Wednesday, November 5, 2008

City of Dead - Khankah of Sultan Farag Barquq

I think part of the problem of going to see the tombs in the City of the Dead is the complete lack of any signage of any sort which would help find the tombs you are looking for!

My driver used to work for a travel agency before, but even he shrugs his shoulders when its comes to this part of Cairo. "No English tourist come to cemetry" he looks at me rather accusingly! "Er... ana min el Hind, ana mish engeltera!"

I suspect he's not too happy, having to roam the "Qarafa" (the local name for the City of the Dead) but does not have too much choice, given the "idosynchrasies" of his expat employer, lol! Though I keep telling him to look at the brighter side of this - after we are gone, he can probably go back to work for a travel agency, and, this time take them to places where "no man has gone before"! Pardon the last line, but my son's current obsession with all things Star (Star Trek, Star Wars etc) is rubbing off on me!!!

So willy nilly, he had to ask around for the nexy tomb on my list.

Khankah of Sultan Farag Ibn Barquq
My second stop was the Khankah of Sultan Barquq which my driver mistook for another mosque. A Khanqah used to be a kind of hostel / monastery for the Sufis, where they could stay and learn. The tomb was built by his son Al-Nasir Faraj for him, but he was never buried here!

While he ensured a place in the history of Cairo's architecture for his father with this tomb, Al-Nasir Faraj, however had the misfortune of being "the most tragic king of Egypt". He took the throne at the age of ten, and was only twenty-three when he was deposed and killed in Damascus. The khanqah took so long to complete (eleven years), that during its construction the sultan was dethroned twice and traveled to Syria seven times to quell disturbances. His reign was really one of continual strife among the amirs .(

Given this background, wonder where he managed to find the time to build such a beautiful masoleum and kankhah? Lessons in time management, much to learn!
The khankah is rather special on account of two beautiful domes and two minarets. One can climb both minarets, from which there is a fairly panaromic view, not only of the necropolis but of the surrounding areas.

The place has a huge sprawling courtyard which makes you wonder that it may well have been used as a congregational mosque rather than only a madrasa / khankah.

In one corner are stairs which take you to the upper floor to what must have been the living quarters of the sufi scholars who stayed and studied here.

Couldn't see much beyond this, cos I had to be back home in time to pick my son up, but shall be back another day!

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