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Showing posts from August 30, 2013

The Palace of Amir Beshtak

The Palace of Amir Beshtak was built by Amir Beshtak al-Nasiri, one of al-Nasir Muhammad's close khassakiya amirs and his son-in-law, in 1334-39 on the site of the Fatimid Eastern Palace (al-Qasr al-Sharqi). It remains nearly complete in its original form, with two stories, qa'a, a small courtyard, and integrated stables which have a special gate opening onto a side street. The long facade was endowed with many windows opening onto the busiest street in medieval Cairo.

In the heart of Islamic Cairo, authentic Arabic music slips away from the Bashtak Palace, currently known as the House of Arabic Singing. Built in the 14th century by Prince Bashtak, this architectural gem is now dedicated to reviving and teaching Arabic and Egyptian classical music and singing schools. The initiative is the brain child of the palace’s director and Arabic music lead singer at the Opera House, Mohsen Farouk.

Amir Beshtak Palace is located in Darb (alley) Qurmuz - Al-Muizz Street – El Ga…

Bayt Al-Suhaymi

The Bayt Al-Suhaymi is an excellent example of a private, though wealthy, Egyptian home of the 17th century, and

Al Azhar Park – Haven of Tranquility in Cairo

Woke up this morning – no sunshine in Cairo!  This was the kind of day I had been waiting for, a day-trip to the jewel of Cairo that hardly any tourists know about – Al Azhar Park! 
In 1984 the Aga Khan decided to build a park for the people of Cairo.  The only suitable central location was a rubbish/rubble dump near the 15th century “City of the Dead”.  The site was transformed into what is today a most wonderfully designed relaxing space covering 74 acres.  It has water features, a lake, unique restaurants, hilltops, winding walk ways, exotic flowers, mature trees, a children’s play area, lots of seating in tranquil, intimate settings.  Al Azhar is a must-visit retreat for anyone with spare time in Cairo, especially if you want to get away from the noise and traffic. Entry fee is only 5 LE.  I spent about 4 hours wandering around there today – only left because it started to rain!  Surrounded by the lush lawns, hills, trees and flowers I forgot I was in Cairo for those…

House of the Cretan Woman – Gayer Anderson

There is a truly wonderful house in Cairo to which only a few lucky tourists find their way.  Most do so with no knowledge of the extra-ordinary people who lived in, and left this enchanting jewel behind. 
The building – actually two buildings, is now owned by the Egyptian nation, having been left in trust to it by Major R.G. Gayer-Anderson Pasha. 

How he came to live in the house is proof for me that we never miss the boat, that what we want will come to us, that it is not the big decisions we make that change our lives but the little ones.
In 1906 R.G took a small decision to visit the 9th century mosque of Ahmed Ibn Tulun.  A pretty young Egyptian girl leaned out a mashrabeya (lattice) window of a beautiful old building he was gazing up at and invited him to see the house – he declined.

On 23rd. Feb 1925 he took another small decision to revisit Ibn Talun.  The same old house was going through the final stages of restoration.  R.G. just knew that house was going to be …

Bayt al-Kritliyya

The House of the Cretan Woman:The House of the Cretan Woman, Bayt al-Kritliyya is an example of upper class medieval Cairene tastes. The house is located in the southeast corner of the Ibn Tulun Mosque in Sayeda Zainab and is now part of the Gayer Anderson House complex. The Gayer-Anderson House is actually made up of two 17th century houses stuck together. This complex is named after a British major who lived in it and restored it earlier in the 20th century. He filled the house with French, English and oriental furniture and other fixtures. The house has a large reception room with a balcony that overlooks it. The balcony is enclosed with a screen through which women of the harem could discreetly watch the male visitors below. The legends about this house are almost as intriguing as the house itself.  Inhabitants of the house were said to have had the blessings of the patron saint al-Hussein who was the grandson of Muhammad. Another legend says that the well of th…