Madrassah of Sultan Hassan
Language: Arabic
Publishing Date: 1996
Available in a limited printed copy & digital copy
Tarek Waly

The Madrassah of Sultan Hassan stands proud as a witness to the glamour of Mamluk architecture in Cairo, in Muslim Egypt, and, even in the Islamic world. Viet Gaston is perceived at the Citadel as a fortress that seems stuck in its setting, getting ready to pounce, while the Madrassah looks quiet and yearning for transcendent heights of the Citadel in challenging glory while confident with indifference. The Madrassah of Sultan Hassan, in its hauteur, overwhelms any onlooker whether an expert, a person with interest, a layman of an Arab or Muslim origin, an orientalist, or a foreigner.

The orientalist with an overriding interest had been Hertz Pasha, who came to Egypt in 1880 AD driven by his passion for Egypt and its Islamic architecture. He became an architect for the Egyptian Ministry of Endowments in 1882 AD and held a leading role in the Commission for the Conservation of Arab Monuments, which was founded in 1881 AD under the rule of Khedive Tawfik. He had assumed full responsibility in 1888 AD, as he became director of the Museum of Arab Antiquities, housed in Al-Hakim Mosque, before the design and construction of the "Museum of Islamic Art" later. "Hertz Pasha," earned credit for the protection and preservation of numerous sites and buildings of Islamic architectural heritage. He had been allegedly involved in about 359 projects for the restoration of Islamic monuments and buildings, in addition to some 150 projects of more recent buildings designed by him, including the American University in Cairo. However, in his lifetime he issued one book, "Al-Sultan Hassan" in 1896 AD, which had recorded the architectural and archaeological surveys of the Madrassah and its ancillary annexes. It is also believed that there had been a book issued later in1919 AD after his death on the architectural complex of Sultan Qalawoon.

This book " The Madrassah of Sultan Hassan " comes in tribute to Hertz Pasha for the first book issued. In this book, the author had revealed the ingenuity of the design through his novel and unique reading of the form of the Madrassah building which manifests perfect functional systems, a faultless tempo of the architectural spatial progression, and its transcendent mass, which together form the architectural law or milieu. The author presents through this book his vision and theory that architecture has its own orders, and theories.

This book targets future generations who are to bear the responsibility of this huge inheritance, in terms of its preservation, its use of learning lessons, evolution through it, and its protection from destructive actions of time and man. This is to be accomplished by understanding the present and departing from the past, with all its cultural heritage and history which is replete with laws, devices, codes, constants, falls, setbacks, and changes. We are to take from the Madrassah of Sultan Hassan, its ingenious architectural patterns and, creative energies without falling into a regression blind copying practice, as it may lead to the loss of our deep cultural roots, and at the same time the alienation from our contemporary setting. Thus, the development drive would come to a halt, and man and his community would be held back.


Tarek Waly


The Geometric order of the architecture of Madrassah of Sultan Hassan

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