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The street leading north and south from the square was part of an important caravan road and processional route taken on festive occasions by the Mamluk Sultans of Egypt. Thus, before and after Sultan Qaitbey’s time, the way was adorned by rulers and dignitaries with monumental buildings to which their tombs were attached.

The square is dominated by the mosque/madrasa of Sultan Qaitbey with its soaring minaret. The dome over the Sultan’s adjacent tomb is the crowning achievement of the art of carved stone decoration developed in Cairo. The airy structure in the corner is a combination of the sabil, from where free drinking water raised from a huge underground cistern was distributed; and in the space above, a kuttab: a free Qur'anic school for children.

A multi-storey residential and service building was once attached to the mosque. By the end of the 19th century it was in ruins and was demolished. Only a part of its front wall remains to the right of the entrance porch. Similar tall residential buildings also stood on the other side of the square. A few ground-floor stone-vaulted rooms are their only surviving remnants, some of which now house shops selling handcrafted products.

At the northern end of the square stands Sultan Qaitbey’s hawd – a charity distributing drinking water for animals.


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