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In: Material Evidence and Narrative Sources


The borderlines between the sacred and profane, and the living and the dead, are blurred in the Mamluk Northern Cemetery of Cairo like in no other place in Egypt. Sacred burial domes, prayer chapels, mosques, ṣūfī khanqās, and zawīyyas stood side by side with profane residential quarters, kitchens, latrines, stables, kutābs, and sabīls scattered around a ḥaūsh enclosed by a wall. The Northern Cemetery was dotted with over a hundred of such Mamluk turba complexes. Many perished, but thirty-six survived.

The majority of surviving turbas are identified with certainty, but a few have controversial attributions or doubtful dating. One surviving turba stands out as not being recognized at all, let alone given an attribution or date. This is the peculiar case of the turba of Jirbāsh Qāshiq (d. 861/1456), standing between the complexes of Īnāl and of Qurqumās at the edge of the Northern Cemetery.

The plan of Ῑnāl’s complex (855–60/1451–56) has a peculiar square area protruding uncomfortably to the west, now in semi ruins. It was identified empirically by the Comité in 1919 as courtyard C of the complex of Ῑnāl. None of the later studies challenged this attribution. This paper will discuss the vague attributions of three turbas in the area in general, and as a case study challenges the Comité’s attribution of the ḥaush C as part of Īnāl’s complex; it proposes that it is a separate turba for Jirbāsh Qāshiq. This conclusion is reached through reading of several waqf manuscripts, comparisons with other monuments of the same genre and era, biographical dictionaries, and chronicles. A plan and a three-dimensional re-construction of the turba are drawn as well.

Open Access
In: Journal of Material Cultures in the Muslim World