In transcribing the following paragraphs from the Internet Archive online version of The Imperial Gazetteer’s entry on Egypt I have divided the long entry into separate documents, expanded abbreviations for easier reading, and added paragraphing and links to material in the Victorian Web. The black-and-white illustration comes from the Gazetteer, but I have added the color picture from the book credited in the accompanying caption. — George P. Landow

Cairo is built in old Arabian Saracenic style, without any mixture of Western forms. The houses are lofty, flat-roofed, and have numerous projections, and windows with narrow wooden gratings. No two are alike. No attempt is made at symmetry, yet the whole is most harmonious. Most of these houses are built of air-dried bricks, few are of stone, and none of wood; and many present in their interior a true picture of Oriental luxury. The numerous beautiful minarets with which the city is adorned, contribute greatly to heighten the general impression in favour of Cairo.

Cairo. Lithograph by Hullmandel & Walton after a painting by Schrantz. From Romer’s Pilgrimmage to the Temples and Tombs of Egypt (1846). Click on image to enlarge it.

The buildings in the citadel merit first mention, from their prominence, in a general view of the city, no less on account of the interest which attaches to several of themiles This fortress, founded A.D. 1176, by Saladin, is built on a calcareous rock, in the Southeast quarter of the city, of which it forms the abrupt termination; within its walls, March 1, 1811, the massacre of the Mamalukes took place. It contains the mint, an arsenal, the Pasha’s marble palace, his new mosque, &c. To make room for the latter, a lofty antique edifice, called Youssouf’s or Joseph’s Hall, was removed in 1829. I The vice-regal palace is small, hut has had some showy additions made to it of late years. Joseph’s Well still remains; it is dug in the rock, and consists of two parts, the upper and lower well; and a winding staircase leads to the bottom, a depth of 260 feet The fortress is further supplied with water from the Nile, by an aqueduct, formed by Saladin.

But the most remarkable building of the citadel is its new mosque perhaps one of the most splendid in the world built of Egyptian marble, and really wonderful, considering that it has been got up by native architects and workmen, without any fixed plan, almost without any measurement, and, as it were, only in imitation of other buildings of the same style. Behind the citadel is a fort, upon a rock, called the Jebel el Jooshee, the ascent to which is by a long causeway. It was on the site of this fort that Mahomet Ali erected a battery against the citadel, then in possession of Khoorshid Pasha, by which he obtained the surrender of the place.

The Mosque of Sultan Berkook, and Fountain of Ismail. From Hay’s Sketches of Cairo.

The most interesting edifices of Cairo are, undoubtedly, its mosques; and though many of the 400 it possesses are in ruins, yet the number in repair and in daily use is very great. The oldest mosque, as well as the oldest building in Cairo, is the mosque of Ahmed-ebn-el-Tooloon, generally known as the Jama Tayloon, of unknown date, but evidently anterior to 879, and though not remarkable for beauty, it is of high in terest in the history of architecture. The finest mosque is that of Sultan Hassan, immediately below the citadel, and built of blocks obtained from the pyramids. Its porch is lofty and beautifully ornamented, the cornice of its towering walls is rich, and its minarets, and the arches of its spacious courts, are striking. Near the bazaar of the Khan Khaleel, is the mosque of Sultan Kalaoon, to which is attached the Morastan or mad-house, founded by that prince, in A.D. 1287, and the only one in Egypt, till the erection of the new lunatic asylum by Mahomet Ali, in 1844. In the mosque is the handsome tomb of the founder, who died, A.D. 1200. Not far from this mosque is that of Sultan Berkook, with his tomb attached. This potentate was the first sultan of the Circassian Mamaluke dynasty, and was renowned for having twice repulsed the Tartars under Tamerlane. Besides those named, the other principal mosques are the Ezher, Hassanin, El Hakem, and those of Sultans El Ghoree, the Sharawee, Moaiiid, and Sitteh Zayneb. The tombs of the Egyptian Caliphs, which occupied the site of the bazaar of Khan Khaleel, are all destroyed but that of El Saleh Eiyoob, who died in 1250. Near them are the tombs of Sultan Baybers, Naser Mohammed, Baharite Mamaluke princes, and various others, some of them remark ably elegant. The largest convent of derwishes existing is at Cairo; it was built in 1174; and between the city and Old Cairo is another. There is also an hospital for the sick poor, with 500 beds, 200 of which are for women.


Blackie, Walker Grahamiles The Imperial Gazetteer: A General Dictionary of Geography, Physical, Political, Statistical and Descriptive. 4 vols. London: Blackie & Son, 1856. Internet Archive. Inline version of a copy in the University of California Library. Web. 31 July 2020.

Romer, Mrs. A Pilgrimmage to the Temples and Tombs of Egypt, Nubia, and Palestine in 1845-6. 2 vols. London: Richard Bentley, 1846. Hatht Trust Digital Library online version of a copy in the library of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin.

Last modified 1 August 2020