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Mamluk family [Arab. mamlūk: ‘slave’]locked

  • R. Nath
  •  and Robert Irwin

Name applied to two distinct sequences of Islamic rulers in northern India and the Levant from the 13th century. Many but not all of the rulers were manumitted slaves of Turkish origin, hence the common names of the lines.

I. Mu‛izzi Mamluks of Delhi.

  • R. Nath

This quasi-dynastic line of Turks conquered and ruled northern India from 1206 to 1290. The line of sultans is known as the Mu‛izzi Mamluks of Delhi because Qutb al-Din Aybak (reg 1206–10) was originally a slave of the Ghurid king Mu‛izz al-Din Muhammad; two later sultans, Shams al-Din Iltutmish and Ghiyath al-Din Balban, were also manumitted slaves. As a trusted lieutenant, Qutb al-Din extended Ghurid power over the Gangetic doab. In Delhi he initiated the construction of the Quwwat al-Islam Mosque (see Delhi, §III, 1) and in Ajmer the Arhai Din ka Jhompra Mosque. These are the earliest and most important monuments of the Sultanate period. Iltutmish (reg 1211–36) consolidated Mamluk rule from the Indus to eastern India, building extensively at Delhi, Badaon and elsewhere. The most impressive buildings in Delhi are the extensions to the Quwwat al-Islam Mosque and his own tomb, situated near by. After the death of Iltutmish, a conflict ensued between his heirs and the nobles. Five rulers acceded to the throne within a decade. Finally, in the absence of a direct heir, Ghiyath al-Din Balban (reg 1266–87) came to power. Although he restored order to the Sultanate, few building projects appear to have been undertaken. The most notable is Balban’s tomb, now in ruins. Balban was succeeded by his grandson Mu‛izz al-Din Kaiqubad (reg 1287–90). He shifted the capital to Kilokari, close to the present headworks of the Okhla Canal. The site is marked by a few ruins. Balban’s line was abruptly ended in 1290 when the Khalji dynasty seized power.


  • Enc. Islam/2: ‘Dilhi Sultanate’
  • Minhaj al-Din ‛Uthman al-Juzjani: Ṭabaq āt-i N āṣir ī [An account of Nasir (al-Din Mahmud)] (c. 1259–60); Eng. trans. by H. G. Raverty, 2 vols (London, 1881/R New Delhi, 1970)
  • Ziya al-Din Barani: Tārīkh-i Fīrūz Shāhī [History of Firuz Shah] (MS. 1357; Calcutta, 1860–62; Aligarh, 1957) [extracts trans. in Eng. in H. Elliot and J. Dowson: History of India as Told by its Own Historians (The Muhammedan Period), iii (London, 1866–77/R Allahabad, 1964), pp. 93–268 and Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal [see J. Asiat. Soc.] (1869), pp. 181–220; (1870), pp. 1–51, 185–216; (1871), pp. 217–47]
  • R. C. Majumdar, ed.: The Delhi Sultanate, vi of The History and Culture of the Indian People (Bombay, 1960/R 1967)
  • S. J. Raza: ‘Nomenclature and Titulature of the Early Turkish Sultans of Delhi Found in Numismatic Legends’, Medieval Indian Coinages: A Historical and Economic Perspective: February 17th–19th, 2001: 5th International Colloquium (Nasik, 2001), pp. 85–96

II. Mamluks of Egypt and Syria.

  • Robert Irwin

This name was given to the sequence of sultans and patrons who ruled in the Levant from 1250 to 1517, of whom the majority were of slave (Arab. mamlūk) origin. Coups d’état, civil wars and assassinations played a greater role than hereditary succession in determining who occupied the throne, although 15 of the descendants of (2) Qalaاun eventually succeeded him. In the first half of the period (to 1382), Qipchaq Turks tended to predominate, and the line is often known as Bahri after their barracks on the Nile (al-ba ḥr), while in the second half of the period most of the sultans and leading figures were Circassians recruited in the northern Caucasus, and the line is often known as the Burji after their barracks in the Cairo Citadel (al-burj). In both periods, however, mamluks of Mongol, Georgian, Slav, Greek, German, Hungarian and even Chinese origin were known. Once acquired as slaves, the majority of them went into the royal barracks in Cairo where they were trained in the arts of warfare, instructed in the rudiments of Islam and taught to speak and write Arabic. They were then manumitted and given positions of responsibility in the army or royal household.

Mamluks monopolized the highest administrative offices, closely supervising the Arabs and Copts who worked in the chancery and financial bureaux. Freeborn subjects found it hard to rise to positions of power, and even the freeborn sons of mamluks usually found it impossible to emulate the careers of their fathers. Nevertheless, those who pursued careers in commerce, religion and scholarship or who achieved subaltern ranks in the army played an important role as cultural mediators between the Turkish culture of their fathers and the Arab culture of the non-mamluks. Moreover, the mamluks’ desire to ensure the future of their wives and descendants by means of religious endowments protected from state taxation or confiscation (waqf; see Islam, §III) may explain the large number of mosque and tomb complexes that the military élite endowed. Most mamluks, however, practised Islam with all the zeal of the newly converted.

In the late 13th century the Mamluks defeated both the remaining Crusader states in Syria and Palestine and the Mongol Ilkhanid family dynasty of Iran and Iraq, who repeatedly invaded Syria but failed to gain any permanent foothold there. To strengthen their legitimacy against their non-Muslim enemies, the Mamluks set up a ‘shadow caliphate’ in Cairo and maintained a loose suzerainty over the Holy Cities in Arabia. Cairo became the cultural centre of the Arab Islamic world, attracting refugees from the east and the west, where the Christian reconquest in Spain had gained new momentum. During the third reign of (3) al-Nasir Muhammad (1310–41) there was a lull in internal factional strife and foreign aggression, and it was one of the great ages for Mamluk patronage of the arts. Few of his descendants, however, effectively controlled either the empire they inherited or those who pretended to serve them, yet by the end of the Bahri period the Mamluk sultans reigned over an area that included large areas of southern and eastern Turkey as well as eastern Libya.

