Mamluk Heritage in Egypt; Between Negligence and Protection

Cairo is usually referred to as the ‘city of a thousand minarets’. It has some of the world’s oldest Islamic historical sites that showcase the evolution of art, geometry, and architecture during the country’s medieval era, especially the Mamluk reign from 1250 to 1517.

Design flourished during this period which was reflected in all of the Mamluk buildings, such as their schools and mosques. Every single detail of these buildings has a distinguished design, and mosque minbars show the beauty of Mamluk artwork. Minbars are stepped pulpits found in mosques where the imam delivers sermons and lectures, and they are an essential part of any mosque.

Despite the historical importance of these minbars in the Egyptian Islamic heritage, they have always been subject to negligence and theft. For example, one of the most famous minbar theft incidents occurred in 2010 when the minbar of the Qani-Bay mosque was stolen, and the media reported it after three months of the incident.

The Egyptian Heritage Rescue Foundation stepped in to preserve and rescue the Mamluk minbars through their project ‘Rescuing the Mamluk Minbars of Cairo’. The project is funded by the British Council, and it aims at documenting, conserving, restoring and risk-mitigating the Mamluk minbars in Egypt.

The project has been in action for more than two years now, and the foundation is done with the documenting process “our goal is to have full documentation for the Mamluk minbars from different aspects either architectural or historical. They are subject to the biggest number of thefts in the historical mosques and we want to protect them,” said Abdelhamid Salah El-Sharief, Chairperson for the Egyptian Heritage Rescue Foundation.

The project will be finished by the mid of this year, it has documented more than 40 minbars, most of them are in Cairo, and they are now in the conservation and risk mitigation process for more than 20 minbars.

We Said This: What do you know about Mamluk heritage in Egypt?