Gazing at the typically plain and maybe to some even dull façade of Beyt el-Suhaimi, you cannot imagine the architectural treasures you will witness inside. This mansion is Islamic Cairo’s finest example of the traditional family residences built throughout the city from Mamluk times to the 19th century. Once you enter the house, you will emerge into a beautiful inner courtyard transporting you to the days where guests were received in the adjacent impressive reception room, the “qa’a.” Set around a magnificent marble fountain inset in the floor, the room has also a high painted wooden ceiling you ‘ll discover after following the most delicate green and blue patterned enamel tiles on the walls.
Going upstairs, you will discover the family apartments and the wooden lattice windows, known as “mashrabiya”, allowing women of the house to observe the street life below without being seen. And again, have a look at the very high ceilings which allowed the warmer air to rise and then to be swept away by the north facing maq’ad (wind scoops) in the upper walls which caught the breeze. A precursor of today’s air-conditioning systems, you might think. And so it was; this architectural feature really helped in making life easier in Cairo’s dry and hot weather.