Sunday, October 23, 2011

Muhammad Ali's sabil, 1820


Sabils are a prominent, although not exclusive, feature of Ottoman urbanism. Cairo once had over three hundred Sabils and they were pivotal elements in various neighborhoods, they were places to get water a life necessity. The historic core of Cairo is dotted with these buildings, some have been restored, while others have fallen into disrepair as drinking water became available in private homes, and the waqf and patronage system that once maintained these structures no longer exists. Muhammad Ali, ruler of Egypt (1805-48) built a sabil in a prime location at the heart of Cairo. In 1998 that building was on the verge of collapse but a group of conservers led by architect Agnieszka Dobrowolska carried out a meticulous restoration project that saved the building. The following few paragraphs are an excerpt from a publication co-authored with historian Khaled Fahmy titled Muhammad Ali Pasha and his Sabil: A Guide to the Permanent Exhibition in the Sabil Muhammad ‘Ali Pasha in al-Aqqadin, Cairo.

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