From the 1360s the supply of Turkish slaves dried up, and mamluks of Circassian origin began to predominate in the élite. Nevertheless, they took Turkish names, and Turkish continued to be the lingua franca of the élite. During the early Circassian period civil war and factional strife reached new levels, and in 1400 the Mamluk army fell apart before it could give battle to Timur (see Timurid family, §II, (1)), who went on to sack Aleppo and Damascus virtually unopposed. Under (9) Barsbay (reg 1422–38) Mamluk fortunes partially revived. Throughout the 15th century the Mamluks held their own against foreign threats, despite increasing pressures along the northern and eastern frontiers, and by the end of the century an international court culture flourished among the Mamluks, the Ottoman dynasty in western Anatolia, and the Qaraqoyunlu and Aqqoyunlu dynasties in eastern Anatolia. Under (10) Qaاitbay (reg 1468–96) programmes of fiscal, legal and military reform were pursued and a renaissance of the arts encouraged. The penultimate ruler (11) Qansuh al-Ghawri (reg 1501–16) presided over the Indian summer of Mamluk literary and artistic culture, as Portuguese fleets appeared in the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea to threaten the Eastern spice trade that had supported the Mamluk regime for 250 years. Simultaneously the Mamluks drifted into conflict with the Ottomans over suzerainty in eastern Anatolia, and in 1516–17 the Ottomans conquered Syria and Egypt.

The arts in the Mamluk lands were remarkably conservative in form and subject during the two and a half centuries of Mamluk rule, although elsewhere in the Islamic world the arts changed significantly. The typical building (see Islamic art, §II, 6(iii)(a)) combined one or more religious and charitable institutions, such as a mosque, madrasa, khānaqāh, elementary school, hospital and drinking-water dispensary, with the tomb of the founder in irregular stone buildings wedged into the dense urban fabric of Mamluk cities. Elaborate portals, slender multi-storey minarets and intricately carved stone domes over the tomb punctuated the exterior of these structures and served to draw attention to their presence. Elegant Arabic inscriptions in a variety of scripts accompanied by repeated vegetal and geometric motifs are constant features of Mamluk art and architectural decoration, although some early Mamluk inlaid metalwork (see Islamic art, §IV, 3(iii)(a)) and enamelled glass (see Islamic art, §VIII, 5(ii)) are decorated with figural motifs and even narrative scenes. The technical and decorative achievements of Egyptian potters in earlier centuries were not continued during the Mamluk period, although a wealth of imported Far Eastern goods introduced new ceramic shapes, decorative schemes (e.g. blue-and-white) and motifs (e.g. lotus and peony scrolls; see Islamic art, §V, 4(ii)). Although the art of the illustrated book (see Islamic art, §III, 4(v)(a)) was not as important as it was in contemporary Iran, magnificent mammoth copies of the Koran were produced for reading and display in Mamluk religious foundations (see Islamic art, §III, 3(i)). Fine silk textiles were produced throughout the period (see Islamic art, §VI, 2(ii)(b)), and knotted carpets with distinctive octagonal patterns are known from the 15th and 16th centuries (see Islamic art, §VI, 4(iii)(b)).

The most characteristic feature of Mamluk art is the emblem (often incorrectly known as a blazon) that identified an object (or even a building) as belonging to the household of an amir who held a specific office. Although the earliest emblems were strictly pictorial, such as the cup, penbox or polo stick, signifying the offices of cupbearer, secretary and polo-master, by the mid-14th century rulers incorporated their official titles into epigraphic blazons, while other mamluks developed complex composite emblems.


