medresa of Barkūk, 1384.
The Museum possesses a fine series of richly
sculptured marble vessels (nos. 34, 35, 110, etc.).


Room I.


I. 19. Slab From A Prayer-Niche. XIVTH CENTURY








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Metal-Work 1

1 A fuller sketch of the history of this branch of art may
be read in the French edition of this Catalogue.

In no department of Arab art is the influence of the
style which the Persian Sasanians inherited and
developed from Assyrian models more distinctly
visible than in metal-work, where we find the Persian
ornamentation by means of human and animal
figures prevailing in spite of the objections of strict
Muslims. The traveller Nāsir-i-Khusrau, who visited
many Mohammadan countries in 1035-1042, besides
noticing the gold and silver work at Tyre and Jerusalem,
dwells especially on the triumphs of the goldsmith's
art which he saw in Egypt in 1040. In the
palace of the Fātimid caliphs at Cairo he saw the
throne of El-Mustansir, which was made of pure gold
and silver, chased with beautiful inscriptions and hunting
scenes; and the inventory of the same caliph's
possessions recorded by the historian El-Makrīzy
describes an extraordinary collection of magnificent
objects in the precious metals and stones. All these
have disappeared, however, and it is only from the

close of the XIIIth c., that we are able to study
Egyptian metal-work from objects still in existence;
but thenceforward its development may be continuously
observed up to the beginning of the XVIth c.
The connection with Mesopotamia is easily traced.
Many objects bear the name of the artist and of the
city of Mōsul,1 and we see the characteristic style of
Mesopotamian ornament in the human figures, hunting
scenes, etc., chased in silver, inlaid on bronze.
The contemporaneous metal-work of Egypt itself
reveals the same technical method of inlay and
chasing, but the ornament is modified in accordance
with the prevailing ideas of all Saracenic decoration
in that country. There is more floral and geometrical
ornament, of the same style that we see in woodcarvings
and stone and stucco work of the period,
and less of the representation of figures and animals
which is typical of Mōsul.
1 See S. Lane-Poole, The Art of the Saracens in Egypt,
pp. 151 ff.
Amongst the choicest examples in the Museum is
the kursy or table (no. 13) of the Mamlūk Sultān
En-Nāsir Mohammad, on which we see indeed representations
of ducks (in allusion, no doubt, to the
name of En-Nāsir's father Kalāūn, which means
‘duck’ in old Turkish),
2 but these figures are quite
subordinate to the floral and geometrical decoration.
This table is unquestionably a product of the Saracenic
art of Egypt, and El-Makrīzy tells us3 that
2 Idem, ibid., p. 164.
3 Khitat, ii., p. 105.

there was a ‘Market of Inlayers’ (Sūk-el-Keftīyīn)
at Cairo, and that richly chased objects, such as a
dikka or settle, inlaid with silver and gold, after the
manner of our table, formed a prominent feature in
wedding gifts. One of them belonging to Sitt-el-'Amāïm
(‘Lady of the Turbans’), a merchant's
daughter, was so richly decorated that her betrothed
gave her 100,000 dirhems (francs) merely to repair
it. This passion for costly inlay had already
vanished in El-Makrīzy's day (he died in 1441), and
only a small number of inlayers then plied their
trade.1 The value which the owners placed upon
such possessions may be inferred from the fact that
they often had their names engraved upon them, and
one sometimes finds a series of successive proprietors'
names on a single dish or bowl.
1 S. Lane-Poole, op. cit., pp. 165-167.
The metals employed were copper and its various
alloys, which can only be distinguished by chemical
tests. The objects include large caldrons, coffers,
tables, bowls, censers, candelabra, lamps, bosses and
plating on doors, etc. The last are most readily
dated and ascribed to
Cairo workers, and some
which have been found in the mosques are now in
the Museum. The oldest are the folding doors
(Annex I, no. 9) from the mosque of Es-Sālih
Talāi' b. Ruzzīk, built A.H. 555 (1160), which are
covered with starlike polygonal designs in cast
bronze on a thin surface of brass.2 Here the castings
2 The mosque, which still stands opposite the Bāb-Zuweyla,
though in a ruined state, was restored after the
earthquake of 1302 by Seyf-ed-dīn Bektemir; but the
doors are of the Fātimid style, and must have belonged to
the original building.

are plain; but others are engraved with very
graceful designs, as on the doors which came from
the medresa of Tatār el-Higāzīya, granddaughter of
Kalāūn, founded in 761 A.H. (1359). To about the
same time (1362) belongs the door of the tomb of
Sultān Hasan, with its delicate inlay of gold and silver.
The two leaves of the medresa of Barkūk, with
bronze foliage coated with silver, and those of El-Ghūry,
show that the art was still pursued with
undiminished skill under the Circassian Mamlūks.
The various lamps and lanterns or chandeliers in
the Museum, of the XIVth c. and XVth c., are constructed
in tiers to carry numerous little oil lamps,
which were prevented from dripping upon the
worshippers by a tray (like no. 107 in Room II)
hung beneath, which also concealed the unattractive
interior. The tray in question is partly in repoussé
work, chased with decoration of the latest Mamlūk
style; for it comes from the mosque of El-Ghūry,
founded in 1503. The gratings, especially those
which closed the windows of sebīls (street drinking-fountains),
were also subjects for decoration, and
their knobs were often engraved with the name of”
Allah or the arms of the founder; for heraldic
devices were much in vogue in the XVth c. Nothing
in the way of metal-work, however, surpasses for
taste or skill the kursis already mentioned, or the
little book-box (no. 57), with its delicate designs

and enchanting kufic border, which still show traces
of the gold inlay which was reserved for the finest
class of work. After the XVIth c., bronze fell out
of vogue; it was no longer used for the doors of
mosques or other public buildings, and although
gratings were still made of it, they were no longer
skilfully fitted together, but were cast in a single
piece. About the second half of the XVIIIth c.,
western influences begin to intrude in the designs.
Besides bronze, the Arab smith worked in iron.
Nāsir-i-Khusrau mentions the iron-plated doors of the
Haram at Jerusalem, and also the massive iron doors
of El-Mahdīya in Tunis. In Egypt, iron was not in
great demand for artistic purposes, but one may cite
the forged iron gratings in certain mosques, especially
in that of En-Nāsir in the Citadel, which attracted
the attention of El-Makrīzy. Iron nails arranged in
effective patterns were sometimes used to decorate
the doors of mosques (see nos. 10, 50, in Passage)
and some of the old gates of the city quarters, which
were formerly closed at night.
Unfortunately, the Museum possesses no specimens
of Saracenic arms or armour. There was once
an Armourers' Market in the Beyn-el-Kasreyn,
opposite where Kalāūn's tomb now stands. The
present Armourers' Market (Sūk-es-Silāh) is near
the mosque of Sultan Hasan, but it has not inherited
the reputation of its predecessor.

