The Architecture of the Ottoman Provinces

By Yousif Al Hamadi

History

The Turks entered Anatolia at the beginning of the 13th century. They are originally Mongol who displaced from Central Asia and headed west to Anatolia after the Battle of Manzikert, in which the Muslims defeated the Byzantine army in 1071.[1] During the 13th century, the Seljuks dynasty of Rum (1077-1308) declined because of the repeated Mongol attacks, and Anatolia has divided into small principalities, to twenty Anatolian beyliks.[2] Osman I (1258-1326), one of the beyliks leaders, whose history is uncertain. However, he was the founder of the Ottoman dynasty. He declared independence from Seljuks in 1299, extended the control of his principality, and eventually conquered Byzantine towns along the Sakarya River.[3] The Ottomans continued to expand, and in a short period, extended their hold over all of Anatolia. In 1453, they captured Constantinople and ended the Byzantine Empire under Mehmed the Conqueror (r. 1444 – 1481), who changed the city’s name to Istanbul.[4] 

Figure 1: The Ottoman Empire at its greatest extent in 1683 (history.com)

The ambition of the Ottomans did not stop at this point. Still, they continued to spread their influence and control over a large area of the Islamic world within the central authority of the Ottoman Sultan, the caliph of the Muslims. The Ottomans managed to control the Hejaz in 1516 and Egypt in the following year. After few years, they held Syria, Ifriqiya, in addition to what was already under their control from the Balkans and Central Europe. After 600 years, in 1922, the Empire was defeated and disintegrated after the First World War, after the European countries and various nationalities confronted them. Accordingly, the modern state of Turkey arose from what was left of it.[5]

The Early and Classical Ottoman Architecture

The Ottoman’s mosque architecture passed over several stages. Initially, the mosque had a simple plan. In the beginning, it was defined as a single unit. It has a prayer hall defined by a domed square unit, such as the Orhan Gazi mosque (1340) in Gebze. This stage also had another type: the mosque consisted of multi-units with repeated domed square units, such as the Ulu Cami mosque (1399) in Bursa. It was following the traditional riwaq style, and the domes have equal sizes resting on pillars. Then mosques started to have a larger dome at the center of the prayer hall, more significant than the rest, such as the Hatuniye Mosque (1514) in Tokat. Later, the bays around the big space were conjoined under half domes on a side or more, such as the Bayezid mosque (1506) in Istanbul. There was also another type, which is known as the iwan mosque. The iwan is a vaulted or doomed space that opens on one side to a courtyard or a central hall. It was also inherited from Seljuk architecture and was originally a Persian development.[6] However, the Ottomans created the central dome mosque as a new feature to the design and construction.[7] 

Figure 2: Mosque layout design in the early Ottoman period (scipedia.com)

The beginning of the classical period is marked in Ottoman architecture with the Beyazid Mosque in Istanbul. The culmination of this period came during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent (r. 1520-1566) and his successors, Selim II (r. 1566-1574) and Murad III (r. 1574-1595) when chief architect Sinan Pasha (1520-1595) decorated Istanbul and other cities with magnificent mosque complexes.[8] Sinan Pasha was an Albanian descent. At that time, the Ottomans were dedicating a special corps to serve the Sultan and support the ruling family’s control of power, and it was called the Janissary Corps. They were disciplined soldiers, forming a distinct social class, neither freemen nor slaves. They were recruited into the corps through the Devshirme system, a Turkish word that means collect. Christian children were collected to be trained for positions in the Ottoman Sultan’s palace or the army. Under this system, the Sultan’s men were entering captured Christian towns, such as Greece or Albania, and collected children who ranged between eight and eighteen. After examining and registering, the smartest and most potent were sent to the Sultan’s palace, where they converted to Islam and received education and training to hold high positions in the Empire. The rest were sent to Turkish farms to convert to Islam and learn the Turkish language, and as soon as they reach the age of twenty-two, they were called to Istanbul to serve in the Janissary Corps.[9]

Sinan was among those collected under the Devshirme system, grew up among the elite, and reached high positions. He was appointed ruler of many cities of importance to the Ottoman Empire, such as Egypt, in 1568 for a short period and 1571 for a short period as well, but longer than the first time. He also led numerous campaigns against the rebels and invaders, such as the Yemen campaign against the Yazidis and the Spanish in Tunisia, Georgia, Hungary and Wallachia. His repeated victories led to his promotion to Grand Vizier, the Sultan chief advisor or prime minister.[10] Senan’s works played an important role in developing architectural thought in Islamic and international architecture. “During his life which lasted almost 100 years, he has built 365 buildings including 84 large mosques and 52 small mosques in various cities and provinces throughout the empire … He used square, hexagonal, and octagonal plan schemes and in every building, he tried a new methodology of design or a structural component” [11]

