Name of Monument:

Tower of al-Zahir Baybars

Location:

The tower is located in the southern enclosure of the residential section of the Citadel of Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi, also known as Citadel of the Mountain (Qala'a al-Jabal). In historical sources it was referred to as ‘the corner tower’ due to its location at the corner of the north and west walls of the citadel’s southern enclosure, Cairo, Egypt

Date of Monument:

Hegira 658–76 / AD 1260–77

Period / Dynasty:

Mamluk

Patron(s):

Sultan al-Zahir Baybars al-Bunduqdari (r. AH 658–76 / AD 1260–77).

Description:

The floor-plan of the tower is approximately the shape of a three-quarter circle. The higher sections of the eastern and northern facades are decorated with a large group of lions chiselled from stone, for this reason the tower was once known as the Lion Tower. The lion was in fact the blazon of Sultan Baybars who, in addition to building this tower, also renovated some of the citadels in the Sham region (Bilad al-Sham was the traditional Arab name for the region that today contains Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, and Palestine), including the Citadel of 'Ajlun in Jordan. The Tower of al-Zahir Baybars was obscured underground until recently (1983) when it was discovered during construction of the Police Museum. The museum was constructed on top of a section of the newly discovered tower, while the lower section remains underground.

View Short Description

When Sultan Baybars al-Bunduqdari entered the Citadel in AH 659 / AD 1260, a new era began in Egyptian history. He is termed the real founder of the Mamluk state, which he ruled for 17 years. He repelled the attacks of the Moguls and the Crusaders and re-instated the Abbasid caliphate in Egypt after the fall of Baghdad. He installed the new caliph, al-Mustansir Billah, to rule the Islamic countries. The tower bears the blazon of its sponsor in the form of a lion.

How Monument was dated:

Dating of the building was supported by historical sources such as the Khitat of al-Maqrizi and the research of Creswell (1924) on the citadel of Cairo, which mentions that the tower was the work of Sultan al-Zahir Baybars.

Selected bibliography:

Casanova, P., “Histoire et Description de la Citadelle du Caire”, Mémoires de la Mission Archéologique Française du Caire, No. 6, Paris, 1897.
Creswell, K. A. C., “Archaeological Researches at the Citadel of Cairo”, Bulletin l'Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale, No. 23, Cairo, 1924, pp.89–167.
Rabbat, N., The Citadel of Cairo, Geneva, 1989.
Zaki, Abd al-Rahman, Qal'a Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi wa ma hawlaha min al-Athar [Citadel of Salah al-Din Ayyubi and the Surrounding Monuments], Cairo, 1971.

Citation of this web page:

Tarek Torky "Tower of al-Zahir Baybars" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. 2019. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;eg;Mon01;24;en

Prepared by: Tarek TorkyTarek Torky

Tarek Abdel Aziz Torky holds a BA in Islamic and Coptic Antiquities from Cairo University (1982). He is currently Head of the Statistics Department at the Information Centre of the Supreme Council of Antiquities and reporter of the committee set up to prepare for the celebrations of the centennial of the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo. As Expo Curator for the Discover Islamic Art project in Egypt he prepared the database information for the Egyptian monuments included in the project and participated in formulating the dynastic and cross-dynastic exhibitions. He has participated in the first phase of the Islamic Art in the Mediterranean project as product manager and prepared the texts and photos for the catalogue Mamluk Art: the Splendour and Magic of the Sultans (MWNF, 2001). In 2002 he obtained a scholarship for Med. Master on new technologies for valorisation and management of Mediterranean Cultural Heritage in Ravello, Salerno.

Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (from the Arabic).
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: ET 24

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