II. 12. Inlaid Silver And Brass Kursy. XIVTH CENTURY


Room II.


II. 13. Inlaid Silver And Brass Kursy Of En-Nāsir Mohammad. XIVTH CENTURY

II. 57. Korān Case Plated With Brass Inlaid With Silver And Gold.






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The earliest specimens of Arab glass are the little
discs used for weights (found in great numbers in
the rubbish-mounds round Cairo), of which dated
specimens exist from the first century of the Hijra.1
Nāsir-i-Khusrau mentions a ‘Market of Lamps’
(Sūk-el-Kanādīl) close to the Mosque of 'Amr, and
refers to the admirable glass-work of Egypt.2 No. 1
in Room III, which we owe to Dr. Fouquet, the well-known
Cairo physician, illustrates the varieties of
beads and enamel found in the Cairo mounds. But
the chief glory of Arab glass-work in Egypt is represented
by the collection of over sixty enamelled
glass lamps in the Museum, which, despite air-bubbles,
bear witness to the skill of the artists in
the variety of the decoration, the grace of the
inscriptions, the finish of the work, and the colouring
of the enamels. These glass lamps are always of
1 See S. Lane-Poole, Catalogue of Arabic Glass Weights
in the British Museum
, and P. Casanova, Catalogue des
pièces de verre de la Collection Fouquet, Mem. miss. arch.
Tome vi., 1893.
2 Sefer Nameh, p. 152.

the same shape (see pp. 35, 38, 42); a small oil-vessel
was hung inside by wires hooked to the rim; and
the lamp was suspended by silver or brass chains.
The pure Arab style of decoration and the accurate
calligraphy of the Arabic inscriptions leave no
doubt that these lamps were made by native artists
in Egypt; though in Turkish times, when indigenous
art had decayed, it is possible that lamps
were imported from Murano. The oldest lamp in
the Museum, of which the date may be approximately
fixed, is no. 12, of the XIIIth century,1 and
the most recent is no. 80, of the XVth century;
but the collection is arranged, not in chronological
order, but according to the system of decoration:
indeed, so many lamps are without dates and come
from buildings which afford no clue to the epoch of
their manufacture, that an historical arrangement
can hardly be attempted.
1 This is, however, very exceptional. Most lamps do not
date earlier than the xiv c. The Arabs call them Kandīl
, ‘Kalāūn's lamp,’ which seems to show that they
first came into vogue in that Sultān's reign, 1279-1290. Ed.
Reference has already been made (p. 3) to the
stained glass set in stucco and used for windows in
mosques and houses. The oldest still standing are
those of the tomb of Es-Sālih Ayyūb, who died in
1248. These are of thick glass, like those of the
XIVth century; but in the XVth century the
coloured glass of similar windows is thinner than a
millimètre. Red and blue were used in three

shades, green and yellow in two shades; the colour
is not painted on with enamel, but always in the
metal itself, which is full of air-bubbles like the
metal of the lamps. Judging from the frequency of
a rounded rim to the glass, it would seem that it
was made in small sheets.
Glass was also sometimes used in little cubes
(about 10 millimètres square) with a gilt face for
mosaic-work. They were evidently cut in the soft
out of larger sheets, for the edges are squeezed, but
the gilt surface is always well preserved. So far
this material for mosaic has been found only in the
prayer-niches (mihrābs) of the mosques of Ibn-Tūlūn
and of Akbughā (XIVth century, which forms
part of El-Azhar). Turquoise-coloured vitreous
enamel was much used in the XIVth century for
the pilasters which decorate the wall in which the
mihrāb is sunk.

A. Small Objects

Room III.

  • 2. Collection of 19 oil-lamps and phials, blown and
    cast, from the same mounds. (Presented by
    Dr. Fouquet, 1893.)
  • 3. Two glass weights, and two imitation agates,
    from the same mounds.

B. Globes

  • 4, 5. Green and blue glass globes, used for decorating
    the chains which support lamps. (Mosque of
    Ezbek el-Yūsufy, 1495.) H 0.18, 0.15
  • 6. Fragment of oval enamelled glass globe, with two
    birds in a medallion (see lamp no. 62). (Given
    by Dr. Fouquet, 1893.)

C. Lamps Without Colour

  • 7. Ball-shaped lamp with three ears. H 0.25
  • 8. Lamp, six-eared. (Mosque of Sha'bān, 1368.)
    H 0.32
  • 9. Lamp, three-eared. (Mosque of Sultān Hasan,
    1358.) H 0.25
  • 10. Lamp, six-eared, wavy. (Mosque of Sha'bān.)
    H 0.30
  • 11. Lamp with six enamelled blue ears. H 0.24

D. Lamps With Little Enamelled Ornament

E. Lamps Decorated With Enamelled Flowers

  • 18. Lamp entirely covered with floral decoration on
    a blue enamel ground. H 0.34

F. Lamps Covered With Enamelled Ornament

  • 20. Lamp covered with tracery in white, and ornaments
    in red, blue, green, and yellow enamel,

