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“The Palace Of Prince Taz”: A Gem Of T...

“The Palace Of Prince Taz”: A Gem Of The Mamluk Architecture

Prince Taz Palace Linesmag

Islamic Cairo is filled with treasures that can fill whole countries. Historical Mosques, Madrasas -schools-, and Markets show us how Egyptian architecture developed and produced this beauty that amazes the world. One of the unique typologies is the houses and palaces. They don’t only show us the architectural beauty, but they give us a glimpse into the daily life of our ancestors. Beauty and design integrated with the smallest details of their daily routine. Today we’re talking about a very interesting, yet underestimated palace of the “Mamluk” era. Let us take you on an amazing adventure to the palace of Prince “Taz”.

About The Mamluks

The Mamluks originally are warrior slaves from different ethnicities and backgrounds who served the royal families of Egypt. With time they gained more political power. Then they finally ruled Egypt, Syria, and other territories from the 13th to the 16th century. Their Ruling era is one of the richest periods of Islamic Egypt, especially on the architectural level. Most of the magnificent monuments we have nowadays are from the “Mamluk” era such as the Sultan Hassan Mosque, Qalawun complex, and The Palace of Prince “Taz”.

Prince Taz Palace Linesmag
Sultan Hassan Mosque, Photo Courtesy: Linesmag

The History Of The Palace

The Origins

The palace was built in the 14th century by the Mamluk Prince “Saif Eddin Taz”. He had very strong connections with the Sultan at that time, as he was his son in law, his drink servant, and a strong politician. The palace originally extended over 8,000 square meters. The location had a very important significance being close to the castle -the center of power-. It is also on the intersection of “Saliba Street” and “Suyufiyya Street”, which forms the main entrance to Medieval Cairo.

Different Uses Along The Years

The palace changed hands throughout the years. The Ottoman noble “Ali Agha” bought it as a residence, and built a “Sabeel” –a place where people can drink water- and a “Kottab” –a small class for children to learn the Quran, reading, and writing-. In the khedival era, the palace turned into a school for girls. Then later into a warehouse for the ministry of education.

The Uniqueness of The Palace

The real importance of this palace comes from two different aspects. The first one is its heritage and architectural value. That’s because it is the largest Mamluki palace we have, and although the building use switched multiple times, it hasn’t changed much. The main features are clear, and from them, we can learn a lot about this era and the building typology.

The Second aspect is actually a tragedy. Due to ignorance and negligence over the years, the palace was in terrible condition. Parts of it collapsed during the 1992 earthquake, and in 2002 It was going to be lost. But with dedication from the historic Cairo preservation team, it stands strong to this day.

Prince Taz Palace Linesmag
The Sabeel from inside, Photo Courtesy: Linesmag

The Architecture of the palace

The palace’s very unique architecture allows us to know about the religious, social, and environmental aspects which are highly intertwined with each other and had shaped the architecture during the Mamluk Islamic period. So now let us go through some of the architectural key features of Prince Taz Palace:

The Entrances

The palace has two entrances; the beautifully decorated main entrance is facing “Suyufiyya Street” and the secondary one faces “Sheikh Khalil” alley. The social aspects shaped the positioning and form of the entrances clearly. For example, the main entrance which is for the guests was originally a bent entrance, meaning that upon entering you find yourself in a lobby-like space facing a wall. This plays two roles, the first is a social role, to provide privacy for the dwellers of the place so they aren’t directly seen by the passerby or the guest. The second is an environmental role, to protect the house from external noise, wind, and dust. As for the second entrance, it is mainly for the women so that they can move freely in and out without any contact with the male guests who might be in the house. That’s why it is connected with the “Haramlek”, which is on the first floor also for privacy.

Prince Taz Palace Linesmag
The Palace's Main Entrance, Photo Courtesy: Linesmag

The Court

The court plays a very important role in Islamic architecture in general. This is because of the hot climate of the MENA region. Thus, the court provides natural ventilation for the house and allows the air cycle to continue freely. It provides natural lighting for all the spaces overlooking it. It also acts as a garden and had a water fountain in the middle which regulates the temperature of the whole place. Moreover, it plays a social role too, allowing the women to have a nice view and clean air, without the need for contact with the external world. In the case of Prince “Taz” palace, we have two courts an internal and external one.

