2018 World Monuments Watch
A Sufi religious foundation in Cairo, the abandoned Takiyyat Ibrahim al-Gulshani is in need of a new vision for its future use. The complex of al-Gulshani was the first religious foundation established in Cairo after the Ottoman conquest in 1517, and the first to be named a takiyyat, a residential religious complex, in its foundation deed. It was built between 1519 and 1524 by Ibrahim al-Gulshani, an influential Sufi shaykh from Azerbaijan whose life in Cairo bridged the period between Mamluk and Ottoman rule. The complex consists of a freestanding Mamluk-style mausoleum in the middle of a courtyard framed by Sufi cells, mosque, kitchen, shops, and apartments for his devoted followers and family members.
In contrast to most shaykhs, who tended to build on the outskirts of the city, Ibrahim al-Gulshani built his religious complex in the heart of Cairo, where the ruling political elite normally constructed monumental edifices. Scholars speculate that Ibrahim al-Gulshani may have had a particular personal concept of his own religious standing, and transferred that to determining its location and an architectural arrangement unparalleled in Cairo. The complex features his tomb on a raised platform at the center of a courtyard, a distinct feature and notable for its departure with layouts of the period.
Following the 1992 Cairo earthquake, and until the political uprising of 2011, the city’s historic core was the subject of hundreds of restoration projects that breathed new life to its historic architecture. Today, with tourism revenue considerably reduced, investment in cultural heritage in Egypt is limited, and foreign support, once a major contributor to regenerating the historic city, is now nearly non-existent. The Takiyyat Ibrahim al-Gulshani complex lies in various states of ruin, a victim of financial limitations, earthquakes, looting, and changing religious administrative structures. However, recent interest in its rehabilitation on behalf of local authorities signals a positive shift for the complex. With the site’s inclusion on the 2018 World Monuments Watch, World Monuments Fund seeks to launch a dialogue about the restoration and future use of Takiyyat Ibrahim al-Gulshani as a case study for rehabilitating other sites of its type.
The future of the Takiyyat of Al-Gulshani
World Monuments Fund is supporting the initial research and documentation of the Takiyyat at Ibrahim al-Gulshani, thanks to an award from the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation. The first step in envisioning a viable future use for the site, the project team will review historic reports, studies, drawings, photographs, and archival information to more accurately assess the condition of the site. The project provides an opportunity for WMF to help the Ministry of Antiquities to improve documentation standards and define a conservation action plan for the complex, one that explores different possibilities for its adaptive reuse.