The Ottoman Tiles of the Fakahani Mosque in Cairo

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Hans Theunissen



In this paper, the author presents a chronological overview of Ottoman-period tilework in Cairene buildings with an emphasis on a detailed study of the tilework of one specific building: the Fakahani Mosque Complex in the historic city center of Cairo. The lack of a critical overview of tiles from various production centers used in Cairene architecture regularly leads to inaccurate attributions. Tiles, often automatically attributed to Iznik, frequently have more diverse origins both in place and period of production. The overview in this paper intends to raise awareness of this situation and to provide a timeline of tiles from various production centers which can be used for more focused studies of the tilework in individual buildings. In the second part of the paper the author deals with the tilework of the Fakahani Mosque Complex. All tiles used in the 1735–1736 renovation of this, originally, Fatimid mosque were produced in Istanbul by the Tekfur Saray? workshops in the late 1720s and early 1730s. They probably belonged to a larger batch of tiles which were used to decorate a number of buildings built or renovated by two Cairene amirs, Uthman Katkhuda al-Qazdaghli and Ahmad Katkhuda al-Kharbutli. The use of tiles from the royal workshops not only illustrates that these amirs had good contacts with the center of power in Istanbul but also shows that tiles played an important role in the construction of political legitimacy and social status in mid eighteenth-century Ottoman Cairo. 


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