  • Enc. Islam/2: ‘Rank’ [emblem]
  • The Mosques of Egypt, Ministry of Waqfs, 2 vols (Cairo, 1949)
  • D. S. Rice: ‘Studies in Islamic Metalwork, IV’, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 15 (1953), pp. 489–503
  • K. A. C. Creswell: The Muslim Architecture of Egypt, 2 (Oxford, 1959)
  • I. M. Lapidus: Muslim Cities in the Later Middle Ages (Cambridge, MA, 1967)
  • U. Haarman: Quellenstudien zür frühen Mamlukenzeit (Freiburg, 1970)
  • J. Rogers: ‘Seljuk Influence on the Monuments of Cairo’, Kunst des Orients, 7 (1970), pp. 40–68
  • M. Meinecke: ‘Zur mamlukischen Heraldik’, Mitteilungen des Deutschen archäologischen Instituts: Abteilung Kairo, 2 (1972), pp. 213–65
  • J.-C. Garcin: Un Centre musulman de la Haute-égypte médiévale: Qus (Cairo, 1976)
  • C. Kessler: The Carved Masonry Domes of Mediaeval Cairo (London, 1976)
  • D. Ayalon: Studies on the Mamluks of Egypt, 1250–1517 (London, 1977)
  • D. Haldane: Mamluk Painting (Warminster, 1978)
  • D. Ayalon: The Mamluk Military Society (London, 1979)
  • C. Petry: The Civilian Elite of Cairo in the Later Middle Ages (Princeton, 1981)
  • Renaissance of Islam: Art of the Mamluks (exh. cat. by E. Atıl, Washington, DC, N. Mus. Nat. Hist.; Minneapolis, MN, Inst. A.; New York, Met. and elsewhere; 1981)
  • E. Ashtor: Levantine Trade in the Later Middle Ages (Princeton, 1983)
  • Muqarnas, 2 (1984) [whole issue devoted to papers selected from a symposium on the arts of the Mamluks]
  • D. Behrens-Abouseif: The Minarets of Cairo (Cairo, 1985)
  • P. M. Holt: The Age of the Crusades: The Near East from the Eleventh Century to 1517 (London, 1986)
  • R. Irwin: The Middle East in the Middle Ages: The Early Mamluk Sultanate, 1250–1382 (London, 1986)
  • D. James: Qurاāns of the Mamlūks (New York, 1988); repr. as Manuscripts of the Holy Qur’ān from the Mamluk Era (Riyadh, 1999)
  • E. Whelan: ‘Representations of the Khāṣṣakīyah and the Origins of Mamluk Emblems’, Content and Context of Visual Arts in the Islamic World, ed. P. P. Soucek (New York, 1988), pp. 219–53
  • Egypt and Syria in the Fatimid, Ayyubid and Mamluk Eras: Proceedings of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd International Colloquium Organized at the Katholieke Universiteit, Leuven: May 1992, 1993, 1994
  • M. Meinecke: Die mamlukische Architektur in Ägypten und Syrien (Glückstadt, 1993)
  • S. S. Blair and J. M. Bloom: The Art and Architecture of Islam, 1250–1800, Pelican Hist. A. (London, 1994), chaps 6–8
  • R. Amitai-Preiss: Mongols and Mamluks: The Mamluk–Ilkhanid War, 1260–1281, Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civilization (Cambridge and New York, 1995)
  • Mamluk Studies Review (1997–)
  • L. Fernandes: ‘Mamluk Architecture and the Question of Patronage’, Mamluk Studies Review, 1 (1997), pp. 107–20
  • C. Harding and N. Micklewright: ‘Mamluks and Venetians: An Intercultural Perspective on Fourteenth Century Material Culture in the Mediterranean’, Racar: Revue d’art canadienne, 24/2 (1997), pp. 47–66
  • Egypt and Syria in the Fatimid, Ayyubid and Mamluk Eras III,: Proceedings of the 6th, 7th and 8th International Colloquium organized at the Katholieke Universiteit, Leuven: May 1997, 1998 and 1999
  • T. Philipp and U. Haarmann: The Mamluks in Egyptian Politics and Society, Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civilization (Cambridge and New York, 1998)
  • Egypt and Syria in the Fatimid, Ayyubid, and Mamluk Eras: Proceedings of the 4th and 5th International Colloquium Organized at the Katholieke Universiteit, Leuven: May 1995 and 1996, Orientalia Lovaniensia analectam, 83 (Leuven, 1998)
  • D. Ayalon: Eunuchs, Caliphs and Sultans: A Study in Power Relationships (Jerusalem, 1999)
  • J. M. Bloom: ‘Mamluk Art and Architectural History: A Review Article’, Mamluk Studies Review, 3 (1999), pp. 31–58
  • W. C. Schultz: ‘Mamluk Monetary History: A Review Essay’, Mamluk Studies Review, 3 (1999), pp. 183–205
  • D. Behrens-Abouseif, ed.: The Cairo Heritage: Essays in Honor of Laila Ali Ibrahim (Cairo, 2000) [several articles]
  • J. Garcin: ‘Le Caire des Ayyoubides et des Mamelouks, 1174–1517’, Le Caire. Sous la dir. de André Raymond, Ghislaine Alleaume, Jean-Pierre Corteggiani, Sylvie Denoix, Jean-Claude Garcin, Mercedes Volait, L’Art et les Grandes Civilisations: Les Grandes Cités (Paris, 2000), pp. 147–275
  • B. J. Walker: ‘Rethinking Mamluk Textiles’, Mamluk Studies Review, 4 (2000), pp. 167–217
  • H. Kennedy: The Historiography of Islamic Egypt, c. 95–1800 (Leiden and Boston, MA, 2001)
  • J. Dobrowolski: The Living Stones of Cairo (Cairo, 2001)
  • H. Harithy: ‘The Concept of Space in Mamluk Architecture’, Muqarnas, 18 (2001), pp. 73–93
  • S. A. el-Banasi, ed.: Museum With No Frontiers: Mamluk Art: The Splendour and Magic of the Sultans, Islamic Art in the Mediterranean (Madrid, 2001)
  • H. Hamza: The Northern Cemetery of Cairo, Islamic Art and Architecture series, 10 (Costa Mesa, CA, 2001)
  • N. Rabbat: ‘Perception of Architecture in Mamluk Sources’, Mamluk Studies Review, 6 (2002), pp. 155–76
  • H. al-Harithy: ‘Female Patronage of Mamluk Architecture in Cairo’, Beyond the Exotic: Women’s Histories in Islamic Societies, ed. A. Sonbol (Syracuse, 2005), pp. 321–35; 445–8

(1) Baybars I [al-Ẓāhir Rukn al-Dīn Baybars al-Bunduqdārī]

(b ?1233; reg 1260–77; d Damascus, 1277).

A Qipchaq Turk bought for the service of the antepenultimate Ayyubid sultan of Egypt, al-Malik al-Salih Najm al-Din, Baybars reduced the remaining Ayyubid possessions in Syria and drove the Crusaders from most of the Levant. He refortified nearly every important citadel in the region and endowed many public and pious foundations in Cairo, Damascus and Jerusalem. The Zahiriyya Madrasa in Cairo (1262–3; destr. 19th century), on a site of the eastern Fatimid palace, was built adjacent to and on the model of the madrasa and mausoleum of Baybars’s master, al-Salih. The Syrian style portal, with striped masonry and a Muqarnas vault, set the style for the period. Baybars’s congregational mosque (1266–9; see Cairo, §III, 7) was erected as part of the Sultan’s campaign to break the Shafi‛i monopoly on religious affairs. In Damascus he restored the Umayyad Mosque (1269) and built the famous Qasr al-Ablaq (‘Striped Palace’; destr.). Baybars was buried in Damascus in the Dar al-‛Aqiqi, a palatial residence immediately across from the Madrasa al-‛Adiliya built by the Zangid family Nur al-Din (reg 1146–74); the residence was then transformed into the Zahiriyya Madrasa. The most notable parts of the building are its grand portal, an iwan preceding a small prayer-hall, and the mausoleum. The architect, Ibrahim b. Ghanaاim, signed his name in the muqarnas vault of the portal, which resembles that of the lost Zahiriyya Madrasa in Cairo, and the same architect is known to have designed Baybars’s in suburban Damascus. Bold inscriptions follow the yellow- and black-striped masonry across the portal, beneath an accomplished muqarnas vault. The lower part of the interior of the mausoleum is richly decorated with marble panelling and mosaic in marble and glass, recalling the techniques and style of decoration associated with the Umayyad caliphs (reg ad 661–750; see Umayyad, §1). These were revived in the mid-13th century and further developed by a group of artisans assembled by Baybars to restore the Dome of the Rock (before 1272) and the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem; their use in Baybars’s mausoleum linked it with those pious works.


