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Cairo Walls / Gates

The gates were built by different people and in different periods, protecting the city was not the only reason for building these walls and gates. They were built also for management and administrative purposes. No one was allowed to enter Cairo or stay there except for its residents, or those who were allowed in for certain reasons, such as work, during the daytime hours. Until the 19th century, medieval Cairo was encircled by 60 gates, of which only three remain, Bab El Futuh, Bab El Nasr and Bab Zuwayla.

Bab El Futuh

Gawhar al-siqily built the first walls and gates of Cairo of mud bricks & when they were destroyed & failed to perform their defensive rule Amir el guyush Badr el din el-gamaly ordered their renovation adding other structure that used to be located outside the walls. The new walls & gates were built of stone which were built at a distance between 250 – 150 meters from the old gates & the same names were giving to them.

The building block of Bab el futuh is about 23 meters wide & 25 meters deep & it’s high from the original level of the door step is about 22 meters. Almost one third of the block protrudes from the wall surface & is in the form of two arched towers, enclosing an open passage leading to the entrance door then to a square vestibule covered by a shallow dome mounted on pendentives. Two thirds of the door’s height is a solid mass, on top of the two towers followed by two rooms which are covered by small cross vaults with arrow slits in their walls. The two rooms at the top of the two gate towers are connected through a building in the form of a sitting loggia with five arched openings at its front.

This building is protruding from the facades of the door entrance & is held by eight corbels, two of which are distinguished by being in the form of Ram’s head. Bab el Futuh is characterized by the presence of an internal passage within the wall.

Bab EL Nasr

That door was founded by Badr el din el gamali at a distance of about 250 meter from Bab El Futuh. It’s 25 meter wide & 25 meter deep & the height above the original level of the door step is about 25 meters. Almost one third of the block is protruding from the wall in the form of the two towers with right angels seemingly square.

There is an open passage leading to the entrance door then to a vestibule roofed with a cross vault. Two third of the height of the door are solid and on top of the two towers are two rooms each covered by a shallow dome with arrow slits. On top of the door opening are straight lintels slightly risen from it’s centers & consists of strongly built joggled voussoirs topped by relieving arch which is placed into a round arched niche.

A partition as wide as the niche connects the entrance & the round arch up to the bottom of the ceiling on top of the entrance. The partition is used as a latch exposing those at the door & therefore protects against attacker. Another tower with stone spiral staircase is connected to the tower of Bab El Nasr on the southeastern side, while on the entrance at the second floor level are engravings of projected shields with interlaced geometrical ornaments. The arrows slits have been increased in size during the French campaign in Egypt to be wide enough for canons.

Bab Zuwayla

The south walls of Cairo was built 150 meters far from el-siqilly’s walls as it was known by Bab Zuwayla. & was renamed later al-Mutawalli gate. The solid mass of bab zuwayla is 25 meters wide & 24 meter longer than the basic level of the doors lintel which was 3.5 meters lower than it’s present level. Around one third of the mass protrudes from the wall alignment in the form of two curved towers such as bab al-futuh with an opened passage in between leading to the entrance & then to a square durqa’a covered with a shallow dome which is mounted on circular triangles.

At the top of both towers are two rooms each used to be covered by interesting vaults, nevertheless, Al Mu’ayyad Shaikh used the towers as the bases for the minarets of his mosque. At the top of the entrance is a slab with joggled voussoirs slightly risen at the center & topped by relieving arch.

When analyzing the plan of the gates it is noticed that it’s architecture relies on variation design using square & round towers also building the soldiers  room at the top of the tower as well as the slits. As for the lower parts of the gates, they are solid mass for defensive purposes. Also note the succession of arches of different kind of entrances which increase the solidity of the mass.