Welcome to a fascinating journey through Egypt’s rich history as we explore the highly anticipated opening of newly developed antiquities sites. Egypt’s heritage has been meticulously restored and preserved, bringing ancient treasures back to life. In this article, Daily News Egypt will delve into the details of the antiquities sites that Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly inaugurated just days ago after their restoration was completed.
The intake tower of Magra El-Oyoun wall area
The water aqueduct is situated in the Old Cairo area, at the intersection of Magra El-Oyoun Street and Salah Salem Road. It was included among Islamic antiquities in 1951. The aqueduct stretches for about three kilometres from the Gulf to Bab Al-Qarafa in Sayyida Aisha Square. It has 292 openings and begins with the intake tower, which is the first part of the watering system. The tower is hexagonal and made of stone, with six waterwheels ascending to it through a slope from the eastern side.
The centre of the outlet tower has a large hexagonal basin made of red brick, which serves to prevent water leakage. The six waterwheels installed on the roof of the tower raise the water to pour into small stone basins connected to the large central basin via small channels. The pointed arches, which date back to the era of Sultan al-Ghuri, support these channels. The arches were in use until 1872.
The construction of the Barrages dates back to Al-Nasir Salah Al-Din Al-Ayyubi, who built it to provide water to the Citadel of Salah Al-Din Al-Ayyubi. Later, in 1312, Sultan Al-Nasir Muhammad bin Qalawun completely renovated it. During his reign, Sultan Al-Ghuri established a water outlet with six drivers near Al-Sayyida Mosque Aisha.
Today, only a few remains of the ancient arches that Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi built can be seen at the beginning of the stream from the side of the castle facing the mosque of Sayyidah Aisha.
Sultan Al-Nasir Muhammad bin Qalawun rebuilt the Barrages in two phases, during which he established four canals on the Nile at the mouth of the Gulf to raise water from a small bay at the observation wall, which is known today as Stable Antar, towards the Athar Al-Nabi Mosque.
The architecture of these barrages consists of a huge wall that extends from the mouth of the Gulf to the square of Sayyida Aisha after it was in the past until the castle. Inside the castle.
In the era of Sultan al-Ghuri, another water outlet with six drivers was established for these barrages near Sayyida Nafisa to strengthen the stream of water reaching the castle’s wells. The aim of its establishment was to supply Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi’s castle with water.
During the Ottoman era, the Barrages underwent a number of reforms to improve the watering of the mouth of the Gulf (the course of the eyes). The French campaign used some of its parts as a war fortress for observation and made large openings for its cannons. Later, Muhammad Ali Pasha constructed a branch for it to reach the dome of Imam Shafi’i and the burial of the royal family.
The restoration and maintenance works included the wooden beams on top of the building, removal of encroachments on the wall and the ancient sanctuary, treatment and cleaning of stones, removal of layers of soot and dirt, maintenance of woodwork and floors in the internal corridors, rehabilitation of stairs and covering of openings. Additionally, the efficiency of the area surrounding the monument was improved.
Ben Ezra Jewish Synagogue
The temple is considered one of the oldest and most important Jewish temples in Egypt. It contains numerous precious books related to Jewish customs, traditions, and social life in Egypt. Additionally, it houses the Geniza, a collection of books, scrolls, and papers that are of great importance to scholars and researchers interested in the social life of Jews in Egypt.
The temple is attributed to Abraham Ben Ezra, one of the great Jews of the Middle Ages. Its construction dates back to the 12th century AD, and it was rebuilt in the 19th century AD.
Originally a church that was converted into a Jewish temple, the architectural layout of the temple resembles that of churches. It is a rectangular building with plain facades. Inside, it follows the basilica style, divided by two aisles into three parallel halls, with the central hall being the widest. In the middle aisle, there are two platforms: the first is known as the “Atlas of the Miracle,” and the second is the prayer platform (Bimah).
On the second floor, there is a women’s prayer gallery that occupies three sides, with two rooms for treasures and the Geniza. Behind the temple, there is a purification well where people perform ablution, especially foot washing.
The ceiling and walls of the temple are covered with plaster and adorned with geometric and floral motifs (arabesques). The central part of the temple houses the prayer enclosure (the platform), which is made of marble.
The southwestern arcade houses six adjacent cabinets enclosed within a rectangular frame, which make up the library. They are decorated with ivory and mother-of-pearl, and inscriptions in Hebrew. The Geniza was first discovered during the restoration of the temple when the ceiling of the Geniza room collapsed in 1890.
Ben Ezra Temple Restoration Project:
The Temple of Ben Ezra has undergone several restoration projects. The most significant was in 1889, during which most of the building was demolished and rebuilt in the ancient basilica style. In 1982, the Canadian Center for Architecture, in collaboration with the Supreme Council of Antiquities, carried out comprehensive restoration works. This restoration lasted approximately ten years and included architectural restoration and meticulous restoration of furniture and temple tools.
The recently inaugurated restoration project includes architectural and meticulous restoration works. It also addresses and mitigates risks to the temple’s ceilings by isolating the surfaces using the best insulation methods, cleaning and treating the stones, and rearranging the site to allow for a better visual perception of the monument. In addition, the project includes complete maintenance of the lighting system, cleaning of copper and iron components, restoration of marble columns and archaeological motifs, and restoration works on the library.
Located in the heart of Old Cairo, next to the Coptic Museum, the Babylon Fortress consists of towers rising above the remains of an ancient fortress that was registered as an Islamic monument in 1951. The fortress has been called by this name since the time of the Pharaohs, attributing it to the Babylonian prisoners of war.
The towers and walls visible today are remnants of the Babylon Fortress, which naturally derived its name from the great city it was built. Most historical sources suggest that Trajan, one of the Roman emperors, was responsible for its reconstruction in the early 2nd century AD.
The Persians later referred to the Babylon Fortress as the “Palace of Wax,” as they had dedicated a large hall in one of its towers to lighting numerous candles every month on the night of the sun’s transition from one tower to another.
Babylon Fortress holds special significance as the only remaining trace of Roman Empire artefacts in Egypt. It was the strongest fortress in the Egyptian lands and was entered by the commander “Amr ibn al-As” during the Islamic conquest.
The fortress has five irregular sides supported by multiple semicircular wall towers. Only the front gate of the fortress remains, with two large towers above it. Churches were built on top of these towers, including the Hanging Church, St. George, St. Sergius, the Virgin Kassara Church, St. George’s Monastery for Nuns, St. Barbara, the Jewish Temple, and the Coptic Museum.
Fortress Restoration Project:
The project involves the restoration and development of the southern part of the fortress located below the Hanging Church, known as Amr Gate. This was done after completing the first phase of the project, which included cleaning all external and internal facades of the fortress and removing dirt, dust, and stains attached to the stones. The lighting system was also improved to highlight the architectural beauty of the fortress and the original function of the building. The walls were treated and joints were darkened to clarify the shape of the existing stones and restore deteriorated parts. In collaboration with the Institute of Archaeological Crafts of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, window frames were restored. Additionally, on-site visitor services were implemented.