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Gayer Anderson Museum: The story from average to e...

Gayer Anderson Museum: The story from average to eccentric

Gayer Anderson Museum

When it all starts:

“A beautiful woman waved to me from one of the arabesque windows and invited me to take a look at the ancient house,”.  Anderson’s memoir reads. This is the starting point of the story of a normal house which turned into a dazzling museum. Anderson fell in love with the house the moment he entered it. Little did he know that it would carry his own name to be called Gayer Anderson Museum. Not only that, but to present treasures that he collected from around the world for people to admire!

Location and History:

The museum is located in a cluster of monuments. These included the mosque of Ibn Tulun and the mosque of Sarghatmash in El-Sayeda Zainab district, old Cairo.

The museum got its name from John Gayer-Anderson, the British major and army doctor who restored it. The museum consists of two houses. The larger house was built in 1632 by Hajj Mohammad ibn al-Hajj al-Gazzar. It later came into the possession of a wealthy Muslim woman from Crete. Then, the home became popularly known as Beit al-Kritliyya, or “House of the Cretan Woman”. The second house was built in 1540 by Abdel-Qader al-Haddad. It later became known as “Beit Amna bint Salim,” after its last owner. The two houses were joined by a bridge at the third floor level at an unknown point. Consequently, they are both collectively known as Beit al-Kritliyya.

Photo Courtesy: Linesmag
Gayer Anderson Museum

Planning and Construction:

 The museum was constructed on the ruins of Tulunid capital Al-Qata’i. It was built using the ruins of surrounding environmental context especially the bricks of Mokatam hill.

Gayer Anderson’s museum was inscribed including UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is said to be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement. It is one of the most magnificent of the 16th and 17th century’s Islamic domestic architecture remained in Cairo.

Architecture and Art:  

Gayer-Anderson decorated the rooms in a variety of Oriental styles and filled them with objects from his travels. He filled the rooms with antiquities, artwork, furniture, glassware, crystal, carpets, silks and embroidered Arab costumes. The museum hosts a puzzle of theme-decorated rooms. For example: the Persian room has exquisite tiling, the Damascus room has lacquer and gold. However, in other parts of the museum, you’ll find a central marble fountain, decorated ceiling beams and carpet-covered alcoves.

The rooms of the two houses were originally differentiated by gender, male rooms and female rooms. So, we can find el- Salamlek for men and their visitors; and el-Haramlek for women and their visitors.

In addition to differentiation by gender, rooms were also differentiated by climate.  So some spaces used in winter and others used in summer.

Ground Floor architecture and art:  

First, the visitor will meet with a Sabil. These were as charitable foundations for the free distribution of drinking water. Upon entering the museum, the visitor will go through a bent entrance which was designed for privacy. Then enter the central courtyard. This courtyard is the focal point from which all the rooms are distributed around. The ground floor had the store room and the anteroom around the court. However, currently these rooms are used to showcase Anderson’s rare treasures and collections from around the world.

Gayer Anderson Museum

First Floor architecture and art:  

 Through the staircase of the court, we can then go up to the first floor visiting the Maq’ad (Loggia). It is furnished with carpets and comfortable seats overlooking the court with its ceiling full of Islamic decorations. Also, in the first floor stands the Winter room with its special feature of stained glass windows. El Haramlek is also found in the first floor far away from men’s meeting room. This room models Arabesque windows Mashrabia, as a ventlation shaft mitigating the challenges of the surrounding environment. For instance, Mashrafia through which women can see who are walking in the street while they can’t see them. The other connected house has the imperial celebration room with Islamic and Persian influences.

Gayer Anderson Museum

Second Floor architecture and art:  

 Moving to the second floor, we find less congested rooms and more calm activities. For example this floor has the reading room and the writing room “Alkuttab”. However, the other house is mainly composed of rooms which played their roles as outstanding art galleries.

Gayer Anderson Museum

Third Floor architecture and art:  

This floor is basically about theme rooms. For instance, these rooms are the Turkish, Byzantine, Chinese and Damascus rooms. They are rich in each theme’s furniture, sculptures and paintings and details. Then comes the house roof which overlooks a magnificent landscape including Ibn Tulun mosque.

Gayer Anderson Museum

Recap on Gayer Anderson Museum:

In conclusion, Anderson’s journey through life and his passions are demonstrated inside the walls of the museum. Perhaps one of the most beautiful aspects of the Grayer Anderson Museum story is that when Anderson was ill. As a result, he had to move back home in 1942. Therefore,  he gifted his mansion with all its belongings to the Egyptian government. In return, granted him with the title Pasha.

Gayer Anderson Museum
Gayer Anderson Museum

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Ambitious architect, eccentric writer and a lifelong learner. Fascinated by the world and always in search of new adventures and experiences to tell. The dream is to inspire people to pursue new perspectives through the splendid art of writing.