    III. 20. Enamelled Glass Lamp Of Sultān Hasan. XIVTH Century

    on a ground originally gilt; on the neck, three
    medallions containing rosettes; and three others
    with inscription in honour of a Sultān. (Mosque
    of Sultān Hasan, 1358.) H 0.42
  • 21. Lamp enamelled; above the six ears, medallions
    in the name of Ez-Zuhir Abū-Sa 'id [Barkūk].
    (Medresa of Barkūk, 1384.) H 0.36
  • 22. Lamp enamelled with blue border round the
    ears and rosettes on the body, with medallions
    on neck and body in name of Barkūk. (Medresa
    of Barkūk.) H 0.36
  • 23. Lamp enamelled over body with network of blue,
    and flowers in red, blue, green, and yellow
    enamel; inscription in medallions in name of
    Barkūk. (Medresa of Barkūk.) H 0.36
  • 24. Lamp enamelled with ornaments in various
    colours; a border of blue round the ears, which
    are separated by floral ornaments; six floral
    medallions on the neck; medallions on the body
    in name of Barkūk. (Medresa of Barkūk.) H 0.36
  • 25. Lamp enamelled with arabesques on the neck,
    and medallions in name of Barkūk. (Medresa
    of Barkūk.) H 0.36; damaged.
  • 26. Lamp enamelled with ornaments, geometrical
    patterns, and medallions in honour of a Sultān.
    (Mosque of Sultān Hasan, 1358.) H 0.45; foot
    replaced in wood.
  • 27. Lamp nearly similar to preceding. (Mosque of
    Sultān Hasan.) H 0.40
  • 28. Lamp similar to two preceding, but patterns
    more complex, and between the floral designs
    of the neck birds1 delicately drawn within trefoils.
    (Mosque of Sultān Hasan.) H 0.40
    G. Lamps With Inscription Round The Neck
  • 29. Lamp with inscription on neck formed out of a
    ground of blue enamel:

  • 'Of what was made for the
    tomb of the poor servant of God (exalted be He!)
    Seyf-ed-dīn Salār, viceroy of the exalted empire,
    whom God assoilzie.' (Salār was viceroy of
    Egypt from 1299 to 1309.) H 0.25
  • 30. Lamp enamelled with ornaments, medallions
    inscribed with titles of Barkūk, in very delicate
    script; blue enamel border to the six ears; and
    on the neck on a blue ground an inscription
    (originally gilt) from the Korān, ch. xxiv, v. 36:
    'God is the light of the heavens and the earth;
    his light is as a niche in which is a lamp, and
    the lamp in a glass,—the glass is as it were a
    glittering star.' H 0.37
  • 31. Lamp enamelled with ornaments and medallions
    with titles of Barkūk, like preceding. (Medresa
    of Barkūk, 1384.) H 0.37
  • 32. Lamp enamelled with floral ornaments, medallions
    in honour of a Sultān, and on the neck
    part of the verse from the Korān quoted under
    no. 30 in blue enamel decorated with white
    scrolls. (Mosque of Sultān Hasan, 1358.) H 0.41
  • 33. Lamp very similar to preceding, with same inscription,
    but with blue enamel reticulation over
    the body. (Mosque of Sultān Hasan.) H 0.36
  • 34. Lamp similar to preceding, same inscription
    with traces of gilt ground. (Mosque of Sultān
    Hasan.) H 0.41; foot broken.
  • 35. Lamp with floral ornament on clear glass, and
    enamelled floral border round ears in red, blue,
    white, yellow, and green; inscription from
    Korān on neck, interrupted by medallions containing inscriptions
    in praise of a Sultan.
    (Mosque of Sultān Hasan.) H 0.35; foot wanting.
  • 36. Lamp with white enamel scrolls round inscription
    on neck, rosettes in several colours between
    ears, and neck inscription like no. 35. (Mosque
    of Sultān Hasan.) H 0.35
  • 37. Lamp with ornaments between ears enclosed in
    white enamelled ornament; same verse from
    Korān. (Mosque of Sultān Hasan.) H 0.37;
  • 38. Lamp with body covered with blue enamel reticulation
    enclosing flowers; same Korān verse.
    (Mosque of Sultān Hasan.) H 0.38

    III. 38. Enamelled Glass Lamp. XIVTH Century

  • 39. Lamp with central belt of white enamel fleurs-de-lis,
    and ornaments; letters of Korān verse
    decorated with white scrolls. (Mosque of
    Sultān Hasan.) H 0.38

H. Lamps With Inscriptions On The Body

  • 40. Lamp, with blue enamel interlaced decoration,
    relieved with red lines round the neck, and redlined
    inscription round the body:—

    'Glory to our Lord the Sultān El-Melik ez-Zāhir
    Abū-Sa'īd [Barkūk], God (exalted be He!)
    aid him.' (Medresa of Barkūk, 1384.) H 0.39
  • 41. Middle of a lamp like 40, from the same medresa.
    H 0.16
  • 42. Lamp enamelled with armorial bearings on
    neck and under body (on a fess, a lozenge),
    and inscription round the body:

    'His excellency, the most noble, exalted, protecting,
    El-'Alay, the departed Amīr 'Aly El-
    Māridāny.' (Mosque of El-Māridāny, 1338.)
    H 0.35
  • 43. Lamp, enamelled, with inscriptions on medallions
    of neck and on body in honour of Ez-
    Zahir [Barkūk]. (Medresa of Barkūk.) H 0.39
  • 44. Lamp, enamelled, with inscription as preceding.
    (Medresa of Barkūk.) H 0.40

I. Lamps with Inscriptions in blue enamel On Neck, and
Inscriptions in clear glass on blue enamel Ground
on the Body

  • 45. Lamp with enamelled verse from Korān on neck,
    and inscriptions on body and in medallions in
    name of Barkūk. (Medresa of Barkūk, 1384.)
    H 0.34
  • 46, 47. Lamps resembling preceding. (Medresa of
    Barkūk.) H 0.34, 0.32
  • 48. Neck of similar lamp, with name of Barkūk in
    medallions. (Medresa of Barkūk.) H 0.25
  • 49. Lamp, enamelled, with inscription on body:

