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A call to rescue the water basin of Sultan Qaitbay

Archaeologists and concerned Cairenes call on Egypt's antiquities ministry to rescue Qaitbay’s water basin for animals in historic Cairo from encroachment

Nevine El-Aref , Thursday 16 May 2013
peddlers on the external wall of the basin
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The lack of security in Egypt since the 2011 revolution exposed most of the country's archaeological and historical sites to encroachment, particularly, monuments in mediaeval and historic Cairo as both are located in densely populated areas.

Several distinguished Ottoman and Mameluke edifices were subjected to encroachment.

The most recent is Sultan Al-Ashraf Abul Nasr Qaitbay's water basin for animals in the northern cemetery.

Peddlers, plants and seeds vendors have invaded the front façade of the water basin and put their goods on its external walls to sell it. Some others have even transferred the hall used in antiquity for animals rest and sleep into storage space for their goods.

This basin is a part of a larger complex of Sultan Al-Ashraf Abul Nasr Qaitbay, the last great sultan of the Mameluke dynasty. The repoussé work that forms the lobed petal-like decoration is typical of the late Mameluke period. The complex consists of a mosque, sabil-kuttab (water fountain-quranic school) and a mausoleum.

Researcher Khaled Azab said that water basins for animals were wide spread in Egypt in the Fatimid, Mameluke and Ottoman eras. It was held alone or attached to larger commercial or religious structures on the main roads of the cities, bustling markets, pilgrim routes and caravan routes to Syria and Morocco to serve animals during their trip.

Qaitbay's monument remains a fine example of architecture during a period when decorative arts had reached their zenith.

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