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Sulayman Agha held different posts, including master of the Arsenal with the title ‘al-Silahdar’. He was part of the centralised administration that Muhammad `Ali Pasha, (ruled 1805-48), established after ruthlessly eliminating the powerful Mamluk elite in 1811. Sulayman amassed a huge fortune and built two large commercial establishments in Cairo, as well as an imposing mosque on the Qasaba, the main street of the medieval city.

Sulayman was notorious for cruelty. The renowned British orientalist E. W. Lane, who visited Egypt in the 1820s and 1830s, referred to him as “infamous for many barbarous acts”. If Sulayman’s ill-fame was deserved, then he was true to a long tradition in Cairo, where rapacious and bellicose Mamluks were also great patrons of art. His funerary complex is nowadays unfortunately in an advanced state of ruin. Its restrained and fluid forms resemble the Art Nouveau style that developed more than half a century later in Europe.

Sulayman’s funerary complex has much in common in its overall arrangement with the mediaeval Mamluk monuments in the cemetery. It is a huge enclosed courtyard -graveyard with an arcade on one side. A reception / resting hall (now collapsed) formerly stood over another arcade across the courtyard. There is a fine wall fountain (çesme) in Turkish style, accessible from the street in the north-western corner. (Its impressive arched framing in the form of a massive stone moulding collapsed recently.)

This Sulayman should not be confused with the early Ottoman governor who built a mosque at the Citadel in the early 16th century, nor with Sulayman Pasha al-Fransawi (1788-1860, born Joseph Anthelme Sève), a military commander in Muhammad ‘Ali Pasha’s army who is buried in a cast iron mausoleum off the Nile embankment opposite the Nilometer.

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