Have you ever wished to go back in time to an era when life was quiet and peaceful? Are you a fan of different outings and tend to discover and learn about countries’ heritage and history? Daily News Egypt takes you on a tour in Bayt Al-Suhaymi, during which we learn about the story behind this ancient house.
Our story goes back to the year 1648 A.D., less than four centuries ago, when Sheikh Abd Al-Wahhab El-Tablawi decided to choose a plot of land in the Gamaleya neighbourhood in Cairo to build a house for him. The house is located in al-Darb al-Asfar Lane in al-Gamaliyya in al-Muizz Street. It is one of the most beautiful examples of Cairo’s domestic architecture. Shaykh Abd al-Wahhab El-Tablawi established the first part of this house in 1058 A.H. / 1648 A.D. At that time, El-Tablawi did not choose a traditional Egyptian building system, but rather the planning was influenced by Ottoman architecture, so an entire floor was allocated for men under the name “Al-Salamlek”, and another for women called “Al-Haramlek”, which is the upper floor for Salamlek.
But Sheikh El-Tablawi did not inherit the house, so Haj Ismail ibn Ismail Shalaby came after him after several decades and added a new marine section to the house and merged it into the first section and made them one house
The second and later section was set by Haji Ismail Chelebi in 1211 A.H. / 1796 A.D., and then he merged the two parts into one house.
So why is it called the House of Al-Suhaymi?
You may now ask if the two who lived in the house were Sheikh El-Tablawi and al-Hajj Shalaby, so who is Al-Suhaymi, after whom the house became famous?
Contrary to what was expected, the House of Al-Suhaymi did not bear the name of the first person who built it. Rather, it was left to bear the name of the last family to reside in it.
In the year 1813 A.D., Sheikh Shihab al-Din Ahmad Al-Suhaymi, who was one of the chief scholars of al-Azhar, and also the sheikh of the Turks’ gallery during the Ottoman era, bought the house.
Sheikh Shihab al-Din resided there, and his family lived in the house for more than a century, until 1931, when the heirs of the Al-Suhaymi family sold the house to the Committee for the Preservation of Arab Antiquities for 6,000 pounds, so that it bears the name “House of Suhaymi” from that day.
House from Inside
It consists of several buildings overlooking a sizable picturesque courtyard. The facades are plotted with wonderful wooden mashrabiyyas (wooden grilled windows). The house also contains a large Maq’ad (seated balcony) and a furnished reception hall.
Among the house’s unique elements are the birthing chair, the bathroom, and the wells that provided water to the house. A waterwheel irrigated the garden, and its wooden gear survives. There is a mill activated by a bull. Nearby, pottery and stone vessels preserved grains.
A center of creativity
If you were one of those who visited Al-Moez Street recently, then of course you noticed that the House of Al-Suhymai has become a center for artistic creativity, and for hosting folklore groups, so how did this happen?
This question takes us back to 1996, more than half a century after the Suhaymi family sold the house. The state decided to restore the House of Al-Suhaymi with a grant from the Arab Fund for Economic Development.
At that time, the project cost about ten million pounds, and the project of documenting, restoring and developing the House of Suhaymi area continued for 5 full years.
After the restoration process, a decision was issued to convert Al-Suhaymi House into a center for artistic creativity, affiliated to the Cultural Development Fund, to be a cultural and artistic radiation center in Al-Gamaleya, and it continued to bear the name “House of Al-Suhaymi”.