Zawiya-Sabil Faraj Ibn Barquq

The Zawiya and Sabil Faraj Ibn Barquq is a stunning conservation project that was directed by Hoda Abdel Hamid and carried out by the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Egyptian Ministry of State for Antiquities (the predecessor of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities). The project commenced in 2000 and lasted for a period of five years.

Constructed between the years of AD 1408 and 1409, the Zawiya and Sabil Faraj Ibn Barquq is regarded as an exemplary Mamluk complex that contains a number of distinctive architectural and decorative characteristics. Its location also makes the monument quite distinctive as it directly faces the well-known Bab Zuwayla. The Zawiya has historically always been a pivotal gathering point for pedestrian activities, ultimately resulting in an increased interest by institutions seeking to conserve it. This is first evident in 1923, when the Comité de Conservation de L’Art Arabe implemented major conservation attempts to protect the Zawiya from urban developments.

ARCE’s project to further restore the building was vital as the Zawiya had experienced a great deal of deterioration due to environmental problems caused by groundwater, which over time had deteriorated the stone flooring. The accompanying dampness also damaged the building’s wooden ceiling and roof, which is one of its most attractive attributes. To address this, waterproofing insulation was fitted across the complex. Other interventions included structural improvements to address the ceiling and foundation damage and cleaning and conserving the interior decorative elements.

A key and unique element of ARCE’s project was to ensure that the Zawiya’s metropolitan character was not compromised while also making it accessible and informative to visitors and the public. To achieve this, some surrounding modern kiosks were removed, exposing the building’s windows to passersby for the first time in three decades. Signage and visitor information were also installed in order to facilitate the monument’s use as a visitor center, allowing foreign and domestic tourists alike the opportunity to gain knowledge about Historic Cairo and the building itself.