Sinan’s work in Egypt

The Mamluks ruled Egypt for 267 years (1250-1517). However, in 1517, they were overthrown by Selim I (r. 1512–1520), and Egypt remained part of the Ottoman Empire until the French invasion of Egypt in 1798.[12] In fact, the Ottoman conquest of Egypt did not disrupt Mamluk architecture. The development of architecture in Ottoman Cairo can be divided into two schools. The first one preserved the Mamluk elements and character and remained common in Cairo throughout the Ottoman period. The other school followed the domed Ottoman style through approaches inspired by the Ottoman model of Sinan. For example, Mohamed Ali mosque (1848) in the citadel of Cairo is an absolute adoption of Sinan’s model. “An Armenian architect, whose name is not known, designed the mosque on a plan similar to the mosque of Sultan Ahmed in Istanbul” [13], which was built in 1616 by Mehmet Agha (1540-1670), a student of Sinan. Some mosques in Cairo have adopted Sinan’s model partly by using elements of the original model without completely copying it, such as the Sinan Pasha mosque (1571) in Bulaq and the mosque of Abu el-Dahab (1774) in Al-Azhar Street facing Al-Azhar Mosque.

Sinan Pasha Mosque (1571)

Figure 3: General view of the Mosque of Sinan Pasha in Bulaq (https://ocw.mit.edu/)

The mosque of Sinan Pasha was built in the suburb of Bulaq on the eastern bank of the Nile. The mosque is part of a complex that includes three khans, a bathhouse, a sabil, a kutab, a residence, and surrounded by shops. It is a hybrid building that includes Fatimid, Mamluk, and Ottomans characteristics. The mosque is also characterized by being in the middle of an enclosed garden, and this differs from most of the Cairene foundations, which are forced into a dense urban fabric. [14] The Ottoman’s ones are noticed from being the mosque as a single domed, surrounded by porticos on three sides, and the pencil-shaped minaret in its southern corner, while the trefoil recesses around the dome are Fatimid’s and can be seen in the mausoleum of Sayyida Ruqayya (1133), and the high hemispherical dome and its interior are Mamluk’s.[15] The dome built of stone with a diameter of about 15 meters, covering the central part of the building entirely. [16] It is the largest and the first of its kind in Cairo.[17] Its drum is divided into two levels. The lower one is octagonal, each side consists of double windows with pointed arches, and there are massive octagonal towers between the sides. The upper level consists of a sixteen-sided drum, as each side consists of trefoil recesses, and between the sides, there are other octagonal towers.[18] 

From the inside, the mihrab on the southeastern side is decorated with typical Mamluk chevron-shaped marble panels on its top, surrounded by marble columns. Above the mihrab, there is an oculus that can be seen from the outside. Opposite the mihrab and over the northwestern entrance, there is hanged wooden dikka. [19] Additionally, the doom is above a large square chamber, and four arched squinches support it. Each one contains a trilobed arch. The Squinch system is a Mamluk system, and it is similar to Qubbat al-Fadawiyya (1479).[20] However, their toped hoods are also decorated with muqarnas strips. The hoods over the muqarnas on the southeastern side have designs that appear as a form of the word of Allah, while the northwestern side has a sunburst design. Above the squinches, a strap consists of sixteen repeated sets of rosettes separated by slim columns. Eight of them are colored windows, and the other eight are engraved on the wall. Each rosette consists of a central circle and has eight circles around it. A strap of muqarnas above this strap, beneath a walkway that has on its edges a wooden balustrade that is accessed from the same way leading to the bench.

Figure 4: Cross-section of Sinan Pasha’s Mosque in Bulaq (https://books.openedition.org/inha/4898)

Most of the single-domed mosques have a single portico on the main façade. This mosque is similar to the Lari Çelebi mosque (1514) in Edirne, one of the few with U shaped porticos.[21] However, the porticos are covered with shallow domes consisting of twenty-eight arches, but today there are twenty-five, and it seems that they were reduced when part of the mosque was demolished in 1902. The mosque consists of three entrances on the northeastern side, the southwestern side, and another on the northeast side. Each one of them has a wooden door crowned with muqarnas and paved with marble. They were all consist of triple compositions, but today the northeastern entrance is different from the other ones. [22]. Moreover, the pencil-shaped minaret in the southern corner follows the Ottoman style. It is accessed through a vaulted staircase from the southwestern portico of the mosque. It consists of two narrow cylindrical shafts separated by a balcony supported by layers of muqarnas, ending with a conical top.[23] 

Figure 5: a plan of Sinan Pasha’s Mosque in Bulaq (https://books.openedition.org/inha/4898)
Figure 6: Interior view of the dome, mehrab side of Sinan Pasha’s Mosque (GoogleMaps)
Figure 7: Interior view of the dome, dikka side of Sinan Pasha’s Mosque (GoogleMaps)

