The Islamic Art Museum is home to the largest and most beautiful Islamic antiquity collection in the world. The idea of collecting and exhibiting Islamic objects began in 1880 AD, and 1902 saw the completion of the museum's building in the Mamluk style.
The Museum is a neo-Islamic style building, perhaps more representative for Islamic Cairo than for the center, however, its location makes it easily identifiable for those visiting the center: it is located just 20 minutes walk east of Tahrir Square and, although few tourists include it in their visit program, it is really worth it to see it.
The interpretation of a Koranic precept that forbade to depict Allah (God) led Muslims to abolish the representation of the body an exceptional refinement in floral, geometric and epigraphic decorations, applying the motifs with lively imagination in the processing of the most varied supports: wood, glass, metal, stone, fabric, ceramic, bone and paper, widely represented in the museum.
The core of the collection is made up of fragments removed from mosques and other monuments in Cairo and brought together at the end of the 19th century, in order to prevent them from being stolen by European treasure hunters. The objects were first collected in the El-Hakim Mosque, until 1902, when a museum was specially created on the ground floor of the then building of the National Library.
The most extraordinary objects are the large mashrabiyya, made from thousands of individual pieces of wood. Still present in many old buildings, they were used to shelter the rooms from the sun and at the same time allow a light breeze to enter. These particular curtains then allowed the housewives to look out without being seen.
The museum houses other examples of creative carpentry from the city's mosques, including huge ivory inlaid doors, carved friezes, and a refined 15th-century pulpit.
The museum's three ornamental fountains are an excellent example of another specialty of Egyptian craftsmanship inlaid with stone and marble. These objects, dating back to the Mamluk and Ottoman periods, adorned the reception rooms of the houses of wealthy merchants. Also of great value are the lamps in enameled glass, which were hung with special chains on the ceilings of the mosques, decorated with stylized Arabic letters.
Other objects in the museum's collection include Turkish ceramics and shutters, manuscripts, and miniature books, and the inevitable rugs and tapestries.
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