Gayer Anderson Museum and Ibn Toloun Mosque Tour in Cairo
Gayer Anderson Museum
This museum gets its current name from John Gayer-Anderson, the British major and army doctor who restored the two adjoining 16th-century houses between 1935 and 1942, filling them with lovely antiquities, artworks, and knick-knacks acquired on his travels in the region. The house was used as a location in the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me.
On his death in 1945, Gayer-Anderson bequeathed the lot to Egypt. The puzzle of rooms is decorated in a variety of styles: the Persian Room has exquisite tiling, the Damascus Room has lacquer and gold, and the Queen Anne Room displays ornate furniture and a silver tea set. The enchanting mashrabiyya gallery looks down onto a magnificent qa’a(reception hall), which has a marble fountain, decorated ceiling beams, and carpet-covered alcoves. The rooftop terrace has been lovingly restored, with more complex mashrabiyya.
Ibn Tulun Mosque:
It was built between AD 876 and 879 by Ibn Tulun, who was sent to rule the outpost of Al Fustat in the 9th century by the Abbasid caliph of Baghdad. Its geometric simplicity is part of its beauty and is best appreciated from the top of the minaret.
The mosque covers 2.5 hectares, large enough for the whole community of Al Fustat to assemble for Friday prayers. An outer moatlike courtyard, originally created to keep the secular city at a distance, was at one time filled with shops and stalls. Ibn Tulun drew inspiration from his homeland, particularly the ancient Mosque of Samarra (Iraq), on which the spiral minaret is modeled, as well as the use of brick. The minaret is accessed from the moat. He also added some innovations of his own: according to architectural historians, this is the first structure to use the pointed arch, a good 200 years before the European Gothic arch.