  • K. A. C. Creswell: The Muslim Architecture of Egypt, 2 (Oxford, 1959), pp. 142–77
  • M. Meinecke: ‘Das Mausoleum des Qala’un in Kairo: Untersuchungen zur Genese der mamlukischen Architekturdekoration’, Mitteilungen des Deutschen archäologischen Instituts: Abteilung Kairo, 27 (1971), pp. 47–80
  • A.-A. al-Khowaiter: Baybars the First (London, 1978)
  • J. M. Bloom: ‘The Mosque of Baybars al-Bunduqdārī in Cairo, Annales islamologiques, 18 (1982), pp. 45–78
  • P. Thorau: The Lion of Egypt: Sultan Baybars I and the Near East in the Thirteenth Century (London and New York, 1992)
  • S. Lamei Mostafa: ‘Restoration of the Mosque of al-Zahir Baybars in Cairo’, The Restoration and Conservation of Islamic Monuments in Egypt, ed. J. L. Bacharach (1995), pp. 143–52
  • A. F. Broadbridge: ‘Mamluk Legitimacy and the Mongols: The Reigns of Baybars and Qalāwūn’, Mamluk Studies Review, 5 (2001), pp. 91–118
  • A. A. Elbendary: ‘The Sultan, the Tyrant, and the Hero: Changing Medieval Perceptions of al-Ẓāhir Baybars’, Mamluk Studies Review, 5 (2001), pp. 141–57

(2) Qala’un [al-Manṣūr Sayf al-Dīn Qalā’ūn al-Alfī; Kalawun]

(b c. 1220; reg 1280–90; d Nov 11, 1290).

Complex of Qala’un, Cairo, interior of tomb chamber, 1284–5; photo credit: Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom

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Like (1) Baybars I, Qala’un was a Qipchaq Turk bought for the service of the Ayyubid sultan al-Malik al-Salih. An ally of Baybars, Qala’un was active in the turbulent politics of the first decades of Mamluk rule, extending Baybars’s campaign against the Crusaders and fighting the Nubians and the kings of Little Armenia. Qala’un also continued his predecessor’s campaign of fortification, but is best known for his religious and charitable complex (1284–5; see Cairo, §III, 8). Built in an unusually short time on the site of the western Fatimid palace, from which spolia were taken, Qala’un’s complex comprises a madrasa, mausoleum (see fig.) and minaret, as well as a hospital, elementary school and fountain (largely destr.). The hospital was built to fulfil a vow Qala’un had made when he received treatment at the hospital established by the Zangid Nur al-Din (reg 1146–74) in Damascus. The octagonal plan of the mausoleum and its marble decoration were probably inspired by the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem in an attempt to underscore Qala’un’s claim to be heir to the glory of the Umayyad caliphs (reg ad 661–750; see Umayyad, §1).


  • Enc. Islam/2: ‘Ḳalāwūn’
  • K. A. C. Creswell: The Muslim Architecture of Egypt, 2 (Oxford, 1959), pp. 190–212
  • M. Meinecke: ‘Das Mausoleum des Qalaاun in Kairo: Untersuchungen zur Genese der mamlukischen Architekturdekoration’, Mitteilungen des Deutschen archäologischen Instituts: Abteilung Kairo, 27 (1971), pp. 47–80
  • L. S. Northrup: From Slave to Sultan: The Career of Al-Manṣu ̄ ūr Qala ̄ āwu ̄ ūn and the Consolidation of Mamluk Rule in Egypt and Syria (678 –689 A.H./1279 –1290 A.D.), Freiburger Islamstudien, 18 (Stuttgart, 1998)
  • E. Puin: ‘Silver Coins of the Mamluk Sultan Qalāwūn (678–689/1279–1290) from the Mints of Cairo, Damascus, Ḥamāh, and al-Marqab’,Mamluk Studies Review, 4 (2000), pp. 75–129
  • A. F. Broadbridge: ‘Mamluk Legitimacy and the Mongols: The Reigns of Baybars and Qalāwūn’, Mamluk Studies Review, 5 (2001), pp. 91–118

(3) Al-Nasir Muhammad [al-Nāṣir Nāṣir al-Dīn Muḥammad ibn Qalā’ūn]

  • Robert Irwin

(b Cairo, 1285; reg 1293–4, 1299–1309 and 1310–41; d Cairo, 1341).

Son of (2) Qala’un. His mother was the daughter of a Mongol immigrant. The child Muhammad was placed on the throne by a junta of amirs professing loyalty to the house of his father, but the Amir Kitbugha ((reg 1294–6) sent the youth into exile a year later. In 1299 he was brought back, only to withdraw in 1309, but he returned definitively in 1310 to rule for three decades of unparalleled peace and prosperity. Egyptian merchants took luxury goods to Saray Berke on the Volga, capital of the Golden Horde, the Mamluks’ traditional ally against the Ilkhanid family dynasty of Iran, and brought back wood, fur and slaves. Tentative cultural and commercial contacts had already been established with the Ilkhanids, but the conclusion of a peace treaty in 1322 expanded them considerably, and Iranian craftsmen may have come to Cairo to work on architectural projects. In 1325 al-Nasir sent an expedition to assist the Rasulid rulers of the Yemen, an important market for Egyptian inlaid metalwork and enamelled glass. He maintained a large harem and had many children; most of his eleven daughters married prominent amirs, and he was followed on the throne by eight of his sons, two of his grandsons and two of his great-grandsons.

