THE MOSQUES OF EGYPT
THE EVOLUTION OF MUSLIM ARCHITECTURE IN EGYPT
5.THE MAMLUK PERIOD, 648 - 923 H. (1250-1517 A.D.) : When al-Malik as-Salih Negm ad-Din al-Aiyubi ascended the throne of Egypt towards the end of the Aiyubid dynasty, he purchased a great number of Turkish Mamluks, and accomodated them at the Citadel of Rawda, which he had founded on the Island of Rawda in 638 H. They were thus called the Bahrite Mamluks, and they were greatly favoured by him, and were given the opportunity to occupy high posts in the state, until they attained the rank of Amir. They consequently gained much authority, until one of them, 'Izz ad-Din Aybak at-Turkumani, succeeded in ascending the throne of Egypt in 648 H. (1250). This was the beginning of Mamluk rule in Egypt, which continued down to 923 H. (1517), i.e. for 275 years. During 136 years of this period, 648-784 H. (1250 - 1382), the Bahrite Mamluks were in power. They were succeeded by the Circassian Mamluks, who ruled from 784 to 923 H. (1382 - 1517), i.e. 139 years. During the whole of this long period, the Mamluk Sultans rivalled each other in the construction of mosques, schools, mausoleums, sabils, palaces and wikalas. The greatness of this period was displayed in their buildings, which attract the admiration of all who see them. Muslim architecture in Egypt began to establish itself in this period, gaining a special individuality, and laying down its own standards and characteristics, which were adopted and followed by architects and artists. This fact is clearly shown in the mosque plans, the dignified faades and in the huge and beautiful portals. Side by side with stability, we find a steady progress in stucco work, and a variation in its decoration. This may be seen in the buildings of the second half of the seventh century. H. (13th century A.D.). Marble however has displaced stucco, and we find that mihrabs and dadoes are made with marble of different colours and in beautiful designs, distinguished by careful craftsmanship and harmony of colour. All this was accompanied by a development in woodwork and decoration, e.g. in ivory inlay work, ebony and zarnashan, side by side with fine carving on minbars, doors and windows. Turned work, as well, made great strides. The design of wooden ceilings underwent a great development, the richness of which was increased by their beautiful gilded decoration. Progress in metal work is evident in the copper plated doors, which show skill in the engraving, piercing and inlaying of copper. The Mamluk period is justified in claiming superiority over other periods, as regards domes and minarets. Domes were built of stone instead of brick, their substructure took various forms, and faience was introduced for decorating their durms. The decoration of the external surface of domes varied from ribbing to chevrons, until they reached a high standard in the days of the Circassian Mamluks, when they were ornamented with geometrical and arabesque designs. Minarets kept pace with domes. Thus we see them rising gloriously to a great height, and attracting attention by their beauty. The upper caps of some of them were covered with tiles of faience, i.e. the minarets of the Khanqa of Baybars al-Gashankir and the Mosque of an-Nasir Muhammad at the Citadel. Sometimes the middle storey was decorated with marble inlay, i.e. in the minarets of the Mosques of Barquq and the Qadi-Yahya. Their decoration increased in variety and richness towards the end of the Circassian Mamluk period. The cruciform plan madrasas were evolved in the Mamluk period. They are composed of an open sahn, surrounded by four iwans. Mausoleums for the founders were annexed to nearly all these madrasas, while sabils and kuttabs were annexed to some only. Towards the end of the Circassian Mamluk period, madrasas were built of a smaller size, compared with those of the Bahrite Mamluk period, while their sahns were covered with highly decorated wooden roofs.