The Mamluk Minbars of Cairo: Rescuing Art, Design and History

Brief

In the past two decades, Cairo’s Islamic monuments have been subject to looting and vandalism. While thefts have been occurring throughout the years, this situation rapidly increased after the instability of 2011. Today, the situation has improved, but the effects of the damage has significantly impacted some of the most important historic mosques. In 2012, the Egyptian Heritage Rescue Foundation began a systematic survey of thefts, which resulted in the realisation that the majority of attacks were targeting minbars (pulpits). But why? What do they represent? How valuable are these wooden structures? And is there a demand on the international art market? Action was desperately needed. In the spring of 2018, we launched a two-year project focussed on documenting and rescuing the Mamluk minbars of Cairo. The project expanded its research to include the geometrical designs and patterns and invited young architects and designers to explore and experiment. It also posed new challenges, especially with regard to restoration, and the understanding of the traditional skills needed to reproduce the missing parts. In this paper, I will be presenting the outcomes of this project, and explain how we succeeded to preserve this important religious heritage, while also engaging with questions related to the crafts linked to the making of a minbar. Rescuing the Mamluk minbars project was implemented by the Egyptian Heritage Rescue Foundation in partnership with the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and with funding from the British Council’s Cultural Protection Fund in partnership with the UK’s Department of Culture, Media and Sports.

Dates & Location

Wednesday 24th November, 2021

Theater

English, Arabic

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Speakers

OMNIYA ABDEL BARR

DR OMNIYA ABDEL BARR is an architect specialised in Islamic art and architecture. She has experience in urban conservation, monument restoration and…