An earthquake in 1303 and a great fire in 1321 encouraged new building in Cairo (see Cairo, §I, 2), which was already burgeoning as a result of the canal al-Nasir had dug, allowing Cairo to spread to the west and engulf its former suburbs. Al-Nasir’s passion for architecture amounted to a mania, and his patronage mixed a concern for civic improvement with aesthetic delight. Royal building in Cairo included a complex (1295–1304), which he took over from Kitbugha, next to that of Qala’un; it comprised a madrasa and his tomb. The Striped Palace (Qaṣr al-Ablaq) was al-Nasir’s major undertaking in the Cairo citadel (see Cairo, §III, 5), although only the adjoining mosque (1318; enlarged 1335) survives. Amirs such as Sayf al-Din Tankiz al-Husami (d 1340), Baktimur al-Silahdar (d 1300), Qawsun (d 1342) and Bashtak (d 1341) accumulated vast fortunes and emulated royal patronage on a smaller though still princely scale. Ibn Battuta (1304–c. 1370), the Moroccan traveller who visited Egypt during al-Nasir’s reign, praised the Sultan’s construction of a great Sufi convent outside Cairo and commented that his favoured amirs vied with one another in the founding of mosques and religious institutions. While governor of Damascus (1312–40), Tankiz erected or repaired 40 buildings in Syria; in Jerusalem he constructed in al-Nasir’s name the long portico on the western side of the Haram enclosure and the Bab al-Qattanin (Gate of the Cotton Sellers), and the Dome of the Rock and the dome of the Aqsa Mosque were repaired.

Basin made for the Mamluk sultan al-Nasir Muhammad, brass inlaid with gold and silver, diam. 540 mm, from Egypt or Syria,c.1320–41 ad (London, British Museum); photo © The British Museum

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Al-Nasir Muhammad was a prominent patron of the arts, partly because of his long reign. Bearing his name or attributed to him are about 30 inlaid brasses (see fig.), a dozen enamelled glass mosque lamps and a few single-volume copies of the Koran (e.g. Cairo, N. Lib., 4). The inlaid brasses include two boxes (Cairo, Al-Azhar Mosque, and Berlin, Mus. Islam. Kst) for 30-volume manuscripts of the Koran. During al-Nasir’s long reign the figural compositions associated with inlaid metalwork in the Mosul style were increasingly supplanted by bold and majestic inscriptions bearing the patron’s names and titles in thuluth script, and this new epigraphic style characterized most later Mamluk metalwork (see Islamic art, §IV, 3(iii)). This epigraphic style is also seen on enamelled glass mosque lamps bearing the names and titles of al-Nasir or other contemporary patrons (see Islamic art, §VIII, 5(ii)). Magnificent manuscripts of the Koran show the impact of contemporary Ilkhanid work, and a splendid 30-volume copy commissioned by the Ilkhanid ruler Uljaytu (Cairo, N. Lib., MS. 72) may have been one of the gifts Uljaytu’s son exchanged with al-Nasir after the peace treaty was signed.


  • The waqf document of Sultan Al-Nāṣir Ḥasan b.Muḥammad b. Qalāwūn for his Complex in Al-Rumaila, ed. H. N. al-Ḥarithy (Beirut, 2001)
  • Ibn Fa ḍl Allah al- ‛Umar ī (d 1349): Masālik al-abṣār fī mamālik al-amṣār [Ways of seeing regarding provinces that have cities in them], 1, ed. A. F. Sayyid (Cairo, 1985)
  • A ḥmad ibn ‛Al ī al-Maqr īz ī (1364 –1442): al-Maw āاi ẓ wa ’l-i ‛tib ār bi-dhikr al-khi ṭa ṭ wa ’l- āth ār [Exhortations and consideration for the mention of districts and monuments], 2 vols (Cairo, 1853)
  • K. A. C. Creswell: The Muslim Architecture of Egypt, 2 (Oxford, 1959), chap. 25
  • L. Golvin: ‘Quelques Notes sur le Sūq al-Qaṭṭanīn et ses annexes à Jerusalem’, Bulletin d’études orientales, 20 (1967), pp. 101–17
  • J. M. Rogers: ‘Evidence for Mamluk–Mongol Relations, 1260–1360’, Colloque internationale sur l’histoire du Caire: Caire, 1969, pp. 385–404
  • V. Meinecke-Berg: ‘Quellen zur Topographie und Baugeschichte in Kairo unter Sultan an-Nāṣir b. Qalāاūn’, Z. Dt. Mrgländ. Ges., suppl. 3 (xix, Deutscher Orientalistentag, 1975), pp. 538–50
  • J. W. Allan: Islamic Metalwork: The Nuhad es-Said Collection (London, 1982), nos 14–15
  • H. al-Harithy: ‘The Patronage of al-Nāṣir Muḥammad ibn Qalāwūn, 1310–1341’, Mamluk Studies Review, 4 (2000), pp. 219–44
  • A. González Hernández: ‘La mezquita del sultán al-Nāṣir ed-Dīn Muḥammad ibn Qalaun en la ciudadela de El Cairo’, Revista del Instituto Egipcio de Estudios Islámicos en Madrid, 34 (2002), pp. 107–29
  • R. Ward: ‘Brass, Gold and Silver from Mamluk Egypt: Metal Vessels Made for Sultan Al-Nāṣir Muḥammad’, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 14/1 (2004), pp. 59–73
  • P. Plagnieux: ‘Le portail d’Acre transporte au Caire: Sources et diffusion des modeles rayonnants en Terre sainte au milieu du XIIIe siècle’, Bulletin monumental, 164/1 (2006), pp. 61–6

(4) Baybars II [Rukn al-Dīn Baybars al-Jāshankīr]

(reg 1309; d Cairo, April 16, 1310).