Abu al-Dhahab Mosque

Figure 8: a view of Abu al-Dhahab Mosque showing its location

After two centuries, the Sinan Pasha mosque became an architectural prototype for Muhammad Bey Abu al-Dhahab mosque near al-Azhar in 1774.[24] Muhammad Bey Abu al-Dahab (1735-1775) was a Circassian slave to one of the Mamluk leaders, Ali Bey al-Kabir (1728-1773),[25] who was able to ally with a group of rebels against the Ottomans and took control of Egypt for a short period. Abu al-Dahab was Ali bey’s most trusted general, but he turned against him and returned the lands they had captured to the Ottomans. Moreover, he supported the Ottoman army to restore the authority of Egypt in 1773.[26]  In 1770 Ali Bey took control of the land on which the Sinan Pasha waqf was built to seize the rents. However, after his death, all rental and commercial property rights seized by Ali Bey were transferred to Abu al-Dhahab as a reward for his loyalty to the Sultan, and Abu al-Dhahab returned the rental proceeds to support the religious complexes.[27] Abu al-Dhahab died in Acre and carried back to Egypt to be buried in his mosque.[28]

Figure 9: Mamluk Campaigns in Egypt and Syria during the times of  Ali Bey and Abu Dhahab (1796-1773) (wikipedia.org)

Abu al-Dahab is best known for his mosque, which he built next to al-Azhar Mosque in 1774. It is considered part of a religious complex consisting of a madrasa, library, sabil and stands above shops that generate money for the madrasa. [29] The madrasa is dedicated to the four rites of Islamic law, similar to the mosque and madrasa of Sultan Hassan (1363).[30] It is an elevated mosque built above the level of the street. It located in the heart of the city, not as Sinan Pasha mosque within an enclosed garden.[31] However, the Plan of the mosque is an imitation of the mosque of Sinan Pash. Both mosques are considered single domed, surrounded by porticos on three sides, covered with shallow domes, and each has entrances to the prayer hall, but A stalactite crowns abu al-Dahab’s entrances. Both mosques’ domes have the same profile and width, but Abu al-Dahab’s is built of brick, while interiorly, both domes are supported by trilobed squinches.[32] 

Figure 10: Plan of Abu al-Dhahab Mosque (civilizationlovers.wordpress.com)

Although the two mosques look very similar, but there are slight differences between them. In general, Abu al-Dahab mosque consists of more Mamluk elements than the Sinan Pasha’s. For example, the façade includes a Mamluk trilobed groin-vaulted portal. Along the façade, some recesses have windows decorated on top with stalactite. Moreover, Abu al-Dahab minaret is also Mamluk. It is similar to the minaret of Qansuh al-Ghuri mosque (1505). The minaret is tall, has a square plan consisting of three tiers, and surmounted by five stone heads.[33] Furthermore, the upper level of the dome consists of a sixteen-sided drum. Each side consists of double-arched windows topped by a circular one, differing from the trefoil recesses of the Sinan Pasha dome. Underneath the dome from inside, there is a painted and gilded inscription band, carved in rihani script, and it is more Ottoman in style than Mamluk.

Figure 11: Decoration around the windows and entrance portal of the outer façade of Abu al-Dhahab Mosque (wikipedia.org)
Figure 12: A view of the dome from inside the Abu al-Dhahab Mosque (wikipedia.org)

Conclusion

The Ottomans started from nothing, but their ambition was high, which led them to become an empire. They reached high ranks in many fields and put their mark in every one of these fields: art, literature, politics, economics, and urbanism and architecture. They have made remarkable development in all types. They built their mosques in the traditional style of the riwaq, the style of the iwan, and took from the Byzantines, and they added and improved them. Among the most prominent Sinan Pasha, who was named Michelangelo the Turks. He was an accurate engineer and architect. 

However, it is clear that the Mamluks in Egypt were proud of what they reach in architecture and urbanism. It is noticeable that the Ottomans did not add much to their assets. Even the Sinan Pasha Mosque, which is supposed to be in the Ottoman’s domed style, gives this feeling externally, and it was Fatimid and Mamluk from inside. Yet, the Mosque of Abu el-Dahab is supposed to compliment the Ottomans for what they gave to Muhammad Bey and a copy of Sinan Pasha mosque. Yet, its minaret was not Ottoman’s. The minaret is considered an element that distinguishes and symbolizes the Ottoman style. Still, the minaret of Abu el-Dahab was built according to the Mamluk style and the Mamluk and Fatimid elements inside the mosque. 

