Another unique feature of the mosque is its use of an exterior enclosure wall. In Baghdad, these walls were intended to separate the sacred space of the mosque from the city around it. In Egypt, however, this enclosure was eventually filled with the houses of wealthy Egyptians, who built doors into the walls of the mosque to provide their houses with private and direct access inside. All of these houses have now been demolished and the doorways sealed except for the two that now form the Gayer-Anderson Museum.
Robert Gayer-Anderson was a British colonial officer, who lived in these houses in the 1930’s with the permission of the Egyptian government. He was an Orientalist and an avid collectors, filling the house with his personal collection of art, furniture and carpets, while overseeing its restoration. When he left Egypt in 1942, he left the entire contents of the house to the Egyptian government. The result today is a completely restored and furnished home that is considered one of the best preserved examples of 17th century Cairene architecture in the city. More recently, the house was used for part of the filming of the James Bond film, ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’.
While visited by relatively few tourists, these two sites are truly among the most impressive in Cairo. The combination of the beautifully restored mosque and the museum next to one another provide an unparalleled view back into Cairo’s past. Located in the Sayeda Zeinab neighborhood of Cairo, they are very near to Sultan Hassan Mosque and Saladin’s Citadel and can easily be combined with a tour of these more famous sights in a single day.