Mamluk of (2) Qalaاun. He was co-regent with the amir Salar (d 1310) for Qalaاun’s son (3) al-Nasir Muhammad during his second reign (1299–1309). Baybars then seized power for himself, but his reign lasted only until al-Nasir Muhammad could organize an army in Syria, return to Cairo and have Baybars strangled. Baybars’s funerary complex in the eastern quarter of Cairo comprised a large Sufi convent (Arab. khānaqāh; 1306–10), begun while he was still regent, accompanied by a hospice (ribā ṭ; destr.), housing 400 and 200 Sufis respectively. Some building materials, including decoration, were taken from a Fatimid palace on the site. Endowment documents describe the building and the operation of its institution in detail. Baybars also commissioned an unusually large seven-volume manuscript of the Koran (1304–6; London, BL, Add. MS. 22406–12) for the khānaqāh. Totalling well over 1000 folios, the manuscript was mentioned in the endowment deed and reportedly cost 1600 dinars. It was made by a team of artists comprising the calligrapher Ibn al-Wahid, the two master illuminators Sandal and Muhammad ibn Mubadir and their assistant Aydughdi ibn ‛Abdallah al-Badri.


  • K. A. C. Creswell: The Muslim Architecture of Egypt, 2 (Oxford, 1959), pp. 249–54
  • D. James: ‘Some Observations on the Calligraphers and Illuminators of the Koran of Rukn al-Din Baybars al-Jashnagir’, Muqarnas, 2 (1984), pp. 147–57
  • L. Fernandes: ‘The Foundation of Baybars al-Jashankir: Its Waqf, History, and Architecture’, Muqarnas, 4 (1987), pp. 21–42
  • D. James: Qurاāns of the Mamlūks, no. 1 (New York, 1988)

(5) Hasan [Nāṣir al-Dīn Ḥasan]

(b ?1336; reg 1347–51, 1354–61; d Cairo, March 9, 1362).

Doors, wood plated with bronze, from the complex of Hasan (1356–62) in Cairo, subsequently installed (c. 1420) in the funerary complex of al-Mu‛ayyad Shaykh (photograph shows one-half of one valve); photo credit: Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom

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Son of (3) al-Nasir Muhammad. The young Hasan was proclaimed sultan under the control of a regent. After a brief attempt at independence, he was deposed in favour of one of his brothers, then returned to power—again under the control of a series of senior amirs. He was again deposed and, only in his mid-twenties, murdered by a cabal of amirs. In addition to these internecine struggles, Hasan’s reign was marked by wars against the kings of Little Armenia and in the Hijaz, and the appearance of the Black Death in Syria and Egypt. Hasan is best remembered for his mammoth funerary complex (1356–62; see Cairo, §III, 9) and its fine fittings, including dozens of enamelled glass lamps (see Islamic art, §VIII, 5(ii)) and a set of superb bronze-plated doors later expropriated by al-Mu‛ayyad Shaykh for his complex (see fig.). Many of the immense manuscripts of the Koran usually associated with the patronage of (6) Sha‛ban II may have been intended for this building.


(6) Sha‛ban II [al-Ashraf Nāṣir al-Dīn Sha‛bān II]

(b c. 1353; reg 1363–77; d Cairo, March 1377).

Son of (5) Hasan. During his reign, despite domestic strife, commerce grew with Venice, and Cilicia was conquered. Although Sha‛ban was never independent of his regents, by the end of his reign he was deemed an effective and pious ruler but was murdered while trying to make the pilgrimage to Mecca. The structure in Cairo known as the madrasa of Umm al-Sultan Sha‛ban (1369) was ordered, according to historical sources, by Sha‛ban’s mother Khwand Baraka, or, according to the inscriptions, by the Sultan himself for her. It comprises a portal, four-iwan madrasa and two mausolea with ribbed domes. Oversized for the narrow street on which it stands, the building has a striped façade that shows the increasing dryness and low relief characteristic of later Mamluk architecture. Sha‛ban also built a complex (destr.) near the citadel with a khānaqāh, madrasa and mosque. His name also appears on a small number of enamelled glass and inlaid brass objects. Several huge and stunningly elaborate illuminated manuscripts of the Koran were completed during his reign and represent the best of Mamluk illumination. They feature double-page frontispieces and finispieces, elaborate chapter headings and marginal ornament lavishly executed in gold, along with lapis lazuli, red and other colours, and often employ geometric designs, based particularly on multi-pointed stars and the radial extensions of their sides.


  • J. W. Allan: ‘Sha‛ban, Barquq and the Decline of the Mamluk Metalworking Industry’, Muqarnas, 2 (1984), pp. 85–94
  • C. Kessler: ‘Mecca-oriented Urban Architecture in Mamluk Cairo: The Madrasa–mausoleum of Sultan Sha‛ban II’, In Quest of an Islamic Humanism, ed. A. H. Green (Cairo, 1984), pp. 98–108

(7) Barquq [al-Ẓāhir Sayf al-Dīn Barqūq ibn Anas]

(b ?1336; reg 1382–9, 1390–99, d Cairo, June 20, 1399).

Barquq was purchased in the Crimea and brought to Cairo during the reigns of the last descendants of (2) Qalaاun and members of the Bahri line. He served the most powerful amirs and was involved in their intrigues, becoming the regent of yet another child sultan before seizing power for himself and becoming the first sultan of the Circassian or Burji line of Mamluks. Unseated and imprisoned briefly in Transjordan, he returned to Cairo within the year. Barquq was a powerful soldier and a contemporary and foe of Timur, but he did little else for Egypt except to build a large madrasa (1398) on the central artery of Cairo near the madrasas of al-Salih Najm al-Din Ayyub, Baybars I, Qalaاun and al-Nasir Muhammad. The complex of Barquq comprises a mausoleum, minaret and four-iwan madrasa with residential and service rooms packed around the main elements. The interior of the mausoleum is richly panelled in marble, and the qibla wall of the prayer-hall also bears marble panelling, but otherwise the building is poor in marble, brass and fine wood, which were growing scarce in financially troubled 14th-century Egypt.


