Alaa al-din Mustafa House
Idfu, Egypt
"A house designed in 1981 for [Fathy's] Master Mason Alaadin Mustapha takes on added significance when the long collaboration between these two men is closely considered. Mustapha not only introduced Nubian construction techniques to Fathy, but also implemented them in many of the projects built in the forty years since. One of the most important features in Mustapha's own house is the main doorway, which is the only interpretation of a Nubian-style portal found in any of the architect's work since Balitim. Perhaps when he designed it, Fathy was thinking of an experience he had described in 1967, when he said, "I have found a similar case when I was in charge of building the village of New Gourna, near Luxor. I asked Muallim Alaadin Moustapha to decorate the main entrance door to one of the houses in any way he wished. He designed some hieroglyphic symbols on top of the door representing God, the earth and the mountains, between a five-pointed star. When I asked him how he knew about this symbol, he told me it prevented the "evil eye". He didn't realize that it was a hieroglyph. It so happens that optimism and pessimism pass from generation to generation even when people change their religion. The constancy of the Nubians in using these decorations for their front doors is due mainly to the fact that they are so isolated which has allowed them to continue as a prototype since the time of the Pharaohs.

The plan itself is also a direct interpretation of a traditional Nubian house as found in Abou el-Riche or Gharb Aswan today, which are both among many such villages previously surveyed by the architect. In this reasonably literal translation, the symbolic doorway leads directly into a sequence of rooms lined up on either side of an open entrance vestibule which are each related to the entertainment of guests. A long, vaulted room to the left of the main door, with built-in seats, or "mastaba" set between the piers that support it, is set aside for larger, special ceremonial functions just as in the traditional model. A smaller, square muddiffa on the right serves smaller groups, or individuals, who might visit on a more frequent basis. A door at the rear of the entry vestibule leads across an open court and up a short flight of stairs to a corridor serving all of the private family rooms strung along the rear wall of the house, which are visually and physically cut off from the guest rooms in front. This corridor also leads directly outside into an enclosed service court with its own exterior access. While in the established Nubian prototype this yard is almost always set aside for animals, the only function specified by the architect in this case is the storage of fodder." (construction not verified)


Steele, James. 1989. The Hassan Fathy Collection. A Catalogue of Visual Documents at the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. Bern, Switzerland: The Aga Khan Trust for Culture. 85.
El-Mahamid, Idfu, Egypt
Images & Videos
Associated Names
Associated Collections
Variant Names
Alaadin Mustapha House
Building Usages