The Mosque, madrasa and tomb of Taghri Bardi


The Mosque, madrasa and tomb of Taghri Bardi


by Jimmy Dunn writing as Ismail Abaza



The front facade of the Taghri Bardi Mosque, Madrasa and Tomb


During the reign of Sultan Barsbay, a Circassian Mamluk, the Amir Taghri Bardi (Taghribardi al-Rumi) was a prominent fellow who led the army that invaded the Crusader kingdom of Cyprus. He is said to have been a somber character of violent language who was murdered by his own Mumluks (slaves) shortly after his elevation as grand dawadar, or executive secretary to Sultan al-Zahir Gaqmaq (Jaqmaq).


He built a madrasa, mosque and sufi convent on the left side of Shari Saliba in what is today the Old Islamic District of Cairo in about 1440 AD, which is a fine example of how urban monuments in the late Mamluk period were often smaller and more compact due to the dwindling space available for construction. While all seems normal from the street level, by climbing the square based minaret, which is original though its pencil shaped top with a star pattern carved in stone is an awkward later addition, one may look down upon the complex to see how ingeniously the various parts have been tucked behind the facades so that the various demands of this cruciform building could be met. It is the first example of a religious structure in which the interior forms a wide angle with the street facade.



The dome of the Taghri Bardi  Mosque, together with the bottom of the minaret


The building had to include a qibla orientation, a position on the qibla wall and the main street for the mausoleum. There are symmetrically disposed windows and doors for the attached foundations and as far as possible, it has a symmetrical internal arrangement.


This mosque has two facades, with the main one on Sharia Saliba. With a balance and unity that is very pleasing, the entrance portal in the middle of the facade is elaborately decorated with ablaq and reversed trilobed forms of black and white marble. It has accents of colored stone in a style that is characteristic of the late Mamluk era.


To the left of the entrance is the sabil-kuttab, together with the minaret, and to its right, the facade of the tomb surmounted by a carved stone dome with the earliest example of interlocking ribs made from high-relief moldings. The kuttab eaves have a cut out pattern that mimic the stalactite pattern of the tomb cornice, while the patter of the lintel over the kuttab door echo that of the windows in the tomb facade.


The other facade of the Taghri Bardi Complex


The second, or eastern facade is on the side of the street. Here, a round window in the style of a bull's eye is situated in the center of a panel over the mihrab.


The entrance corridor winds around the tomb and connects with the mosque and madrasa interior. Within, the window to the right of the mihrab is much deeper than the one on the left. The northeast liwan (iwan) provides an entrance to the ablutions court. The southwest liwan is roped off for women, and there is an interestingly shaped closet for storage.


Due to the configuration of the building to the available space, small cubes of space in corners and angles which result from these adjustments and compromises are often used either as light and air shafts or are filled in as solid masses.


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Reference Number

Al Qahira

Sassi, Dino


Al Ahram/Elsevier

None Stated

Cambridge Illustrated History Islamic World

Robinson, Francis


Cambridge University Press

ISBN 0-521-43510-2

Historical Cairo (A Walk Through the Islamic City)

Antonious, Jim


American University in Cairo Press, The

ISBN 977-424-497-4

Islamic Monuments in Cairo, A Practical Guide

Paker, Richard B.; Sabin, Robin; Williams, Caroline


American University in Cairo Press, The

ISBN 977 424 036 7

Mosque, The: History, Architectural Development & Regional Diversity

Frishman, Martin and Khan, Hasan-Uddin


Thames and Hudson LTD

ISBN 0-500-34133-8


Last Updated: August 21st, 2011