Madrasat wa-Qubbat Sunqur al-Sa'di
Cairo, Egypt

The Madrasa-Mausoleum of Amir Sunqur Sa'di was built at the order of the amir between 1315 and 1321. Known today as the Tomb of Shaykh Hasan Sadaqa, this complex provides a vivid example of an architectural layering that spans a thousand years, from the ninth to the nineteenth century.

The dome is unparalleled in its exterior stucco decoration, especially on the transitional zone. Its drum is carved with arabesques and inscriptions in the form of literary quotations from the popular medieval work the Maqamat of al-Hariri. The text is a passage on the subject of death.

The stucco frieze of Qur'anic inscriptions which runs round the four sides of the interior of the mausoleum is unusual among pre-Ottoman buildings in Cairo for having the date 721 H. (A.D. 1321) expressed in digits.

Since the late 1970s an Italian team under the direction of Dr. Giuseppe Fanfoni has been working on the building. The main purpose of the Italian-sponsored excavations and restorations concerned a Mevlevi dervish hostel, a mawlawiya, within the Sunqur Sa'di precinct. The Mevlevi were followers of Jalal al-Din Rumi, the thirteenth-century Turkish mystic and poet. The Mevlevi dervishes (in the West known as whirling dervishes) came to Egypt just after the Ottoman conquest. The present configuration of buildings, datable to the nineteenth century, is the result of adaptive changes made by the order to holdings given to them in 1607 on land that included the remains of the Suqur Sa'di madrasa and part of the Qwsun/Yazbak palace nearby. The show piece of this historical ensemble, and of the Italian work, is the Sama' Khana, or hall of Listening, which is where the main dervish ceremonies took place. The takiyya theater dates to 1810, but its decorations belong to 1857.


'Abd al-Wahhab, Hasan. "'Asr al-Mamalik al-Bahriyya IV." Majallat al-'Imara 4 1-2 (1942): 59-68.

Creswell, K.A.C. The Muslim Architecture of Egypt. vol. II. Oxford: Clarendon Press, New York, 1978.

Dickie, James (Ya'qub Zaki). "The Mawlawi Dervishery in Cairo." aarp/Art and Archaeology Research Papers 15 (1979): 9-15.

Fanfoni, Giuseppe. "An Underlying Geometrical Design of the Mawlawi Sama'-Hana in Cairo." Annales Islamologiques 24 (1988): 207-232.

Jarrar, Sabri, András Riedlmayer, and Jeffrey B. Spurr. Resources for the Study of Islamic Architecture. Cambridge, MA: Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, 1994.

Muhammad, 'Abd al-Rahman Fahmi. "Bayna adab al-maqama wa fann al-'imara fi al- Madrasa al-Sa'diyya." Majallat al-Majma' al-'Ilmi al-Misri 52 (1970-71).

Williams, Caroline. Islamic Monuments in Cairo: The Practical Guide, 103-104. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2002.

Shari' al-Suyufiyah, Cairo, Egypt
Associated Names
1315/715 AH
Style Periods
Variant Names
Sunqur al-Sa'di Madrasa and Mausoleum
Amir Sunqur Sa'di Funerary Complex
Building Usages