Click Here To Pay
Home > About Egypt > Museums In Egypt
Gayer-Anderson Museum or Bayt al-Kiritliya
  Images in This Category


Also known as Bayt al-Kiritliya, the visitor to the ancient Ibn Tulun Mosque could proceed to this museum by going to the northeastern extension of the mosque, where the main entrance door of the museum is located. The museum is named after the last person who lived in the building, a British doctor and soldier called Major Gayer-Anderson.

The Gayer-Anderson Museum is located in Cairo, Egypt, adjacent to the Mosque of Ahmad ibn Tulun in the Sayyida Zeinab neighborhood. The museum takes its name from Major R.G. Gayer-Anderson Pasha, who resided in the house between 1935 and 1942 with special permission from the Egyptian Government. It is noted for being one of the best preserved examples of 17th century domestic architecture left in Cairo, and also for Gayer-Anderson's vast collection of furniture, carpets, curio, and other objects.The museum consists of two Ottoman houses joined together, restored, and furnished by Major Gayer-Anderson, a British member of the Egyptian civil service in the 1930s and '40s. Gayer-Anderson was a talented collector and the house's contents include lovely pieces of pharaonic, Islamic, and Central Asian art. Spend some time in the reception room, where a mosaic fountain lies at the center of an ornate marble floor. In the courtyard of the east house is the "Well of Bats," the subject of much storytelling in the neighborhood.The two houses built using the outer wall of the Mosque of Ibn Tulun as support.

The larger house, located to the east (the outermost side in relation to the mosque) was built in 1632 (1041 AH) by Hajj Mohammad ibn al-Hajj Salem ibn Galman al-Gazzar. It later came into the possession of a wealthy Muslim woman from Crete, and the home became popularly known as Beit al-Kritliyya, or "House of the Cretan Woman."

The second house, to the west (the innermost side in relation to the mosque) was built in 1540 (947 AH) by Abdel-Qader al-Haddad. It later became known as "Beit Amna bint Salim," after its last owner. The two houses were joined by a bridge at the third floor level at an unknown point, and are both collectively known as Beit al-Kritliyya.

The construction of private homes against the outer wall of a mosque was common practice, with access to both the homes and mosque via narrow streets. It was reported that in the early 20th century, the mosque of Ibn Tulun could not be seen from the outside due to the houses. In 1928 the Egyptian government began to clear the homes, many of which were in very poor condition, away from the mosque as part of a plan to make important Islamic monuments more accessible. The Committee for the Conservation of Arab Monuments objected to the demolition of Beit al-Kritliyya, however, on the grounds that the home was extraordinarily well preserved. The home was kept intact, and repairs were made to the side walls to strengthen them after the neighboring houses were torn down.

The museum has three facades; each with an entrance. The courtyards were similarly designed with a square sunken central court, surrounded by open porches. This plan is based on the traditional architecture of Ottoman Cairo, and includes a Salamlik (a greeting area, the public or men's apartments), a Haramlik (an area that was set apart for women to receive female visitors, and is prohibited for men who are not members of the family), mashrabiyyahs (windows with latticework screens, turned, or carved wood), and lobbies.The beauty of the house lies both in its construction and use of mashrabeya as well as in the Major's vast collection of carpets, pantings, curios etc..The man obviously travelled quite a bit, as is evidenced by the curios. The house has Syrian, Turkish, Chinese, Persian, English rooms . It  was inaugurated as a museum with its antiquities, which were collected by Major Gayer-Anderson, and which consist of Persian and Turkish objets d'art, furniture from various periods, a collection of tombstones and a number of Chinese and European paintings. The houses were elegantly decorated on the inside, except for the mashrabiyyahs and the entrances were decorated on the outside as well. A sabil (public drinking fountain) was adjacent to the house.The rooftop terrace is encased by beautifully carved mashrabeya. Mashrabeya screens use wood patterns to spell out important Islamic phrases. Gayer Anderson's bedroom, with a big red bed with wooden posts all around it and a canopy, is designed in Persian style. It is said that during his later years, Major Andersen turned gay which might explain the bed of his favourite servent next to his. Given that the house is built at three levels, fetching and carrying would have been a tedious, not to mention time consuming execrcise for the Nubian slaves. So they found an ingenious solution in a "dumb waiter" in the main courtyard next to what was originally the kitchen.

Gayer Anderson was born in 1881 and died in 1945. He perhaps is most notable as a lover of  Egyptian culture. This was why he collected many different items from various historical periods. He filled the house with his collection of Oriental furniture, glassware, crystal, carpets, silks and embroidered Arab costumes. He also collected beautiful furniture and works of art from Turkey, Persia, Syria, and other Oriental locations. By doing this, he made his house into a historical treasure for anyone who loves Egypt and the Middle East in general. The house represents an excellent example of what life was like for wealthy merchants in Egypt during the 1700's.

In 1935, Major Gayer-Anderson, a retired collector and self-described Orientalist, was granted permission to reside in the house, which had just been restored. Gayer-Anderson oversaw the installation of electricity and plumbing, and the restoration of fountains, pavements, and other parts of the interior of the home. The house was made into a museum in 1937 when the Egyptian government decided to transform it into be a well-preserved example of early Ottoman domestic architecture. The museum is located in the back of one of the oldest mosques in Egypt, the Ibn Tulun Mosque, which was completed in 879 AD. In 1942, Gayer-Anderson was forced by ill health to leave Egypt, and he gave the contents of the house to the Egyptian government. King Farouk gave him the title of Pasha in return.

Many legends are associated with the Beit al-Kritliyya, which were collected by Gayer-Anderson and published as Legends of the House of the Cretan Woman. Among them are

- The house is protected by a shaykh, Haroun al-Husseini, who is buried under one of the corners of the house. He is said to have blinded three men who attempted to rob the house, who stumbled around the house for three days and nights until they were finally caught;

-The well in the house is said to possess miraculous qualities - for example, a lover gazing into the water would see the face of his or her sweetheart instead of his/her own reflection.

The visit to the Gayer Anderson Museum was like a journey through time. One can see and learn much about the history of the Islamic period in Egypt and the Middle East, and about how a famous Orientalist lived his life. The house is also famous as a movie set, having been used in the James Bond movie, ""The Spy Who Loved Me". It was also used in an Arabic movie called "Shahed El Maleka", meaning "The Honey of the Queen". The Gayer Anderson Museum is a must see for anyone who loves Egypt and its culture. Make sure you visit it when you come to Egypt, especially if you plan on visiting the great Ibn Tulun Mosque.