    'Glory to our lord the
    Sultān El-Melik en-Nāsir Nāsir-ed-dunyā wa-d-
    dīn Hasan ibn Mohammad, magnified be his
    triumph.' (Mosque of Sultān Hasan, 1358.) H 0.39

K. Lamps With Neck Inscriptions In Blue Enamel Ornamented With White, And Clear Body Inscription
On Blue Enamel Ground

  • 61. Lamp enamelled with ornaments, bead borders
    and birds; Korān verse on neck, and on body
    the inscription:

    ‘Glory to our
    lord the Sultān El-Melik en-Nāsir Nāsir-eddunyā
    wa-d-dīn Mohammad, magnified be his
    triumph.’ (Medresa of Mohammad En-Nāsir,
    1299.) H 0.34
  • 77, 78. Lamps with gilt letters on blue enamel
    ground for neck inscription, and inscription on
    body, in white enamel, in honour of Sultān
    Hasan. (From his mosque.)


  • 79. Lamp enamelled in red, blue, white, and green,
    inscriptions decorated with scrolls in blue
    enamel; that on the body in honour of
    Sultān Hasan. (From his mosque.) H 0.37
    80. Lamp with three medallions bearing arms, and
    interrupting Korān verse in white enamel on
    clear ground on neck, continued on body in
    clear letters on blue enamel ground; and with
    another inscription at junction of neck—

    ‘Of what was made by
    order of his excellency the most noble, exalted,
    Es-Seyfy Kān-Bey the Circassian, administrator
    of the kingdom,’ (Mosque of Kān-Bey, 1441.)
    H 0.28


Nos. 86 to 129 in Room III consist of pious inscriptions,
‘texts’ from the Korān, the names of God, of the
Prophet Mohammad, of the first Four Caliphs, or of
dedicatory verses, written in elegant Arabic and
Persian, such as devout Muslims often present for
the decoration of mosques and tombs. Some (e.g.
nos. 87, 91, 93, 105) are ornamented with a picture of
the Kaaba at Mecca. A few are on leather (nos. 110,
129) and one on silk (106). Many are dated, but the
dates all belong to the present and the last century.
They are interesting for the history of Arabic and
Persian calligraphy and illumination, but do not,
of course, belong to the best periods.1
1 The names of the scribes and the nature of the inscriptions
will be found in the French edition of the Catalogue:
but they present little that is interesting.


Room III.

  • 130. Bronze lantern, octagonal, in three stages, the
    top and bottom stage of open work, the centre
    containing a bright copper band with inscription.
    (Mosque of Kādy 'Abd-el-Bāsit, 1419.)
    II 2.25
  • 131, 132. Two bronze pyramidal lanterns chased with
    inscriptions and ornaments. (Mosque of the
    wife of Kāït-Bey in the Fayyūm.) H 1.45
  • 133. Hexagonal wooden lantern, painted and gilt.
    (Mosque of Suleymān Pasha in the Citadel.)
    H 1.10
  • 134. Six stucco and stained glass window-lights.
    H 0.60—1.27


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Egypt is naturally very poor in wood, but the
trouble and expense of importation have not deterred
its artists from employing this material largely and
with remarkable skill in their architecture and
minor arts. The dryness of the climate has contributed
to the successful employment of wood for
building purposes. The pillars of the mosque of
Ibn-Tūlūn, which have stood for more than a
thousand years, have wooden ties, and the oldest
brick domes are stiffened by a complete framework
of wood. The mosque of Ibn-Tūlūn has also a large
frieze of wood carved with a portion of the Korān in
kufic letters,1 and its arcades were formerly covered
by a wooden ceiling, a small portion of which
the Commission for the Preservation of the Monuments
was able to retain during the recent repair
of the mosque, and of which the joists were then
visible. These joists consisted of a trunk of a palm
tree sawn in two, and faced on the three exposed
1 Not, as has been supposed, the whole Korān. Corbet
Bey, in his Life and Works of Ibn-Tūlūn, says the frieze
does not contain more than one-seventeenth of the Korān.
He is wrong, however, in stating that the letters of the
inscription were “cut out in solid wood and fixed on to the
board”: they are carved on the board itself in relief.

sides with planks. The spaces between the joists
were divided by cross-beams into shallow compartments.
This kind of ceiling has been in use, with
modifications and improvements, from the beginning
of Saracenic architecture, through the finest periods,
down to our own day. Another method was to ceil
the joists across with boards; and a third, which has
the richest effect, consisted of a ceiling of stalactites.
In all three methods the ceilings were always painted
and gilt, with ornamentation carved in the wood or
applied in stucco. This roofing never rested directly
upon the walls: there was always a transition—
an aesthetic necessity—formed by arching, coving,
stalactites, etc., which was treated with the same
splendour of decoration as the ceiling itself, and
presented the utmost possibilities of Arab art in
finished perfection, in form, and in colouring. Such
ceilings, of which some beautiful specimens have
come down to us, were not reserved for religious
buildings, but were also employed for private rooms,
as the few remains of early palaces and houses—such
as the palace of the Amir Beshtāk (XIVth c.) in the
Nahhāsīn, or the house of Gemāl-ed-dīn Ez-Zahaby
(XVIIth c.) in the Ghūrīya quarter—abundantly
prove. But nowhere was the art of wood-carving
and decoration developed in greater perfection than
in the making of doors, shutters, pulpits, Korān-lecterns
tables, settles, stools, etc., which form the
principal objects of the limited furniture in use in
Arab mosques and houses.
In the treatment of surfaces two leading methods

