The large silver inlaid bronze door which decorates the entrance hall of the Museum, was
acquired in 1993. Originally it was made for the Khanaqah or "Shelter" of Mamluk Sultan
al-Malik al-Zahir Sayf al-Din Barquq, who reigned between 784AH/AD1382 to 791AH/AD1389 and
again between 792AH/AD1390 to 8021AH/AD1399. The door, which has two wings of equal size,
measures 380x240cm. The wooden panels are covered by bronze plates which reveal extensive
bronze openwork, engraved and silver inlaid decoration. The back of the door has wooden
decoration, but from each wing two horizontal panels are missing. These may have had
inscriptions and may have included the name of the maker of the door.|
The front of the door has two horizontal inscriptions which continue across the two wings.
The inscription on the top right wing reads:
"of the orphans and the destitute and supporter of the warriors and the mujahidin and
Top left wing:
"in the month of Rabi' ul-Awwal in the year of sevenhundred and eighty-eight AH".
Bottom right wing:
"Glory to our Lord, the Sultan, the King al-Zahir, Sword of the Universe"
Bottom left wing:
"and the Faith Abu Sa'id Barquq, Sultan of Islam and the Muslims, refuge."
The date 788AH is equivalent to AD1386. It is also the year when the Mosque of Barquq
and the Khnaqah, the "Shelter" were completed. The Mosque was restored in 1892 and its bronze
door is still in situ. The inscription on the Mosque's door is reversed, i.e. the bottom
inscription is on the top and the top one is below.
The Khanaqah and its door had an extremely interesting history. By the beginning of the
19th century the Khanaqah was in ruins, one may even say, beyond any possible repair. Thus
the building and its bronze door was neglected and people began to steal from there. That is
how certain parts of the back wooden panels of the door and some of the silver inlaid
decorations from the front, including the handles, are now missing. By the second half of
the 19th century the entire door disappeared from the site. In 1892 the World Fair was
organized in Chicago for the 400th Anniversary of the discovery of America. The Egyptian
government decided to be present on the Fair by a large pavilion. Then an enterprising
artist, a metalworker with the name of Ali al-Shishi, appeared on the scene. He came forward
with the offer of a bronze door which, he claimed he made in imitation of one of the doors
of the Mosque of Sultan Hasan. The door was identical to the one which is now in the Tareq
Rajab Museum. Ali al-Shishi asked a very high price for "his imitation door" and the Committee
refused to buy it. A few years later he sold the door to a Cairo antique dealer, a certain
Mr. E. Hatoun, who had his gallery on Mooskee Street. It was at this gallery where Max van
Berchem saw it and recorded it. He accepted the door as an original one, not as that of the
Mosque of Sultan Hasan, but as the inscription states it, as the original door of the Khanaqah
of Sultan Barquq. (Cf. Max van Berchem, Memoires de la Mission Archaeologie Francaise au Caire,
Paris, 1903, no.197, pp.304-5.)