Bayn al-Qasrayn (Arabic: بين القصرين, lit. ‘between the two palaces’) is an area along al-Mu’izz Street in the center of medieval Islamic Cairo, within present day Cairo. It corresponds to what was formerly a plaza between two palace complexes constructed in the 10th century by the Fatimids, as part of their palace-city named al-Qahirah (now Cairo). This later became the site of many monumental buildings constructed during different eras up to the 19th century. Many of these historical monuments are still standing today.
The Fatimids conquered Egypt in 969 under the command of al-Siqilli, the general of Caliph Al-Mu’izz li-Din Allah. In 970, Jawhar was responsible for planning, founding, and constructing a new city to serve as the residence and center of power for the Fatimid Caliphs. The city was located northeast of Fustat, the existing capital and main city of Egypt. Jawhar, who served as al-Mu’izz’s Grand Vizier and was most likely an Armenian slave, recounted by 14th-century Egyptian Islamic historian, Al-Maqrizi, to have made the conscious decision to move further north and build Cairo on a 340-acre complex instead of develop Fustat.
Jawhar organized the city so that the caliphal palace complex was at its center. The city was named al-Mu’izziyya al-Qahirah, the “Victorious City of al-Mu’izz”, later simply called “al-Qahira”, which gave us the modern name of Cairo. Although Jawhar was indeed important to the layout of Cairo, the Great Eastern Palace of Al-Mu’izz li-Din Allah was drawn and designed by the hand of Al-Mu’izz li-Din Allah, himself. Al-Mu’izz li-Din Allah’s palace was finished in the year 996, but underwent renovations with Caliph Al-Mustansir Billah in the year 1058.
List of historic monuments at Bayn al-Qasrayn today
While Bayn al-Qasrayn is not a strictly defined area today. The following monuments occupy the former site of the two great Fatimid Palaces, roughly in order from south to north. The prominence of structures originating from royal patronage is an indication of the location’s historical prestige.
- Madrasa and mausoleum of Sultan al-Salih Ayyub
- Madrasa of Sultan Baybars (the earliest Mamluk monument, but only a fragment of it remains today)
- Funerary complex (mausoleum, madrasa, and hospital) of Sultan Qalawun (still contains some remnants of the western Fatimid palace)
- Funerary complex (mausoleum and madrasa) of Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad
- Funerary complex (mausoleum and khanqah) of Sultan Barquq
- Sabil and school of Isma’il Pasha (19th century)
- Madrasa of Sultan al-Kamil Ayyub (the earliest post-Fatimid monument)
- Hammam of Sultan Inal
- Palace of Amir Bashtak
- Sabil-kuttab of Abd al-Rahman Katkhuda
- al-Aqmar Mosque (the only remaining Fatimid monument)