of decoration were employed, (1) an intricate panelled
joinery, on (2) open turned work.
1. Panelling. In the very earliest examples we
find a tendency to multiply the number of frames or
borders, which gradually grew into a complicated
composition of polygonal frames enclosing panels
sometimes as small as a centimètre in superficies.
Apart from their love of geometrical designs, the
Arabs had a good reason for this minute subdivision
of their panels, in the warping effects of a hot
climate on large surfaces. The ornamenting of the
faces of the panels and frames was effected by
carvings, inlay, or paint. In the mosque of Ibn-
Tūlūn we have some of the oldest specimens of Arab
wood-carving, in the ceilings of the door-bays (no.
75 in the Passage: next in date observe the door
no. 1 in the Passage). Here the carving is in the
shape of volutes cut deep in the wood, recalling the
foliate ornament of the Byzantine style; a resemblance
still more obvious in the wood-carvings found
in the tract of 'Ayn es-Sīra, south of Cairo, which
date from the early centuries of the Hijra. Apparently
the same style of ornament prevailed up to
the XIIth c.; but in the XIIIth c., we notice a deviation
from traditional forms: the panels become
smaller, the lines finer and more complex (see nos.
49 and 50 in Room IV, and no. 55 of Passage).
The last is from the annex of the tomb of Es-Sālih
Ayyūb (1249); and the tomb-covering itself is the
first example we possess of a style which was already
well developed. The little panels are formed into

hexagonal stars and delicately carved, and here
appears the representation of fruit-stalks which
are a common feature in XIIIth c. wood-carving (see
nos. 32, 33, 62, in Room IV). The mihrāb or prayer
niche from the chapel of Seyyida Rukeyya (no. 62),
which belongs probably to the same century, deserves
special notice for its characteristic ornamentation of
stems branching out of a vase. Wood-carving
reached its highest development in the XIVth c.—the
century of greatest splendour in all Arab arts—
especially during the reign of En-Nāsir Mohammad,
and under the influence of that Sultān's family and
the officers of his court. The use of various coloured
woods and inlay, already observed in the tomb of
Es-Sālih Ayyūb, became more frequent, until
eventually almost the whole surface is inlayed. In
the XVth c. ivory begins to be used for inlaying.
Good effects were also obtained by carvings on solid
planed planks (see no. 5 in the Passage).
Under the Turkish domination a rougher mode of
woodwork was employed, but the little panels were
still retained, though seldom carved, unless perhaps
with a single inscription. Wood, ivory,
tortoiseshell and mother-of-pearl inlay is characteristic
of this epoch. In the Delta a special kind of
woodwork was produced, in which the panel-work
was imitated by grooving.
No. 54 in Room IV and no. 4 in the Passage
should be noted for their rare representations of
men and animals
2. Turnery. Meshrebīya ('a place for drink')

properly means the little projecting bay, in a turned
lattice window, in which a porous drinking-vessel
(kulla) was placed to cool by evaporation; whence
it came to mean the lattice window itself, and
commonly in the present day any sort of turned
lattice-work. Doubtless this kind of turning dates
from very ancient times, and was done with the
same primitive bow-lathe as nowadays, but the
fragility of the work has permitted very few old
examples to survive, and the earliest to which we
can still point is the massive lattice railing which
encloses the tomb of Kalāūn (1284). We do not find
the true delicate meshrebīya work in this grating
or in the pulpit set up by Lāgīn in 1296 in the
mosque of Ibn-Tūlūn,1 though the latter has a finer
mesh and inlaid knobs. The true meshrebīya is
first found in the mosque of El-Māridāny (1338),
where the līwān or sanctuary is separated from the
court by partitions showing, among other kinds of
turnery, a system of hexagons connected by little
cylinders. At the beginning of the XVth c. we have
some fine examples of meshrebīya (e.g. the pulpit of
El-Muayyad), and the art attained its highest perfection
and variety of design at the time of Kāït-Bey
(e.g. the panel with kufic inscription over the
door of the pulpit of the mosque of Abū-Bekr ibn
Mazhar). Meshrebīyas naturally were used principally
in houses, where they kept out the indiscreet glances
1 Of which there are some panels in the South Kensington

of passers-by, whilst admitting air and a subdued
light and giving a sufficient outlook; but they contributed
not a little to the disastrous conflagrations
which used to be common in Cairo. European
persiennes and shīshas have now almost wholly
superseded the meshrebīya lattices of the past,
which with their corbellings and cornices once
formed a beautiful feature in the external decoration
of the house. The varied forms and designs, inlayings
and carvings, of meshrebīyas cannot be described,
but may be seen in the Museum, as also the method
of introducing inscriptions (e.g. Room VII, no. 29).
A different system of lattice-work, chiefly used in
the Delta, consists in crossed laths fretted with
geometrical designs, producing an excellent effect.
Ivory was used for filling panels of wood frame-work,
when it was generally carved, and for inlay
work, combined with ebony, tin, redwood, etc., in a
fine mosaic put together and sawn off in thin veneer
after the manner of Tunbridge work in England. In
this form it was largely employed in the XVth c.,
for borders and even for entire surfaces of furniture
(Room IV., nos. 57–60). Ivory does not often occur
by itself, except in a few rare specimens in the
museums of Europe.

Room IV.





IV. 59. Kursy Of Inlaid Ivory And Ebony



IV. 62. Mihrāb Of Seyyida Rukeyya. XIIITH Century




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Woodwork, continued.




[For other examples of woodwork, see Room VII,
Passage, And Annex I.]

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The potter's art was assiduously cultivated in Egypt
from very early times, and it was certainly not
allowed to deteriorate during the Mohammadan
period. To quote Nāsir-i-Khusrau again, the
eleventh century traveller found that at Cairo all
sorts of faïence were made, and some so thin and
transparent that you could see your hand through it;
whilst another kind had a metallic lustre, the shade of
which changed according to the point of view.1 The
traditions of ancient Egypt and of Greek and Roman
examples, and the influence of Persian ceramic art,
all contributed to the variety and beauty of Arab
pottery. Almost a history of the art could be traced
by means of the numerous fragments, from the
commonest domestic crockery to the finest decorative
work, daily picked up among the rubbish mounds
which mark the site of the old city of Fustāt (near
Old Cairo’), and whence connoisseurs, especially
Dr. Fouquet of Cairo, have accumulated very interesting
and beautiful collections. Sometimes these
fragments have the baking cockspur still sticking to
them (e.g. no. 145), a conclusive proof of native
manufacture, to which may be added the numerous
wasters found among the rubbish heaps. Among
1 Sefer Nameh, trans. Ch. Schefer, p. 151.