  • Enc. Islam/2: ‘Barḳūḳ’
  • M. Rogers: ‘The Stones of Barqūq, Apollo, 103 (April 1976), pp. 307–13
  • S. L. Mostafa: Madrasa, Hanqāh und Mausoleum des Barqūq in Kairo (Glückstadt, 1982)
  • J. W. Allan: ‘Sha‛ban, Barquq and the Decline of the Mamluk Metalworking Industry’, Muqarnas, 2 (1984), pp. 85–94

(8) Faraj [al-Nāṣir Nāṣir al-Dīn Faraj]

(b Cairo, 1389; reg 1399–1405, 1405–12; d Damascus, May 28, 1412).

Son of (7) Barquq. His mother, Shirin, was Greek. He succeeded on Barquq’s death and within five months emerged from the tutelage of the mamluk amirs. He was deposed briefly in 1405 and ultimately forced from the sultanate and executed by amirs he could not control. During his reign the finances of the Mamluk empire declined still further, amid the turmoil caused by the incessant conflict among the leading amirs. Faraj built a mosque and fountain (sabīl, 1408) in Cairo and a massive funerary khānaqāh (1400–11) in the eastern cemetery. An arcade connected the modest tomb of Barquq’s father, Sharaf al-Din Anas, to the complex. The khānaqāh unusually has arcades around the courtyard and a hypostyle prayer-hall, which is flanked by two domed mausolea, one for himself, his father and his male relatives and the other for his female relatives. The mausolea feature openwork wooden screens, marble panelling, painted decoration and fine cenotaphs.


  • Enc. Islam/2: ‘Faradj’
  • S. L. Mostafa: Kloster und Mausoleum des Fara ǧ b. Barq ūq (Glückstadt, 1968)
  • S. L. Mostafa: Moschee des Fara ǧ ibn Barq ūq in Kairo (Glückstadt, 1972)

(9) Barsbay [al-Ashraf Sayf al-Dīn Barsbay]

(reg 1422–38; d Cairo, June 7, 1438).

Mamluk of (7) Barquq. He seized the sultanate and proclaimed a series of xenophobic, discriminatory and oppressive policies. Achieving victory in a campaign against Cyprus, he attained only stalemate in a war with the Aqqoyunlu in upper Mesopotamia. Barsbay escaped the most common fate of Mamluk sultans, deposition and execution, by dying of the plague. The economic decline of Egypt at this time may be judged by the remark of the Mamluk antiquarian al-Maqrizi (d 1442) that while brasswork inlaid with silver had been popular, in his day only a few metalworkers still produced such vessels, and others bought up inlaid vessels to remove their precious inlays. Maqrizi’s observations are borne out by the quantity and quality of most surviving pieces, and many tinned copper vessels were produced as the brassworking industry declined. Barsbay nevertheless commissioned several magnificent manuscripts of the Koran (Cairo, N. Lib.), which were endowed to his madrasa (1424), one of three extant buildings he founded. The complex, in the centre of Fatimid Cairo, comprised a public fountain, primary school minaret, mausoleum and four-iwan madrasa. An original ceiling that has survived in the iwan opposite the qibla iwan is a colourful and richly gilded composition of gored domelets and intersecting six-lobed rosettes filled with strapwork and arabesque. Barsbay’s mausoleum, mosque and khānaqāh in the eastern cemetery (1432) was an immense structure, conventional in design and ornament, but only part of it is preserved. He also ordered a congregational mosque (1437) in the town of al-Khanka north of Cairo.


  • A ḥmad ibn ‛Al ī al-Maqr īz ī (1364 –1442): al-Maw āاi ẓ wa ’l-i ‛tib ār bi-dhikr al-khi ṭa ṭ wa ’l- āth ār [Exhortations and consideration for the mention of districts and monuments], 2 vols (Cairo, 1853)
  • A. Darrag: L’Egypte sous le règne de Barsbay (Damascus, 1961)
  • L. E. Fernandes: ‘Three Sufi Foundations in a Fifteenth-century Wakfiya’, Annales islamologiques, 17 (1981), pp. 141–56

(10) Qa’itbay [al-Ashraf Sayf al-Dīn Qā’itbāy al-Ẓāhirī]

  • Robert Irwin

(b c. 1413; reg 1468–96; d Cairo, 1496).

Fountain inside the Haram enclosure, Jerusalem, 1482; sponsored by Qa’itbay; photo credit: Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom

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Purchased in 1435 by (9) Barsbay, he rose steadily in the Mamluk hierarchy until Timurbugha (reg Dec 1467–Feb 1468) appointed him commander-in-chief. After Timurbugha’s deposition, Qa’itbay was acclaimed sultan and reigned until he abdicated in favour of his son the day before his death. Qa’itbay was highly cultured and personally austere: he wrote poetry and mystic litanies in Arabic, Arabic-Turkish and Turkish. His architectural patronage, for which surviving endowment deeds are an important but not always reliable source, extended throughout the realm and supported religious aims. The most important of his extant works in Cairo include the madrasa and mausoleum in the northern cemetery (1472–4; see Cairo, §III, 10), another madrasa at Qal‛at al-Kabsh (1475–6) and a third on Roda Island (1481–90), a water-dispensary and Koran-school (1479) and two caravanserais (1477 and 1480), as well as a new gate and minaret for the Azhar Mosque and minbars for the khānaqāh of Faraj and the mosque of Mu’ayyad Shaykh. In Jerusalem Qa’itbay sponsored the Ashrafiyya Madrasa (1482) and an exquisite fountain (1482; see fig.) inside the Haram enclosure. Mamluks of German origin are said to have built Qa’itbay’s fort in Alexandria (1477–99). In the 1470s and 1480s he had parts of the Prophet’s mosque in Medina restored, and over the following years he founded madrasas in Mecca and Medina and a string of hostels along the pilgrimage route. European pilgrims report that he was unusually tolerant of Christian rebuilding in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. The cultivated grand amirs were also important literary and architectural patrons. The palace of Yashbak min Mahdi (d 1482) in the Matariyya district of Cairo made a great impression on visiting Europeans, and the architectural foundations he constructed were admired by contemporaries.

