Maridani Mosque Restoration
Cairo, Egypt
Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme
Historical Background and Description 

The mosque, located on the west side of Al-Tabbana Street, was built by Amir Altinbugha Al Maridani who was one of the Amirs of Sultan Al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qala’un and also his son-in law. He started the construction in 1338-9 and finished it in 1340, under the supervision of the Mu’allim ibn Al-Suyufi, chief architect to Al-Nasir Muhammad. Its plan resembles that of the mosque of Al-Nasir in the Citadel, for it consists of an open sahn, surrounded by four riwaq, the qibla having four rows of arches, whereas each of the other three has two only.  


The Comité de Conservation de l’Art Arabe carried out extensive restoration between 1896 and 1903. They have renewed defective masonry, replaced falling columns, repaired the marble dado, restored the mimbar, windows, and doors, and built a dome over the mihrab using the newly developed Hennebique reinforced concrete process. They also rebuilt the upper storey of the minaret and repaired all ceilings. 


 Such damages, associated to the use of some inappropriate past restoration materials, caused the building to deteriorate. Building management and maintenance were not performed regularly in the past decades and it became urgent to stop the deterioration process and re-establish the integrity of the building. 


The rationale to focus on the interior prayer hall was based on the assessment that the most artistic and historically valuable component of the building is now in derelict condition, making it urgent to restore and bring back to integrity. The covered prayer hall of the Al-Maridani Mosque includes some of the most exceptional witnesses of the Bahri Mamluk architecture.  


  • The wooden fence, making the boundary between the prayer hall and the courtyard is unique in size and complexity. Its 46m long intricate turned woodwork is still in good condition.  
  • The reuse of Pharaonic material is also a specific element of the mosque, particularly visible in the columns and capitals. Within the 80 columns supporting the ceiling and dome, 14 units, made of Aswan granite reused from the Antiquity and so are 8 capitals.  
  • The marble mosaics of the qibla wall and mihrab are in an advanced state of deterioration and loss. However, they are unique witnesses of a richly adorned qibla wall of the Bahri Mamluk period.  
  • The dome, supported by reused Pharaonic columns, covers the central mihrab and mimbar area. Marked with traces of painting and gilding on the wooden stalactites, its cering was re-established in 1903 using the Hennebique reinforced concrete process, the first case in a monument in Egypt. 
  • The painted wooden ceiling, mainly dated of the 14th century, covering the largest part of the prayer hall. 

Implemented Restoration Work 

Following an initial phase of Preliminary Studies and surveys, completed in September 2018, including architectural surveys (performed in stages using a 3D scanning technology, allowing accuracy and quality drawings: outcome included a series of plans, sections, and elevations depicting the monument current condition) and photographic survey of the building, geotechnical investigations and structural study, historical study followed by an extensive conservation assessment. 


A second phase including additional studies was performed after the Ministry of Antiquities formally handed over the mosque to AKCS-E (12th of September 2018) receiving the project site and included collecting key material samples to carry out material analysis and conservation tests to determine all procedures and prepare work plans. 


Rehabilitation activities commenced swiftly, then scaled up to reach full capacity. The initial focus during the rehabilitation activities was on roofing repairs to prevent further water damage as well as minaret conservation. Work has also commenced on the conservation of the interior, a labor-intensive activity that included the conservation of the painted ceiling, stone conservation, wood conservation and marble panels comprehensive restoration.  


In brief, the rehabilitation of the building envelope included the important roof and water insulation rehabilitation based on torch-applied membranes and the cleaning and restoration of the stone facades. The conservation of the mosque’s interior spaces was challenging due to the advanced deterioration. Most innovative was the conservation of the ornamental marble mosaics of the qibla wall where the corroded iron rods resulting from the 1903 repair had to be removed without compromising the integrity of the original marble mosaics. Also of high significance was the conservation of the medieval painted and gilded decorated ceilings and inscription bands. 


Today, damages affecting the building included old rising damp causing migration of soluble salts and erosion of stone and marble surfaces, rainwater ingress on the roof causing timber ceilings to deteriorate and man-made pollution of air, street traffic, and waste contamination resulting from illegal solid waste. The Al-Maridani Mosque is today a registered monument (number 120) within Islamic and Coptic Monuments of the Ministry of Antiquities. It has survived the passing of time not only thanks to the significant restoration campaign between 1896 and 1903impleneted under the auspices of the “Comité de Conservation de l’Art Arabe” but mainly due to the high quality of design and workmanship of its Mamluk builders, and to the continuous use as a congregational mosque. However, since this time, no significant conservation was done on the building and building maintenance was minimal. 


The Mosque is one of the finest examples of Bahri Mamluk architecture in Cairo and it contains a large number of high-quality ornaments such as a beautifully carved wooden screen separating the Quibla Riwaq from the rest of the mosque, monumental granite columns and capitals, reused from the Roman period, a Mihrab of color marble with bands of thin tracery, inlaid with mother of pearl of the finest craftsmanship, ceilings painted and gilded with geometrical designs.  

Location
Sekat Al Werdani al-Darb al-Ahmar, Cairo, Egypt
Images & Videos
Documents
Associated Names
Associated Collections
Events
Constructed in 1339-1340;
restored between 2018-2020
Style Periods
Mamluk
1250-1517
Dimensions
Site area: 2'975m²
Variant Names
Maridani Mosque Restoration
Masjid Altinbugha al-Maridani Restoration
Variant
Mosque of Amir Maridani
Variant
Mosque of Altinbugha al-Maridani Restoration
Variant
Masjid al-Amir Altinbugha al-Maridani Restoration
Variant
Building Usages
mosque
religious
Keywords
restoration and conservation
wood screens
woodwork
Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme
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