the most interesting fragments are the many which
exhibit inscriptions or armorial bearings, and thus
enable us to arrive at their date. The arms are often
the same as those found on metal-work, glass lamps
etc., such as the lion, two-headed eagle, cup, lozenge,
etc.; and a careful classification of these indications
with reference to dated examples in other arts would
go some way towards making a foundation for the
history of medieval Arab pottery. Among these
fragments some are glazed faïence others are merely
baked earthenware of a hard unglazed paste, often
stamped with marks indicating probably the capacity
of the vessel. The glazed faïence forms a rich series
worthy of more careful study than it has hitherto
received. As an entrepōCt of commerce between East
and West, Egypt naturally received influences from
all sides, and there is no doubt that certain oft-repeated
designs (see nos. 135 and 138) must be
derived from China, whence also came the undoubtedly
Chinese celadon or sea-green glaze which
had a great attraction for Egyptian potters (see no.
144). This celadon ware, which was preserved in
families from generation to generation, is known
throughout Egypt by the name of Ghur, which may
be derived from the well-known Sultan of the beginning
of the XVIth c. who built so many monuments
and often employed faïence for their decoration
The fragments of vases in which an opaque enamel
formed the glaze often bear on the bottom an artist's
signature, e.g.

made by El-Misry
[the Cairene'],

made by the Master,'

made by Esh-Sha'my [the Syrian'], or

made by the son of Esh-Shamy; '
or such names as

Gheyby, and

The Arabs, unlike the Persians, made but a sparing
use of wall-tiles in their decoration; but this is
explained, no doubt, by their preference for marble,
which was readily obtained in Egypt or near by,
and which in the form of mosaic produced a richer
effect than tiles could give. In this preference they
followed the Romans. As a matter of fact the only
monuments of Arab rule in Egypt which are
decorated with tiles are the minarets of the mosque
of En-Nāsir in the citadel (1318), the tomb of Tāshtemir
the Cupbearer (1334), and the tomb called
that of the Khawand Baraka, of about the same
date, the last two in the Eastern Cemetery or so-called
'Tombs of the Caliphs.' In the minarets of
En-Nāsir the tiles are of single colours, white,
brown, and green, and cover up the roughly-hewn
stones of the upper stage. The cupola of Tāshtemir
has a band of green tiles in the drum. That known
by the name of Khawand Baraka (though it is not
her tomb) has on its cupola a course of tiles forming
an inscription, the upper edge of which is emphasized
by a shoulder crowned with merlons. The
large white letters stand boldly out of the ground,
which is of two shades of green, and set off by
foliage in dark brown faïence. The ensemble of
letters, foliage, etc., has the appearance of a mosaic
of irregular joints, which may almost be compared
to the effect of a cyclopean wall.


We have to skip a century and a half before we
find another monument with this characteristic.
The visitor to the Museum will be struck by the
large plaques of tiles barred by great white letters
on a blue ground. These letters are of unusual
excellence, and formed on so large a scale that they
cover two courses of tiles. The ornaments which
fill up the intervals have the true Arab cachet. The
registers state that they came from the tomb of El-Ghūry,
and if they really belonged to it they probably
formed a band round the dome, like those
already mentioned. The present dome is a wooden
erection set up by Franz Pasha, about fourteen
years ago; but we learn from Prisse d'Avennes,1
that the original dome, which was shaken by an
earthquake and had to be demolished, was ornamented
outside, first by squares of blue faïence, like
the minaret [scil. the minaret of El-Ghūry's collegiate
mosque, opposite the tomb-mosque which had no
minaret], then by a band of inscription, and finally by
little blue and white imitation windows fixed between
the windows of the dome. Among a heap of waste
sherds I found a piece of faïence, no. 328, which I
have placed over no. 273, of which it is the complement
in colour of glaze, ornaments, and character of
inscription. These fragments apparently formed
part of one of those commemorative tablets which in
the XIV and XV cc. were often set up in the name
of some Sultān; and in this case the Sultān's name
1 L'Art Arabe, p. 123.

is El-Ghūry. This and other evidence makes it
clear that in the tiles mentioned above, and notably
those of the tomb of El-Ghūry, we see a native manufacture.
It should be noticed that only one or two
colours are used in these Egyptian tiles.
It was only when Egypt came under 'Othmānly
rule that tiles became fashionable for architectural
decoration, on the walls of mosques, houses, and
especially the combined street-fountain (sebīl) and
school (kuttāb) which is a prominent object in
Turkish building. The mosque of Aksunkur (1347)
restored in 1652 by Ibrāhīm Aga Mustahfazān, and
the mosque of the Amīr Sheykhū (1355), have
sometimes been cited as examples of the early use
of wall-tiles: but a glance at the latter will show
that the tiles are mixed up without any method with
the remains of the original marble mosaic work, and
there is no doubt that the tiles which line the
līvān of Aksunkur were placed there by the restorer
Ibrāhīm āga. The tiles of both mosques, too, are
not of the simple Arab style; they are Turkish—
Prisse d'Avennes classed them conveniently [but we
know not on what authority] as Kutahia ware. Of
course, in time Egypt learned to manufacture tiles in
the Turkish style, yet with an individual character—
e.g. at Rosetta; but the art has long fallen into
decay (witness the mihrāb of the mosque of Sitta
Nefisa at Cairo dated 1171 A.H. = 1757), the kilns
burnt out, and in the present century imported
tiles from Italy (see no. 252) have been employed in

A. Unglazed Earthenware

Room VI.