Deeply incised and elaborately carved tracery patterns are commonly found on the façades and domes of Qa’itbay’s buildings, and his wooden minbars (e.g. London, V&A) have unusually elaborate inlay. Many of the designs are also found in the fine illuminated manuscripts commissioned by the Sultan. A distinct revival of inlaid metalwork occurred during his reign, although the engraving was not as elaborate as the work of earlier centuries (see Islamic art, §IV, 3(iii)(b)). Knotted carpets may also have been produced during his reign, for the composite heraldic emblem peculiar to the Sultan and two of his mamluks appears on some carpets (see Islamic art, §VI, 4(iii)(b)).


  • Enc. Islam/2: ‘Ḳāاit Bāy’
  • Ibn Iyās (1448–c. 1524): Badāاī‛ al-zuhūr fī-waqāاī‛ al-duhūr [The wonders of blossoms concerning events of the times], 3, ed. P. Kahle and M. Mustafa (Istanbul, 1936); Fr. trans. by G. Wiet as Histoire des Mamlouks circassiens (Cairo, 1945)
  • L. A. Mayer: The Buildings of Qaytbay as Described in his Endowment Deed (London, 1938)
  • A. S. Melikian-Chirvani: ‘Cuivres inédits de l’époque de Qaاitbay’, Kunst des Orients, 6 (1969), pp. 99–133
  • O. Grabar: ‘The Inscriptions of the Madrasah–mausoleum of Qaytbay’, Near Eastern Numismatics, Iconography, Epigraphy and History: Studies in Honor of George C. Miles, ed. D. Kouymjian (Beirut, 1974), pp. 465–8
  • S. Tamari: ‘Al-Ashrafiyya: An Imperial Madrasa in Jerusalem’, Atti e memorie dell’Accademia nazionale dei Lincei, atti della classe di scienze morali, 19 (1976), pp. 537–68
  • C. Kessler and M. Burgoyne: ‘The Fountain of Sultan Qaytbay in the Sacred Precinct of Jerusalem’, Archaeology in the Levant: Essays for Kathleen Kenyon, ed. R. Moore and P. Parr (Warminster, 1977), pp. 251–68
  • D. Behrens-Abouseif: ‘The North-eastern Extension of Cairo under the Mamluks’, Annales islamologiques, 17 (1981), pp. 157–90
  • C. Petry: ‘A Paradox of Patronage during the Later Mamluk Period’, Muslim World, 73 (1983), pp. 182–207
  • A. W. Newhall: The Patronage of the Mamluk Sultan Qaاit Bay, 872–901/1468–1496 (diss., Cambridge, MA, Harvard U., 1987)
  • A. G. Walls: Geometry and Architecture in Islamic Jerusalem: A Study of the Ashrafiyya (London, 1990)
  • C. F. Petry: Twilight of Majesty: The Reigns of the Mamlūk Sultans al-Ashraf Qāytbāy and Qānṣūh al-Ghawrī in Egypt (Seattle and London, 1993)
  • D. Behrens-Abouseif: ‘Qāytbāy’s Foundation in Medina, the Madrasah, the Ribāṭ, and the Dashīshah’, Mamluk Studies Review, 2 (1998), pp. 61–71
  • U. Haarmann: ‘Eine neue Quelle zur Bautätigkeit Sultan Qāyitbāys im ersten Jahrfünft seiner Herrschaft’, Damaszener Mitteilungen, 11 (1999), pp. 191–204
  • H. Hallenberg: ‘The Sultan who Loved Sufis: How Qāytbāy Endowed a Shrine Complex in Dasūq’, Mamluk Studies Review, 4 (2000), pp. 147–66
  • C. M. Suriano: ‘A Mamluk Landscape: Carpet Weaving in Egypt and Syria under Sultan Qaitbay’, Halı, 34 (2004), pp. 94–105

(11) Qansuh [Kansawh] al-Ghawri [al-Ashraf Qānṣūh al-Ghawrī]

(b c. 1440; reg 1501–16; d Marj Dabiq, Aug 24, 1516).

Circassian mamluk of (10) Qaاitbay. He served in many positions of authority around the Mamluk empire before being elevated to the sultanate at the age of 60. His death in battle with the Ottomans north of Aleppo spelt the end of the Mamluk empire. Despite the precarious finances and deteriorating military situation, Qansuh followed Qaاitbay’s lead in building in Cairo (see Islamic art, §II, 6(iii)(a)). His works include several mosques, an aqueduct, a gate to a covered market, a large commercial building (Arab. wakāla) and his most imposing work, a pair of buildings that includes his madrasa, his mausoleum, a public fountain, a primary school, a khānaqāh and a palace (1503–4). The exterior design and decoration of these paired buildings is a somewhat less successful version of that of the Qaاitbay complex, although their siting and arrangement are well calculated for maximum impact on the passer-by. The Sultan, a bibliophile who could read Persian, had many copies of the Shāhnāma (‘Book of kings’) in his library. He commissioned a Turkish translation of the text from the poet Sharif Amidi, and a copy (Cairo, 1511; Istanbul, Topkapı Pal. Lib., H. 1519) was illustrated with 62 paintings modelled on those in his Persian copies (e.g. Istanbul, Topkapı Pal. Lib., H. 1506) with added Egyptian details of architecture, furniture and costume. He also commissioned an anthology of Turkish poetry including some of his own verses (Berlin, Staatsbib., MS Or. Oct. 3744), and the frontispiece was probably painted by one of the artists who worked on the Shāhnāma (see Islamic art, §III, 4(v)(a)).


  • Enc. Islam/2: ‘Ḳānṣawh al-Ghawrī’
  • E. Atıl: ‘Mamluk Painting in the Later Fifteenth Century’, Muqarnas, 2 (1984), pp. 159–71
  • C. F. Petry: Twilight of Majesty: The Reigns of the Mamlūk Sultans al-Ashraf Qāytbāy and Qānṣūh al-Ghawrī in Egypt (Seattle and London, 1993)
  • D. Berhens-Abouseif: ‘Sultan al-Ghawrī and the Arts’, Mamluk Studies Review, 6 (2002), pp. 71–94
Encyclopaedia of Islam (Leiden, 1954–)