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The Palace's Court, Photo Courtesy: Linesmag

The Orientation

It shows us how the importance of knowing the climatic and environmental nature of the context. All the living spaces are facing North –the direction of the preferable wind in Egypt- while all the services and stables are facing South or West. Also, the design of the living spaces: The reception halls, the seating area, “Haramlek” and “Salamlek” –separated places for women and men meetings- usually consist of three areas:

-A “Durqa’a”,  a lobby-like space which has: a big opening facing North and overlooking the court, a “Shokhshekha” on the roof –a dome with openings that allow the air to circulate-, and a small water fountain.
-Two “Iwans” on both sides of the “Durqa’a”, a place where guests and home dwellers could sit together.

The Building Structure and Materials

The structure of these old monuments is bearing walls. This system requires very thick walls to hold the structure especially if it has more than one floor. With this thickness and the characteristics of the natural materials as stone, and bricks, the atmosphere inside the building becomes very pleasant and within the temperature comfort zone for the users of the house.

Prince Taz Palace Linesmag
Photo Courtesy: Linesmag

“Mashrabeya”

The “Mashrabeya” is a key element in Islamic architecture. It plays two roles too, its environmental role is to allow natural lighting and airflow to enter the space, without glaring light or heat from outside. While its social role is privacy, as it allows the person inside to see the street without directly being seen by the strangers passing by.

Photo Courtesy: Linesmag

Interesting Features Of Prince Taz Palace

“Al-Meq’ad”

It consists of two floors. The first is a seating hall on the ground floor with a marble fountain in the middle. The second is a porch overlooking the courtyard with four beautiful pointed arches on ornamented marble columns, and an amazing ceiling.

Photo Courtesy: Linesmag

Photo Courtesy: Linesmag

“Al-Haramlek”

The Haramlek is the meeting and living place of women of the palace. It is an enormous hall with two “Iwans”. The scale of the “Haramlek” is monumental, and it gives a sense of awe upon entering. It is also one of the parts that took a huge effort from the conservation team of historic Cairo.

Photo Courtesy: Linesmag

The Ceilings And Ornaments

When you visit the palace do not forget to look up in every space you enter. The wood ceilings are beautiful artworks, with complex patterns and unique colors and Arabic calligraphy. Also various types of gilded ornaments decorate the different rooms of the palace.

Photo Courtesy: Linesmag

Photo Courtesy: Linesmag

The Water and Sewage System

A very unique feature of the palace is that we can find most of the water system intact. Having a well, and a water wheel that lifts water from below even to the higher floors to the “Haramlek”, and it also provided water to the “Sabil” of “Ali Agha”. The palace also has one of the oldest sewage systems. All of this gives us an insight into how they dealt with water usage during the Middle Ages.

Prince Taz Palace Linesmag
The Water Wheel, Photo Courtesy: Linesmag

The Bathrooms

The Palace has multiple traditional bathrooms, having three rooms for different temperatures: cold, warm, and hot, with special heating systems.

Photo Courtesy: Linesmag

Prince Taz Palace is a rare and unique building. It shows us how people integrated their culture, environment, and beliefs in every aspect of their lives. And today it turned into a cultural hub for people to share art and beauty in a place that is full of art and beauty. May we never lose a gem of our ancestors, and may their legacy live forever.

Prince Taz Palace Linesmag
The stone niche at the entrance of the Meqa'ad, Photo Courtesy: Linesmag

If you’re interested in Cairo’s architectural monuments check this article about Babylon Fortress Stories and Secrets, Here on Linesmag!


David grew up loving all kinds of narrative arts, it made him realize that everything revolves around, and ends up being a story. During studying architecture, he discovered that it is directed by a concept, a message or an idea interpreted in a physical form, and is directly influencing the lives of its users. And David is always eager to make these architectural stories, stories worth telling.

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