Bayt al-Kiridliyyah (House of the Cretans) – Geyer-Anderson Museum

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Bayt al-Kiridliyyah (House of the Cretans), also called the Geyer-Anderson Museum.

It is set at the S end of the NE ziyädah of the Mosque of Ibn Tülün with its own entrance into the mosque precinct. There are two houses on either side of a small alley, the Atfat al-Gami’, that on the W built in 1540 and that on the E in 1631, joined by a bridge at the second storey.

Bayt al-Kiridliyyah (House of the Cretans) - Geyer-Anderson Museum
Bayt al-Kiridliyyah (House of the Cretans) – Geyer-Anderson Museum

For 100 years prior to 1934, the houses had been the home of the family al-Kiridli, originally from Crete, and the last owner, Sh. Suläymân, sold it to the government. Major Robert Gayer-Anderson [1881—1945], a distinguished doctor and member of the Egyptian Civil Service, who had long expressed the desire to restore one of the buildings in Cairo, was given guardianship of the buildings, attended often by Sh. Sulâymân himself. He proceeded to scour old buildings and palaces for Ottoman furniture and fittings, and by the time he returned to England because of ill-health in 1942 he had completely restored and refurnished the building throughout. Both houses are constructed of sandstone and the decoration in both, as in most other Ottoman buildings, relies heavily on Mamluk themes.

Bayt al-Kiridliyyah (House of the Cretans) - Geyer-Anderson Museum
Bayt al-Kiridliyyah (House of the Cretans) – Geyer-Anderson Museum

The East House, built originally for Muh. ibn Galmãn, was in later times used as the haramlik. On the SW corner is the Sabíl with bronze grills. A baffled corridor leads to the central courtyard with a fountain in the centre. An arched recess holds the Bir al-Watawit (Well of the Bats), about which many fables were told in the neighbourhood; in fact the whole house was a source of fantastic tales for the local story-tellers. Rooms on the ground floor were used as kitchens, store-rooms and servants’ quarters. Stairs in the W side lead into a high taqtabush overlooking the courtyard fronted by two arches. A decorated ceiling contains a foundation inscription. On the Е side of the court a door leads up more stairs into the Harim, the finest room in the house. The many built-in cupboards and other woodwork are finely decorated and the windows are filled with mashrabiyyah. Also surrounded by mashrabiyyah screens is a roof-garden. On this storey where the two houses join is a series of rooms given over to the fruits of Gayer-Anderson’s tireless collecting—the Library, Byzantine Room, Picture Gallery, Queen Anne Room, Persian Room, Damascus Room and Turkish Room, also called the Muhammad Ali Room with a contemporary portrait of the Pasha himself.

Bayt al-Kiridliyyah (House of the Cretans) - Geyer-Anderson Museum
Bayt al-Kiridliyyah (House of the Cretans) – Geyer-Anderson Museum

Crossing the atfit into the West House, which Was the Salamlik, another corridor leads to a small court which gives on to the great Qã’ah, taking up two floors of the house. In the centre of the ornate marble floor is a mosaic fountain. There are two great lîwâns at either end of the qã’ah and galleries on each side fronted with mas- hrabiyyah screens, behind which the women could watch the activity below. A room was added later to the roof and this has been decorated in 17C style from a demolished house in Damascus. All the walls and the ceiling are covered in lacquer and gilding with intricate patterns including a fine calligraphic poem which includes the date 1103 AH (AD 1691). On the N corner of the E building is the Tomb of Sidi Hârûn, claimed as a descendant of al-Husayn.

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