Three medieval Mameluke-period monuments, the al-Mu’ayyedi Bimaristan, the Takkiyet al-Bustami and the Darb al-Labanna Gate in Islamic Cairo have reopened to the public after years of closure for restoration. Antiquity Minister Khaled al-Anani officially reopend the buildings; attending were Egyptian and foreign figures from the archaeological and antiquity circles in Cairo, ambassadors, and public figures.
Muhammad Abdel-Aziz, director of Historic Cairo Rehabilitation Project, said the opening marked the completion of the second phase of restoration of the Bab al-Wazir complex which includes another three buildings that had been restored and opened in 2015. He said the restoration project had begun in 2006 but was several times halted in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring uprising and the subsequent turmoil and financial crunch. Now, he said, restoration was complete, and had cost the Antiquities Ministry some EGP26 million.
The Bimaristan is a Mameluke hospital of world fame among surviving historical hospitals, and is one of only two surviving bimaristans in Egypt. The takkiya is a Sufi charitable building. Situated in what is today the Cairo overpopulated district of Bab al-Wazir, the buildings suffered on account of air pollution, high underground water levels, high levels of humidity, water leakage because of a decayed sewerage system installed 100 years ago, and the adverse effects of the 1992 earthquake that led to cracks and partial collapse in specific spots.
Mr Abdel-Aziz said that among the most serious causes of damage to the buildings has been encroachment and misuse by their present-day neighbours who used the takkiya as a residential building and the bimaristan as a garbage dump
He said the walls had been cracked and partially collapsed, the masonry was damaged, and the condition of the ceilings was critical. The original ornamentation was heavily damaged and several parts were missing, while most of the flooring was broken.
Minister of Antiquities Khaled al-Anany said the restoration had been carried out according to the latest scientific methods. “Every effort was made to ensure that the original architectural features were retained,” he said, adding that the restoration of the buildings had had important advantages in that individual monuments were being preserved for future generations and the entire neighbourhood was being revived and upgraded.
Abdel-Aziz said that the aim of the restoration was mainly to strengthen and consolidate the monuments and protect them from future damage. The walls were reinforced, cracks were treated, façades were consolidated, missing and decayed stones were replaced, and masonry was cleaned and desalinated. Tilted pillars and walls were readjusted to their original positions, broken woodwork was reinstalled and missing parts were replaced with others of the same shape, size and material. The ceilings were consolidated and insulated with special material to prevent the leakage of rainwater into the monuments. A special system was also designed to accumulate rainwater in one place and feed it into the main sewage system.
The areas surrounding the three monuments were cleaned, renovated and upgraded in order to be used as venues hosting cultural events. All this, he said, was an added value for the district residents. But what was really exciting for the antiquity officials, he said, was that the restoration works yielded a number of new discoveries, some of high aesthetic value. At the Bimaristan, an underground tunnel and water cistern were found, as well as ornamentation on the façade that was not visible before the restoration.
The takkiya yielded stunning murals, and inscriptions of lessons written on the wall to teach students calligraphy.
22 January 2018