  • 1. Cup. D 0.17
  • 2. Cup. D 0.15
  • 3. Cup. (Mosque of El-Ghūry.) D 0.14
  • 4. Cup, with signs of glaze inside. D 0.11
  • 5. Tall vessel. H 0.15
  • 6. Small vessel. H 0.04
  • 7—9. Water-jars. (Mosque of El-Ghūry.) H 0.08—0.12
  • 10, 11. Lamps. H 0.13, 0.12
  • 12, 13. Pipes. H 0.03
  • 14. Brick. (Masr el-'Atīka.) L 0.15
  • 15, 16. Greek fire grenades, stamped with name
    Mohammad. H 0.11
  • 17—34. Eighteen fragments of vessels with various
    marks. (Given by Dr. Fouquet.)
  • 35. Vessel in shape of quadruped. (Given by Dr.
    Fouquet.) L 0.14
  • 36. Jug with ovoid base. H 0.37
  • 37, 38. Amphoras with pointed base. (Mosque of
    Imām Esh-Shāfi'y.) H 0.55, 0.60
  • 39. Jug with spherical base. H 0.37
  • 40. Jug with flattened base. H 0.21
  • 41. Talisman (higāb) with stamped inscriptions.
    D 0.06

B. Glazed Pottery

  • 42—59. Eighteen lamps. L 0.09—0.12
  • 60. Globe for lamp-chain, of terra cotta with yellow
    enamel. (Mosque of wife of Kāit-Bāy in the
    Fayyūm.) D 0.11
  • 61, 62. Globes of glazed pottery with blue flowers on
    white ground. D 0.22
  • 63. Bottom of dish, white enamel, blue and black
    ornament, inscription outside. (Mosque of El-
  • 64. Dish with moulded border in various colours.
    D 0.38
  • 65. Piece of a plate with inscription. D 0.20
  • 66. Lamp, coloured decoration on opaque white
    ground, inscription from Korān, date 1155 A.H. =
    1745. H 0.45
  • 67. Lamp, blue, green, and yellow ornaments on
    white ground. H 0.29
  • 68. Lamp, blue and green decoration on white
    enamel. (Mosque of Seyyid El-Bedawy, at
    Tanta.) H 0.23
  • 69. Lamp, blue decoration on white ground. (Same
    provenance.) H 0.22
  • 70. Lamp of terra cotta covered with turquoise blue
    enamel. (Mosque of Sultan Hasan.) H 0.30
  • 71. Large vessel of terra cotta, glazed, and decorated
    with a network of lines. Evidently made in several
    distinct zones. (Mosque El-Azhar.) H 0.91
  • 72. Cup glazed inside. D 0.06
  • 73—80. Fragments of glazed pottery: 73, 74, inscriptions;
    L 0.07. 75, armorial bearing, a
    sword on an escutcheon, and inscription; L 0.08.
    76, inscription; L 0.07. 77, fleur-de-lys; D 0.07.
    78, white glaze upon terra cotta, on bottom

    Gheyby; D 0.09. 79, similar, on bottom

    Ghazzāl; D 0.03. 80, foliate ornament of
    Arab character; L 0.09. (Given by M. Herz
    Bey, 1893.)
  • 81—166. Objects and fragments of pottery: 81—
    108, fragments, opaque white glaze; 135, design
    resembling porcelain fragment no. 318; 144,
    green glaze of celadon class; fragment with
    cockscomb still attached which supported
    another object in the kiln; 157, cup, white
    glaze, D 0.13; 158, 159, cups, D 0.16, 0.11;
  • 160—162, small vessels, H 0.07—0.10; 163, 164,
    camps, H 0.09; 165, blue glaze, D 0.03; 166,
    saucer. D 0.04 (Given by Dr. Fouquet, 1893.)
  • 167. Plaque representing the Haram and Kaaba at
    Mecca, in perspective, with inscription stating
    it was made by Mohammad Esh-Shamy (the
    Syrian) in 1139 A.H. = 1726. L 0.45

    VI. 167. The Kaaba In Tilework

  • 168—177. Ten enamelled tiles with ornament derived
    from the violet. L 0.25
  • 178. Piece of enamelled border. H 0.13
  • 179—181. Four pieces of a spandrel. L 0.25
  • 182—185. Five enamelled tiles, white ornament on
    blue ground. L 0.24
  • 186, 187. Two fragments of wall-tiles, enamelled in
    red, blue, and green, on white ground. H 0.14,
  • 188—190. Three tiles enamelled with two shades of
    blue on white ground. L 0.25

    VI. 172. Enamelled Tile

  • 191. Plaque containing a portion of a panel and
    frame. L 0.25
  • 192—195. Four oblong tiles, with blue, grey, and
    green ornament on white ground. L 0.19
  • 196. Tile with grey and blue ornament in several
    shades. L 0.19
  • 197—199. Three tiles with white and green ornament
    on blue ground. L 0.13—0.15
  • 200—212. Thirteen tiles. L 0.10—0.23 poor work.
  • 213, 214. Two pieces: a panel in white bordered by
    blue and green ornament. L 0.25 poor work.
  • 215—228. Fourteen tiles of good workmanship.
    L 0.11—0.25
  • 314—317. Tiles, four green, five white, two brown
    (dark and light), from north minaret of mosque
    of Sultān En-Nāsir Mohammad in the Citadel,

C. Porcelain

  • 318. Part of a porcelain vessel, white, with bright
    blue foilage. (Rubbish heaps.)
  • 319—322. Four celadon vases. (Mosque of Sultān
  • 323. Twenty-three blue enamel beads.


  • 324. Stone lamp. Given by Dr. Schweinfurth.
  • 325. Plaster cup.
  • 326. Carnelian dish, with edges raised, cut in facets.
    (Mosque of Kalāūn.) A precious example of
    the work in crystal and precious stones chiefly
    known only from medieval historians and travellers.
  • 327. Modern lantern.

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A. Meshrebīya Work
Room VII.


