Mosque of Amir Shaykhu
The mosque is located on Saliba Street, in the Sayyida Zaynab district. The street is rich in Islamic monuments. A khanqah (built AH 756 / AD 1355) that is also linked with Amir Shaykhu, stands across the street opposite the mosque, Cairo, Egypt
Hegira 750 / AD 1349
Amir Shaykhu al-Emary (d. AH 759 / AD 1357), was one of the commanders under Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qalawun (who ruled three times: AH 693–4 / AD 1294–5; AH 698–708 / AD 1299–1309; AH 709-41 / AD 1309–40). Amir Shaykhu advanced to a number of posts during the period of al-Nasir Muhammad, until he occupied the position of Commander of the Army and became Great Amir during the rule of Sultan al-Nasir Hasan ibn al-Nasir Muhammad (who ruled two times: AH 748–52 / AD 1347–51 and AH 755–62 / AD 1354–61).
The façade of the Mosque of Amir Shaykhu overlooks Saliba Street; it is divided into five recessed walls crowned by muqarnas tiers below which are window openings. On the upper area of the façade is an inscription band carved into the stone in naskhi script. The entrance is located on the left of the façade. It is in the style of Mamluk portal design, consisting of an archway with a ceiling that is topped by a semi-circular dome adorned with muqarnas. The arch opens onto a recessed wall that contains the entrance, and above which are interlocked voussoirs. The entrance is decorated with polychrome marble decoration, and the spandrels of the arch are adorned with vegetal leafy motifs carved into the stone. A slender minaret made up of three stories tops the entrance. The first and the second stories are octagonal, while the third is crowned by a pinnacle in the form of a small dome. The minaret is identical in height and form to the minaret of the khanqah opposite. It is adorned with an inlaid casing of red and white stone that is arranged in a geometric pattern and made up of zigzag lines that assume the form of a linked chain of V-shaped letters. The same design can be seen on the second storey of the minaret belonging to the Mosque and Madrasa of Amir Sarghatmish, and a similar zigzag design can be seen on the minaret of the Mosque of Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad in the citadel, but the pattern is carved into the stone.
The ground-plan of the mosque is composed of a rectangular courtyard surrounded by four iwans. The qibla iwan consists of two colonnades, and the iwan facing it is of a similar mode. The two side iwans, however, are small and each of their façades is composed of two arches. On top of the mihrab of the mosque, there was once a dome but it burnt down along with the ceiling of the qibla iwan in AH 923 / AD 1517. The qibla iwan of this mosque has two distinguishing features: the minbar and the dikkat al-muballigh (a raised area from which prayers are reiterated to worshippers). The minbar was executed in stone; its supports and sides are carved with beautiful geometric decoration, and its pillars and their crowns were once decorated with polychrome ornamentation. The dikkat al-muballigh was realised in stone and is borne by carved pillars; it is accessed by way of a winding, stone staircase. This dikkat al-muballigh is considered to be the first stone dais in Egypt, since daises constructed of wood and marble were more familiar. There is a carved inscription on the dais which bears the name of the patron: al-Hajj Muhammad ibn Sha'ban ibn Said al-Noqali, and the year it was crafted, AH 961 (AD 1554, Ottoman period). It is probable that the same patron also commissioned the minbar.
The Imam Abd al-Rahman al-Suyuti, a great scholar and historian who died in AH 911 / AD 1505, had strong ties with this mosque as he had been appointed to a teaching post in his youth and gave his first lessons there in the presence of his teachers.
The mosque, the minbar, the mihrab, the stucco windows and the marble floors were restored in 1931–3. In 2005 the High Council for Antiquities undertook implementation of a complete restoration programme for the mosque.
The minbar (pulpit) of this mosque is executed in stone engraved with beautiful geometric decorations, as is the stone dikkat al-muballigh (the dais from which prayers are reiterated), considered to be the first of its kind in Egypt. A khanqah (hostel for Sufis) built by the same sponsor stands across the street.
This building was dated based on an inscription on its façade, which bears the name of the sponsor and the date when construction was completed.
Abd al-Wahab, H., Tarikh al-Masajid al-Athariya [History of Monumental Mosques], Cairo, 1994.
Creswell, K. A. C., Muslim Architecture of Egypt, Vol. II, Oxford, 1960.
Hussain, S., 'Amal al-Amir Shaykhu [The Works of Amir Shaykhu], MA thesis, University of Cairo, 1971.
Al-Maqrizi, Al-mawā'iz wa'l-i'tibār bi-dhikr al-khiţaţ wa'l-āthār [Exhortations and Contemplation of the Recollection of Plans and Monuments], 2 Vols, Cairo, 1853.
Salem, al-Said Muhammad Abd al-Aziz, Al-Ma'adin al-Masriya [Egyptian Minarets], Cairo, 1959.
Tarek Torky "Mosque of Amir Shaykhu" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2022. 2022. https://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;eg;Mon01;29;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 GomezMandi Gomez
Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.
True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.
MWNF Working Number: ET 29