The most magical building in Cairo
My most favorite place in Cairo since I first discovered it existed many moons ago. I love the story of Major R.G. Gayer-Anderson Pasha I love the house, it’s legends and secrets. I love the legends that are part of the Ibn Tulun mosque next door, against whose walls these houses were built – it is a real shame that the majority of tourists miss out on visiting these gems!
Gayer Anderson House: What to Know before you visit
Hidden amidst the bustling streets of Cairo lies a remarkable treasure, a house that only a fortunate handful of tourists stumble upon. Most tourists, and indeed Cairo residents who might stroll past the house or wander in the surrounding streets, are totally unaware of the extraordinary individuals who once inhabited and bequeathed this enchanting residence to the country. This magnificent dwelling, in fact, comprises two distinct buildings and now stands under the ownership of the Egyptian nation, a legacy entrusted to it by Major R.G. Gayer Anderson Pasha
To experience the magic of the Gayer Anderson House I recommend you get to know the legends of the house and the mosque of Ibn Tulun next door to it, before you visit. The guides are unlikely to have the time to tell them all to you during the tour.
Legends of the House of the Cretan Woman:
- The King of the Djinns (Geniis)
- The Face of True Love
- Agha Saleem – his foolish wife and lost treasure
- The Benevolent Serpent of Beit Al-Kreitlia
Hidden Doors and Secret Rooms
I really love this! On the stairs near the Hareem (women’s rooms) is a seemingly normal cupboard for ornaments, books etc……but it conceals a hidden latch and when you touch it the ‘cupboard’ swings open to reveal a hidden room.
This hidden room is, in essence, a concealed observer’s gallery, furnished with comfortable chairs and adorned with exquisite mashrabeya. It gracefully envelops three of the room’s walls, allowing the women of the house to discreetly witness and savor the performances in the expansive ‘salmalik’ (the men’s domain) located on the lower floor. It was also used by the master of the house if he wanted to hear what visitors to the house were speaking about while waiting to see him.
Within the salmalik, dancers, often women, or even street performers, would regale the Master and his esteemed guests. Simultaneously, this hidden gallery served as a sanctuary for the discreet observation of these performances by the concealed women upstairs. It was a practice rooted in the pages of Arabian Nights, where it was considered improper for the ladies to mingle with strangers or to be readily seen by them.
It is a wonderful thing for Egypt and it’s visitors that Gayer Anderson happened to be passing by Beit al-Kretlia on that fateful day in Feb 1925. This is the only furnished house from bygone days which we can see in Cairo today. It contains a unique collection of treasures from many periods of history which adds greatly to the enjoyment of the house. As with my obsession in sending visitors to the Temples of Abydos and Dendera from Luxor, sending people to see the Gayer Anderson House during their visit to Cairo was my other obsession for the last 20 years.
However, the true allure and treasure of this house lie in its ability to transport us back to a bygone era, providing an authentic glimpse into the life of a moderately affluent household during that historical period. It’s worth noting that their architectural wisdom, tailored to the climate of their time, surpasses many contemporary designs. In stark contrast to modern structures, this house requires no artificial air-conditioning thanks to its ingenious ventilation, allowing the natural flow of air to regulate its interior climate.
The following is a scene from the James Bond film “The Spy Who Loved Me” where we see Roger Moore as James Bond walking through the Ibn Tulun Mosque and down the steps into the Gayer Anderson House next door. The scene opens with the panoramic view of Cairo filmed from the Saladin Citadel in Cairo.
I highly recommend the book “Legends of the House of the Cretan Woman” (it is now out of print” but you might find a copy of it in a Cairo book store, which tells the stories I have paraphrased here, of the house as written down by Gayer-Anderson himself. This is a book that would be a treasure and a collectors item to give as a gift to anyone interested in Cairo and planning a visit. If I didn’t already have a treasured copy I would certainly like to receive it as a gift.
Mara House Tour to Gayer Anderson House and Ibn Tulun Mosque: details
- Pick up from your hotel in air conditioned minibus
- Egyptologist Guide
- Gayer-Anderson Museum (Bayt al-Kretliya)
- Mosque of Ahmed Ibn Tulun
- Drop off at your hotel
- NO EXTRAS TO PAY FOR
- Subject to Availability
Don’t hesitate – Book your tour now to the Gayer Anderson House and Ibn Tulun mosque directly with Mara here
To make the most of your time and save money, you could easily see Gayer Anderson House, Ibn Tulun mosque and Medieval Cairo tours in the same day – message Mara now about it