B. Lath Trellis

  • 31. Lattice in cut wood.
  • 32. Trellis, octagonal mesh. L 0.75
  • 33. Trellis, cruciform mesh. H 0.93
  • 34. Trellis, octagonal and cruciform meshes. H 1.00
  • 35. Trellis, star-shaped mesh. H 1.35
  • 36. Trellis, star-shaped and cruciform meshes.
    H 0.60

C. Doors

  • 37. Leaves of a wall-cupboard (dulab) ornamented
    with arcades above. H 1.70
  • 38. Door of panel-work. H 1.64
  • 39. Front of a five-doored cupboard (dulāb); three
    designs of pannelling. L 3.35
  • 40. Front of a cupboard surmounted by arches.
    H 1.65
  • 41. Door, wavy pattern. H 1.07
  • 42. Door panelled in rhomboids and diamonds.
    H 0.95
  • 43. Door panelled in rectangles. H 1.00
  • 44. Door panelled in sixfoil design. H 1.80
  • 45, 46. Front of cupboard, tenfoil design. H 1.76
  • 47. Three cupboard fronts; the middle with
    hexagonal design. H 1.75
  • 48, 49. Cupboard doors panelled in steps. H 1.08
  • 50. Cupboard door, rectangular design. H 1.08
  • 51, 52. Cupboard door, hexagonal design. H 1.08
  • 53, 54. Cupboard door, rectangular design. H 1.08
  • 55. Korān lectern, cut out of a single piece. (Mosque
    of El-Muayyad, 1420.) H 1.00

D. Lanterns

  • 56. Cylindrical lantern in six tiers, composed of
    open-work panels containing arabesques and
    geometrical designs; except the third tier
    where the panels are solid and carved with an
    inscription in honour of Sultān El-Ghūry, and
    are divided by medallions also containing his
    name and titles; dome-top, surmounted by
    crescent. Early xvi c. H 1.55
  • 57. Twelve-sided lantern in six tiers; open-work
    panels with geometrical designs; dome surmounted
    by crescent, with inscription in name

    ‘Keysūn [the mamlūk]
    of El-Melik en-Nāsir’; and on the third tier
    the inscription

    ‘Made by the master Bedr
    Abū-Ya'lā in the months of the year 730 (1329),’


    ‘Finished in the
    space of fourteen days.’ (Mosque of Sultān
    Hasan, 1358.)
  • 58. Lantern; the lower part in form of a plate with
    twelve sockets is attached by three chains to the
    dome, which is of open-work and surmounted
    by a crescent, and has projecting arms for
    lamps. H 2.00

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Arab bookbinding is interesting not only in itself,
but on account of its influence on Italian and
European binders from the XVth c.1 The three
hundred bindings in the Museum, with the exception
of a few specimens from the mosque of Barkūk,
were all found piled together among books in a small
room behind the mihrāb of the mosque of El-Muayyad,
and probably belonged to the library originally
established in that mosque. Oriental bindings have
a flat instead of a rounded edge, which is generally
protected by a flap on which as much ornament is
lavished as on the side; the side does not project
beyond the edge of the book. The material is
generally marocco, but silk and other tissues are
sometimes used in the decoration. The leather is
generally left its natural colour and only painted
1 The early Italian bindings belonging to Maioli, Canevarius,
Grollier, and especially Corvinus, are obviously indebted
to Arab models. The bindings at Budapesth which
formed part of the library of Mathias Corvinus (1458—1490),
and were carried off to Constantinople in the xvi c., and
only restored to Hungary in 1878, are so Oriental in character
that one would almost believe they were made in the

in certain places. The Arab bindings are marked
by arabesque ornament applied by the iron and forming
intaglio designs on the sides, even though the
ornament on the guards be in relief. The side ornament
is sometimes contrasted by colour and gold
from the guards which retain the original colour.
Often a foliate design is cut out in leather and
applied on a silk ground and touched up with gold
previously laid on the outlines, and pressed with
hot iron, with very happy effect (see below). The
designs are very similar to those of other branches
of Arab art; on the sides polygonal patterns and
inscriptions are most usual, but arabesques on the
guards. The Museum is rich in arabesques and
geometrical patterns, but for inscriptions the visitor
must go to the Khedivial Library and study the
magnificent bindings of Korāns, dating from the
XIIIth c. This fine manner of work ended with the
Turkish conquest of Egypt. Turkish bindings have
this vital distinction from the Arab style, that,
instead of heated irons, mechanical dies or matrices
were employed, and the individual taste of the
artist was thereby deprived of free play in tooling.
Arabesques and geometrical designs gave place to
naturalistic figures of the Persian style, and effects
were obtained in the way of high relief by means
of two thicknesses of leather, one above the other,
the upper being cut out to the desired shape. The
leather was then forcibly pressed against the mould,
and obtained the sharp relief which marks the
Persian and Turkish style of binding. These moulds

were originally of camel-leather, but at a later
period they were made of metal, as is shown by
three brass moulds in the collection of J. A. Cattaui
Bey of Cairo. Varnished bindings form the most
modern variety. The leather was coated with a
sort of plaster, on which the design, most commonly
flowers in their natural colours, were painted,
and the surface was then varnished. The varnish
turned yellow in time, but where it scales the
painting appears in its original freshness.

Room VIII.
Case A. (67 Specimens)


Case B. (204 Specimens)

Passage, 1. Door From El-Azhar, CIRC. 1000

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The Second Room of this Annex and the whole of
Annex II are occupied by over a thousand tombstones,
with kufic inscriptions, chiefly of the II–IVth c. of
the Hijra, from the old cemetery at Aswān and that
south of Cairo: most of them were the gift of the
Direction of the Gīza Museum.

Sampson Low, Marston & Company's

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A limited Library Edition of Two Hundred and Fifty-Copies,
each numbered, printed on hand-made paper, parchment binding, gilt-top,
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and Letters, which are not included in the ordinary Edition, and some
additional portraits.
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SIR ROBERT PEEL. By Justin Mc Carthy, M.P. With
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TURKEY. Illustrated. 8vo, pp. xix. 373.
THE BARBARY CORSAIRS. Illustrated. 8vo, pp. xviii. 316.
BY THEIR COINS. pp. clxxvii.
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pp. xviii. 264. Published for the Committee of Council on
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Date: (unknown) (Electronic edition revised August 2007) . Author: Herz, Max, 1856-1919 (Electronic edition revised LMS).
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons attribution license.