Some people may think that hybrid or the combination of different styles reduces the value of the building, but I see that this is a natural thing that happens when cultures and ideas mix. Today we are living in a time of globalization, which combined and integrated all cultures worldwide. Buildings have become based on the principle of modernity and post modernity, far from being named and defined by the owner or the style, and from where it originated, leaving minor symbols of this or that civilization. In the case of mosques, the main elements remain present such as the minaret, the dome, the mihrab, and the pulpit. I think that this is normal in everything, not only in urbanization but also in languages, cultures, treatments, and everything.

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Bibliography

Abdelsalam, Tarek. “Sinan’s Architecture as a Source of Inspiration in Mosque Design in Egypt from 16th to 19th century: Three different approaches.” Sinan and His Age. Kayseri: October University for Modern Sciences & Arts, 2010. 1-13.

Abouseif, Doris Behrens. Cairo of the Mamluks : a history of the architecture and its culture. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

—. Islamic architecture in Cairo : an introduction. New York: Brill, 1992.

Abul-Magd, Zeinab. Imagined Empires: A History of Revolt in Egypt. Berkeley: Univ of California Press, 2013.

Al-Sayyad, Nezar. Cairo, histories of a city. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011.

Axelrod, Alan. Mercenaries: A Guide to Private Armies and Private Military Companies. Thousand Oaks, CA: CQ Press, 2013.

Blair, Sheila S. , Jonathan M. Bloom and Richard Ettinghausen. The Art and Architecture of Islam 1250-1800. London: Yale University Press, 1994.

Crecelius, Daniel. “The Waqf of Muhammad Bey Abu al-Dhahab in Historical Perspective.” International Journal of Middle East Studies (1991): 57-81. 2 April 2021. <https://www.jstor.org/stable/163932>.

—. “The Waqfīyah of Muḥammad Bey Abū al-Dhahab.” Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 15 (1978): 83-105. 2 April 2021. <http://www.jstor.com/stable/40000133>.

Dokail, Hussein. Ancient minarets from Ottoman Egypt/ مآذن أثرية من مصر العثمانية. Cairo: Bibliomania Publishing, 2021.

Esin, Emel. Turkish miniature painting. Tokyo: Rutland, Vt : C.E. Tuttle Co, 1960.

Freely, John and Anthony Baker. A History of Ottoman Architecture. Southampton: WIT Press, 2010.

Howard, Douglas A. A History of the Ottoman Empire. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2017.

Incorporated, Grolier. The encyclopedia Americana. Danbury: Conn : Grolier Inc, 1999.

Kementerian, Brunei. 50 years historical moments of Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, 1958-2008. Bandar Seri Begawan: Ministry of Religious Affairs, 2008.

Kiger, Patrick J. Six Reasons Why the Ottoman Empire Fell. 10 January 2020. 8 April 2021. <https://www.history.com/news/ottoman-empire-fall>.

Mustafa, F and A Hassan. “Mosque layout design: An analytical study of mosque layouts in the early Ottoman period.” Frontiers of Architectural Research 2 (2013): 445-456. 30 March 2021. <URL https://www.scipedia.com/public/Ali-Mustafa_Sanusi-Hassan_2013a>.

Swelim, M. Tarek. “An Interpretation of the Mosque of Sinan Pasha in Cairo.” Muqarnas 10 (1993): 98-107. <https://www.jstor.org/stable/1523176>.

Williams, Caroline. “Reviewed Works: An Urban History of Būlāq in the Mamluk and Ottoman Periods by Nelly Hanna; Azbakiyya and Its Environs from Azbak to Ismāʿīl, 1476-1879 by Doris Behrens-Abouseif.” Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 23 (1986): 218-221. 2 April 2021. <https://www.jstor.org/stable/40001101>.

Winter, Michael. Egyptian Society Under Ottoman Rule, 1517-1798. London: Routledge, 1992.

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notes

[1] Emel Esin, Turkish Miniature Painting (Tokyo: Rutland, Vt : C.E. Tuttle Co, 1960), 5

[2] Grolier Incorporated, The Encyclopedia Americana – Volume 27 (Danbury, Conn: Grolier Inc, 1999), 27

[3] Douglas A. Howard, A History of the Ottoman Empire ( Cambridge: Cambridge University, 2017), 10

[4] Ibid., 42

[5] Patrick J. Kiger, Six Reasons Why the Ottoman Empire Fell, History [Website], (10 January 2020), https://www.history.com/news/ottoman-empire-fall (Retrieved 8 April 2021)

[6] John Freely, A History of Ottoman Architecture, (Southampton: WIT Press, 2010),19-20

[7] Brunei Kementerian. 50 years historical moments of Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, 1958-2008, (Bandar Seri Begawan: Ministry of Religious Affairs, 2008), 43

[8] John Freely, A History of Ottoman Architecture, (Southampton: WIT Press, 2010), 21

[9] Alan Axelrod, Mercenaries: A Guide to Private Armies and Private Military Companies, (Thousand Oaks, CA: CQ Press, 2013), 44

[10] M. