Houses in Islamic Architecture in Egypt
Manzil Al HarrawY
Manzil Al HarrawY
El-Harrawi House built in 1731 by Ahmed Ben Youssef El -Serafi is considered to be one of the fine examples of the Islamic houses representing the Ottoman era. It is named after its last owner, Abd El-Rahman El-Harrawi, who was the Hakim (Doctor) of Qasr El-Ayini Medical School.
The house is located behind Al-Azhar Mosque, in Darb EL-Ahmar area, El-Harrawi is situated between two narrow Haraa (Alleys), Harat Al Madrasa and Zuqaq Al Ayini. Several other Islamic houses and monuments are found in the Darb El-Ahmar surroundings. The house has a common wall with Sitt Wasila house (i.e.Lady Wasila) (17th century). It is adjacent to the house of Zeinab Khatoun (15th, 17th century), and to the Ghannamiah Hall (14th century). Also at a near distance is Al-Ayini Mosque (15th century).
This house is one of a few that remained in good shape over the years because it was restored several times by the French Comite de Conservation between 1920 and 1950 The Comite de Conservation are known to have worked on many other Islamic monuments in Cairo. A French architect, Bernard Maurey under the supervision of the French Institute of Oriental Archeology has lately restored it. At the moment it is been reused as a Cultural Center where different cultural events, lectures musical gala and artistic expositions take place.
Bayt Al Harawi sits near important historical sites such as the Zeinab Khatoun house (from the 15th century), the Ghannamiah Hall (14th century), and the famous Al Azhar mosque and university which, having been built in the 10th century, ranks among the oldest universities in the world.
The house was originally built in 1731, perhaps overlaying a structure that had been there much longer, by a rich Cairene merchant in what was then the heart of the city. Common to the architectural design of the period, the first section of the house is the open-air courtyard. The stone courtyard sits at the bottom of three floors replete with hand-carved mashribiyya windows.
The courtyard leads to the other sections of the house including the large mandarah, or sitting room. The mandarrah is a lavish room with carved wooden ceilings and a mosaic inlaid octagonal fountain. The middle section of the mandarah consists of a slightly raised area so that the master of the house could sit elevated in a position of honor above his guests.
In addition to presenting artistic events the house is open to tourist visits and is also frequented by architectural students who study it as an example of the Islamic architecture of Fatimid Cairo.
Among the many ancient houses, mosques, and shops in the area live the people of Darb Al Ahmar. Once the finest and richest neighborhood of Islamic Cairo, the area long ago began undergoing the fate of more recent Cairo neighborhoods; the exodus of the rich in their desire to move further and further away from the maddening crowds. What was left was the working class people who hadn't the resources to flee the crowded area.
However, as a result of the continuity of the population as well as the beauty of the ancient architecture, the area retains an ambiance that is unrivaled by other areas in the city.
One of the goals of the managers of Bayt Al Harawi, which is administered by the Fund for Cultural Development under funding from the Ministry of Culture, is to provide art for the working-class people of the area. They also desire to integrate the house into the surrounding community.
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