Abdel Rahman Katkhuda's Sabil and Kutab: Historical Treasures
Abdel Rahman Katkhuda founded the Sabil. This odd structure doesn't look like any other Islamic monument. Years ago, I visited the Sabil and was disappointed to find that it was closed for restoration by the Egyptian government with the aid of the German Institute for Eastern Antiquities in Cairo. I have visited Mu'iz Street, where the Sabil is located, several times during these two years, and every time I view the building outside because, it is still closed. In November of the year 2007, finally, the Sabil was opened to the public.
The Sabil is located on Mu'iz Street in its second part, starting with Azhar Street and ending at the Fetooh gate on the other side. Everybody who passes through the street notices this Sabil for two reasons. Its strange structure immediately catches the eye, and it's in the middle of the street, dividing the street afterward into two lanes: the right one leads at the end to the back of the Aqmar Mosque, built in 1125 AD, and the Bazara'a Wikala, while the other one continues till the end of the street at the Fetooh Gate.
Amir Abdel Rahman Katkhuda was the most talented architect of his time, and his Sabil Kuttab is the best concrete evidence of his talent. It is known that he restored around thirty monuments in Cairo. He was also the leader of the Egyptians.
Janissaries at his time.
The Sabil Kuttab of Abdel Katkhuda was built in 1744 AD, and it has two floors: the first floor is the Sabil, where fresh water was kept for people to drink from, and the second floor is the Kuttab, where students used to attend classes studying the Quran and the Islamic teachings. The Sabil Kuttab provides the two commands of the prophet Mohamed: water for the thirsty and spiritual teaching. In the back of this monument is a three-store building now used as a residential property, and it is not open for public visiting.
This Sabil has particular architectural importance as it perfectly displays the magnificence of Mamluk art. The door to the Sabil is located in the Southeastern part of the building. The Sabil room is rectangular with three large, beautifully decorated windows. Under each window, there is a large basin where fresh water is kept.
The walls of the Sabil room are decorated with unique blue ceramic with some Islamic inscriptions. On the eastern wall is a drawing of Mecca, where Muslims go every year for pilgrimage. The ceiling of the Sabil is the most attractive aspect of its architecture, as it is designed with colorful brown and blue paintings. One can stare at the ceiling of this room until his neck aches.
The second floor, the Kuttab, has five marble columns supporting the startling carved wooden roof. This room has no walls; it is entirely covered with Mashrabeya windows brilliantly manufactured to fit. This room also has a finely carved wooden cupboard where the holy Quran was kept. The scenery from the Kuttab is impressive; one can see the dome and minaret of the Barquq complex, the complex of Qalaun, and the Mashrabeya windows in the Beshtaq palace.
The Sabil Kuttab is well ornamented from the outside, with colorful marble outlines richly set above the windows in a jigsaw pattern. The three windows of the Sabil look glorious from the outside with their vast size and distinctive design. The second floor looks appealing from the outside with its dark brown Mashrabeya windows, which are skillfully decorated.
The Sabil Kuttab of Abdel Katkhuda is one of these many monuments spread around the area of Khan El Khalili, and very few tourists know about them. Any tourist interested in Islamic architecture must visit the famous Street of Al Mui’z, where the vast city of Cairo was once only located on this street between Bab Zeweila in the South and Bab Al Fetooh in the North. This area has Islamic buildings like mosques, Sabils, Madrasas, and Wikalas.