"Manzil" Gamal Al-Din Al-Dahabi
(Demure of Gamal Al-Din Al-Dahabi)
by Lara This House "Manzil" was built by "Khawaga" Gamal Al-Din Al-Dahabi in 1637 A.D. / 1047 A.H. in Cairo. The title "Khawaga" was given to chief merchants and important figures of the society. Gamal Al-Din was the chief of the elite gold merchants during the 17th century as is inscribed inside the house on the frame of the loggia ceiling.
Interior detail of courtyard Mashrabeyya;
The House's street faade looking on to the narrow alley "Harat Hoshqadam".
In the same year, he constructed a "Wikala" (caravansary). It is located in the same area as the house though the remains are not impressive.
The house is located in "Harat" (alley) Hoshqadam, a very popular area full of interesting Islamic monuments. Found at a near distance is Bab Zewiyla or Bab Al-Mitwali (1092/485), one of the three Fatimid Gates still standing. Also next to the house is Al-Fakahani Mosque, built by the Fatimid Caliph Al-Zahir in 1148. The structure seen nowadays dates back to 1735 when the Mosque was rebuilt by Ahmad Katkhuda al Kharbutli. Only the wood work remains a witness of the original building.
Though the house was erected right after a century of Ottoman occupation, it shows no Turkish features. It is considered to be one of the fine examples of a Mamluk house, offering the typical luxurious characteristics usually found in a private residence.
Main entrance of the Manzil;
View of fountain in the centre of the courtyard
Manzil Gamal Al-Din remains in its original condition. Due to it's unimpressive outside appearance, it does not attract much attention but once inside, one is surprised by the richness of its interior halls and chambers.
The simple street faade consists of a mashrabeyya and several small wooden screens overlooking the narrow alley.
This house has two entrances, each one having its own separate Durqa'a (passage)
The main entrance is situated at the southern corner in a recess with a pointed arched finely decorated wooden door.
This door introduces one to the more interesting part of the house; the Hosh or the open courtyard, through a corridor covered with two intersected vaults. The other entrance leads to a public reception hall.
The ground floor is composed of the central courtyard in the middle of which is beautiful octagonal colored marble fountain. Perhaps the most impressive part of the house is the double arcaded "Maq'ad"(loggia) found on the first floor.
View of the Entrance portal;
The Maq'ad or Loggia Iwan
The loggia consists of a rectangular area overlooking the courtyard through a dual arcade of two pointed arches in the middle of which is a round Roman style column.
The double arcaded Maq'ad seen from the Courtyard;
A View through the double arcaded Maq'ad to the Courtyard
The Maq'ad is a main feature found in most all Mamluk houses. It sometimes was composed of up to five arcades or more, depending on the importance of the residence and its owner.
The loggia is reached through a monumental entrance; a deep recessed portal with two sitting banks on both sides over headed by rows of stalactites and bound with intersecting profiles enclosing circles. This portal gives access to the residential upper storey. Following this entrance is a small Durqa'a (hall), where a flight ending at a large landing leads to the sitting loggia entrance.
In the south west side of the loggia is a small Iwan. It has an amazing decorated wooden ceiling beneath which is a frieze of calligraphic inscriptions dating back to the period of Abbas Helmy the second. In the background is a wooden mashrabeyya looking on to the street.
To the east of the loggia is a splendid Qa'a (main hall) where all celebrations and gatherings took place. It is composed of a central Durqa'a and two opposite iwans overlooking it through two wooden consoles. The ceiling is beamed, coffered and painted and is surrounding an astonishing high central dome. The lower part of the walls is decorated with handsome inlaid marble dadoes.
Seen on the northern side are mashrabeyya screens on the second storey level permitting the Harem (women) of the household to witness the activities taking place below in the Qa'a.
The importance of ensuring the privacy of both the household and the guests is noticed in the house design. Although all the ground floor halls and qa'as are open on to the courtyard, they are not directly connected but always across a small durqa'a in order to respect the privacy concept.
For the same reason, all the upper floor rooms overlooking the street or the internal court are provided with mashrabeyyas.
The house contains two other qa'as of secondary importance. The private quarters and rooms are all located in he second storey .This house follows an introvert pattern as most of the components are arranged around the internal courtyard. There are two other courtyards which are surrounded by the service rooms and kitchens. They are reached through separate staircases. The house also contains numerous stairs to the upper floors distributed in a manner to serve all the quarters thus not all the stairs continue to the upper floors.
Manzil Gamal Al-Din Al- Dahabi is distinguished by the attention given to the internal formation and architecture rather than the external. The exterior facades are marked by their simplicity since they are just considered as screens for the household from the outside.
Interior view of the courtyard;
Original material provided by Lara Iskander, who works with the restoration of Islamic era monuments in Cairo.