This impressive complex is one of several Mamluk madrassa/mausoleum complexes that still stand along Al-Muizz Street. The Madrassa of Sultan Barouq and the Mausoleum and Madrassa of Al-Nasir Muhammed are also along Al-Muizz Street, but of these two only Sultan Barouq’s religious school is open to tourists. The Qala’un Complex, dating from 1285, is the oldest and most impressive of these structures, built to memorialize Mamluk rulers of Cairo.
The complex is built at the heart of Islamic Cairo at a place known as Bayn Al-Qasreen, or ‘Between the Two Palaces, named for the two Fatimid Palaces that originally stood here. Like most of the Fatimid buildings in the city, these palaces were built over by subsequent rulers who sought to erase the influence of the Shi’a dynasty. Qala’un actually built his complex on the foundation of one of these palaces.
Qala’un’s memorial included a large hospital, a madrassa-style mosque (distinguished by the teaching spaces on each of the four wall for each of the influential schools of Islamic thought) and finally his mausoleum. The hospital was state of art in its day. It offered 2000 beds and many rare amenities to patients. It was working up until the late-Ottoman period (19th century), but was demolished in 1910.
The highlight of the Qala’un Complex is the mausoleum. It was modeled on the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, but it stand out in its own right. The building was restored as part of the project to revive the entire Al-Muizz Street and it now stands out as one of the most beautiful monuments in Cairo. In fact, it is regarded as one of the most beautiful buildings across the Muslim World—a mausoleum to compete with the famous Taj Mahal of India.