Name of Monument:

Hospital (Bimaristan) al-Qaymari

Location:

Al-Salihiyya Quarter, Bayn Al-Madaris Street, Damascus, Syria

Date of Monument:

Hegira 646–54 / AD 1248–56

Period / Dynasty:

Ayyubid

Patron(s):

Sayf al-Din al-Qaymari.

Description:

Bimaristan al-Qaymari (bimaristan being a Persian word meaning hospital or infirmary) was founded by Sayf al-Din al-Qaymari in AH 646 / AD 1248. Al-Qaymari was a prince renowned for his bravery in battle who died while fighting the Crusaders at Nablus in AH 654 / AD 1256. The construction of this grand hospital in the Salihiyya Quarter indicates the degree of urbanisation and independence the region had reached since its foundation in the AH mid-5th / AD 11th century. Bimaristan al-Qaymari continued to be used as an infirmary up until modern times.
The layout of the bimaristan is very much influenced by the Bimaristan Nur al-Din (built in AH 548 / AD 1154 within the city walls). It has a square plan with four centrally oriented iwans each flanked by entrances to further rooms.
The bimaristan has a fully ablaq (rows of stones in alternating colour)portal with an ornate arch. The stones of the façade itself are square, while those making up the arch are curvilinear. A lavish muqarnas caps the portal and three extensive lines of inscription in thuluth script offer plenty of information on the construction, supervision, and funding of the bimaristan.
Much of the stucco decoration of the southern iwan has survived, notably, the medallions. Across the three walls of the iwan is an elaborate band of naskhi inscription repeating the Shahada (confession of faith). The vegetal motifs interwoven between these letters are highly intricate, including lotus flowers and other elements of chinoiserie. This level of ornamentation reveals the beginning of a transition from Ayyubid sobriety to Mamluk-style embellishment.
In recognition of the healing benefits of beautiful scenery and panoramic views, all the south-facing rooms of this bimaristan have windows overlooking the city of Damascus and the gardens of al-Salihiyya.

View Short Description

This Ayyubid medical centre was sponsored by a warrior prince who died while fighting the Crusaders at Nablus in AH 654 / AD 1256. It continued to be used as an infirmary until modern times. The layout of the building is inspired by the architectural style brought to Syria by the Atabegs, particularly the Bimaristan Nur al-Din. Its more lavish ornamentation, seen in its entrance and main iwan, signifies a period of transition that heralds the more flamboyant style of the Mamluks. Colourful and curvilinear stones decorate its recessed muqarnas portal, which includes a protruding ledge for visitors to sit on while awaiting entry.

How Monument was dated:

The monument is dated by the inscription along the top of the doorway which cites the beginning of construction in 646 (1248). Its completion date is not completely legible –65(?), but the date of Sayf al-Din's death is known to be 654 / 1256.

Selected bibliography:

Allen, T., “Ayyubid Architecture”, Occidental (electronic publication 7th edition), 2003.
Herzfeld, E., "Damascus: Studies in Architecture”, Part III, Ars Islamica, Vols.XI–XII, 1946, pp.1–71.

Citation of this web page:

Abd al-Razzaq Moaz, Zena Takieddine "Hospital (Bimaristan) al-Qaymari" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. 2019. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;sy;Mon01;9;en

Prepared by: Abd Al-Razzaq Moaz, Zena Takieddine
Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez


MWNF Working Number: SY 13