The buildings of the different Islamic dynasties in Egypt with their great cultural and aesthetic significance have survived and remained functional despite numerous natural as well as man-made disasters. This was possible not only because of the high structural engineering knowledge and construction techniques with which they were built, but also due to the existence of the waqf system, which was not merely a system of endowments for charitable and pious causes, such as constructing mosques and schools but also a system concerned with maintenance and repair. Its main aim was the upkeep of the charitable act and the benefit of the endowments in perpetuity, which was only possible through regular upkeep, maintenance and repair operations. Accordingly endowers allocated money as well as personnel for the running of these institutions and they stipulated that the money should be spent primarily on the needed maintenance and repair operations. Numerous waqf documents ( waqfiyyas) mainly from the Mamluk period as well as earlier books written by shaykhs dealing with the waqf stipulations were consulted, which included numerous principles and regulations related to maintenance, restoration and repair activities of waqf buildings, showing that these were important issues. Despite the scarcity of available documents related to the application of these principles and regulations, some of the documents found clearly indicate that there was a control over these buildings and a serious attempt to preserve their function. Although numerous forms of corruption existed and caused the loss of numerous waqf buildings, many, especially religious ones or those constructed by rich sultans managed to survive. It is important to mention also that the Comite de Conservation des Monuments de /'Art Arabe established in 1881 for the conservation and restoration of Coptic and Islamic Art in Egypt was part of the Ministry of Awqaf recognizing accordingly the role played by the waqf system in that aspect.

Although this research aims at studying the issue from the historical point of view, it is also important to link it to the present situation. Today there are numerous restoration and conservation projects taking place in Islamic Cairo which was added in 1979 to the UNESCO's world heritage list. These projects should consult the waqf documents which reveal interesting historic as well as architectural information and should also retrieve and document information that could not be found in the historic documents, such as later restoration interventions, the various construction techniques and details of decoration patterns.

Last but not least, these projects, following the internationally accepted restoration charters, should also benefit from the values, priorities and principles of the waqf system, which is recognized by Jokilehto, who extensively researched and wrote about the history of architectural conservation, as the ''traditional system of maintenance and repair'' in the Islamic society.


School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Date of Award


Online Submission Date


First Advisor

Bernard O'Kane

Committee Member 1

Bernard O'Kane

Committee Member 2

George T. Scanlon

Committee Member 3

Alaa El Habashi

Document Type



130 leaves :

Library of Congress Subject Heading 1


Library of Congress Subject Heading 2



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Call Number

Thesis 2004/47