Saving the Gamal Eddin Istadar Mosque and School
By Amargi Hillier
(Cairo) The Istadar Mosque at Gamalia is located in historical Cairo. The Gamalia area has numerous Islamic Antiquities including over 130 historical buildings. Even the name of the mosque's street is historical. 'Tombak' is an old Arabic name for 'tobacco', which is reflective of the street due to its many tobacco shops. The Gamal Eddin Istadar Mosque and School is not the only antiquity site to be renovated , for nearby is the historical Bazaara complex. The Istadar Mosque and School is however the latest of the antiquities to be renovated in this historical Cairo area.
Mr. Abdallah El-Attar, Head of Islamic and Coptic Antiquities, provided a briefing on the nomenclature of the Istadar Mosque and School. He says, "The name 'Istadar' has Persian origins. It breaks down to 'Istad' which means 'to take', and 'Dar' meaning 'to behold'. Thus combining the two meanings we get 'to take and behold'. Gamal Eddin Istadar was one of the most powerful men at the time of Sultan El-Nasser Farag Ben Barkook. Istadar was the advisor to the Sultan and Istadar was often considered the real ruler of the country at that time. Unfortunately, Gamal Eddin Istadar was be-headed due to his eventual treason against the Sultan. The most prominent remains of Gamal Eddin Istadar is this school, which was founded in 810 Hijri or 1406 AD."
It is expected that renovations of the Istadar Mosque and School will cost around 6,000,000 LE. Renovations have been going on for 36 months now. Painstaking work has been done both above and below the ground. The entire foundations of the complex
required special treatment due to the underground water levels which had drenched the foundation. Underwater damage is to Egyptian antiquities an ever so common situation. All the water at this site was pumped away.The Istadar Mosque and School overlooks Tombakshiyah Street from the north. The school is considered a 'hanging building' as there are many pillars supporting it. The inside of the Istadar Mosque and School is like any other typical mosque built during the Mamlouk era. There is a central round clearing area surrounded by four chambers, the largest of which is the Kibla chamber. The Kibla chamber has the Minbar (preacher stand) and the Mihrab. Adjacent to the mosque is a Sabil (public area for people to vest in) and a Kottab (area where children are taught Quran, reading and writing by the Skeikh).
Renovations of this mosque were not carried out haphazardly. Like all restoration efforts carried out in Egypt, meticulous studies of the original construction by scientists and specialists were done prior to the restoration and renovations plans. Some other elements of renovations include wall restorations - unusable building blocks were removed and replaced with new ones, renovations of the wooden ceilings and Islamic embellishments (see photo) are being specially treated.Once restorations and renovations are complete, the Gamal Eddin Istadar Mosque and School will hopefully be another grand and vast Islamic antiquity site for both Egyptians and foreign tourists to enjoy.