Walking down Al-Mi‘uzz Street, one is bombarded by the spirit of historical buildings from every side. The street is usually buzzing with tourists and local residents going in and out of monuments, buying and selling or taking photos. It is rare that they venture out to side streets such as the wide Bayt al-Qadi Street, that extends next to the complex of Sultan Qalawun. Upon entering the street, the scene significantly changes and the noise levels drop. Within less than a hundred meters, one arrives at Bayt al-Qadi Square, a humble space that once belonged to the grandest of palaces. Today, the palace is forgotten but its mighty loggia stands tall, dominating the entire square with its superb proportions and elaborate decoration. Like most Mamluk residences, the palace of Mamay al-Sayfi has vanished leaving minimal traces and one impressive maq'ad. The maq'ad itself survives in good condition with its architecture and decoration still very much intact (Fig. 1). Only parts of royal and princely palaces dating from the Mamluk period survive. It is very common that we come across a portal and a qa'a with mostly ruins or new constructions surrounding them, such as at the grand palace of Yashbak or Qawsun. Religious institutes have had better chances of survival because of the waqf system, which provides funding for the upkeep of its premises in perpetuity (at least in theory). That is not always a case with residential structures, where chances of survival are usually poor due to the lack of upkeep guaranteed by a waqf or similar document. The maq'ad of Mamay al-Sayfi survives in such a good condition due to the fact that it was almost continuously used since its original occupation. The concept of the maq'ad was introduced in the 9th/15th century in Cairo and was adopted by the Ottomans in the residences of the ruling elite. The word stems from the Arabic word qa'ada, to sit. Yet, the development of the architecture leading to it was not unforeseen. Despite it being hard to trace the roots of the development of the maq'ad, experts are certain that this element couldn't just suddenly appear without prior trials. Excavations from Fustat revealed houses from the 3rd/9th and 4th/10th centuries with courtyards opening up to halls, mostly on the northern side, connected only with three arches. The middle arch was the widest and it opened up to an iwan with two connecting side rooms. The arcaded iwan is perhaps the strongest connection we have to the fully developed Mamluk maq'ad. The maq'ad of Mamay (monument number 51) dates to 901/1496 and is located in one of the most prestigious neighborhoods of Cairo at the time of its foundation, Bayn al-Qasrayn. The maq'ad was dedicated to the reception of the elite and the courtyard housed a vast garden with surrounding quarters possibly of the salamlik and haramlik. The vanished palace of Mamay and the maq'ad, their history and footprint will be investigated in this thesis, along with the events that led to the once very grand palace to be only known as the Bayt al-Qadi. What is known now as Maydan Bayt al-Qadi was once part of the Eastern Fatimid palace and it is possible that the maydan had been one of the Fatimid palaces' courtyards. Historians suggest that these quarters were dotted with mashrabiyyas with arcades surrounding the courtyard on the ground floor.


Arab & Islamic Civilizations Department

Degree Name

MA in Arabic Studies

Graduation Date


Submission Date

May 2017

First Advisor

Kenney, Ellen

Committee Member 1

O'Kane, Bernard

Committee Member 2

Hampikian, Nairy


66 p.

Document Type

Master's Thesis


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Even after all this time The Sun never says to The Earth, “You owe me.” Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky. Grandpa, thank you for lighting my sky for all those years. This thesis and my entire masters studies are dedicated to you. May your soul rest in peace. Acknowledgments I would first like to express my gratitude to the American University in Cairo and to the Department of Arab and Islamic Civilizations. I walked into AUC as a young woman with narrow goal and I was determined but I was presented with opportunities that challenged me intellectually, spiritually and emotionally. My goals changed and I was taken to places I have never even dreamt of before. And so I emerged as a woman with an entirely different vision and a goal to only live my values and to never stop thriving for what brings me closer to what I believe in. For that, I am grateful to have been part of such an inspiring academic and social community. I would like to thank my thesis supervisor and academic advisor Dr. Ellen Kenney for her endless support and for allowing my intellectual freedom to shine through my studies and my research. Dr. Kenney constantly pushed me to thrive for more while demanding the highest quality of work. Without her, my thesis would not have been what it is today. I would also like to thank Professor Bernard O’Kane for inspiring me and presenting me with a wider view on academia. Professor O’Kane and I met before I started my studies at AUC and this first meeting was the reason why I decided to join the program sooner than I had planned. This, for me, was a challenge but one that I am indebted for. Over the past few years I have also been fortunate enough to study under the guidance of Dr. Chahinda Karim and Dr. Dina Bakhoum. I am thankful for they have opened their doors to me and constantly supplied me with their passion and input. I would also like to thank Dr. Nairy Hampikian for me believing in me even before I knew I should believe in myself. She is always presenting me with ideas that challenge and engage me. She is not only a teacher but also an active mentor who has been supporting me since she accepted me as an extra student on her field trips to Islamic Cairo as a sophomore. Those were the first guided visits where I got to learn about the Islamic architecture of my beloved hometown. During my first year at AUC, I was awarded the generous Nadia Niazi Mostafa fellowship with the support of Professor O’Kane. For both, I am thankful because this opportunity changed the course of my studies and opened up new horizons that I was not aware of. It was also through the fellowship program that I came to work with Dr. Adam Talib, a teacher who became a good friend within a few months. Dr. Talib introduced me to various fields in Arabic literature and sparked my interest in poetry and travel literature. I am fortunate to have crossed paths with him and Mrs. Marwa Sabry of the Department of Arab and Islamic Civilizations. Mrs. Sabry supported my colleagues and myself since the day we started at AUC throughout paperwork, breakdowns and everything else in between. She has always been available and steered us towards the right direction whenever we strayed. This would not be a complete thesis without acknowledging the efforts of the Rare Books and Special Collections Library, Cairo Heritage School and the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo. The supportive staff, and friends, of the RBSCL were nothing short of helpful. Their patience has no limits and for that I am grateful. Cairo Heritage School and more specifically Ahmed El Tobgy have provided me with much needed documents that have complemented my thesis and helped me fill in a lot of blanks. Interning at the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo is a dream for many. Having the privilege to be part of the conservation team for a few weeks has been an unparallel experience that added value to my understanding of Islamic Art. I would also express my gratitude towards my family, friends and colleagues. Imane Abaza, Salah Maged and Natasha Pradhan, thank you for all the good times and for always providing me with a shoulder to cry on. I could not have dreamt of a better team! Laila Zayed, Omar Kishk, Dr. Heba Safey Eldeen, Soha Alaa, Nora Ashraf, Nihal Elkharadly, Maha Ayoub, Sarah Hafiz, Aynour Anwar, Ahmed Abulhassan, Tamer Darwish, Nada Mohsen, Heba Sheta, Salma Azzam, Amina Karam and many more, thank you, I am lucky to be surrounded by your infinite support. Finally, I must express my very profound gratitude to my parents; Ayman and Norma Osman, your love and friendship are everything to me and you are the reason I am the person I have become. I hope I have made you proud. Last but definitely not least, my sister and best friend Shams, no words will ever express my gratitude, for you have been the only constant in all the variants and the Sun to all my stars.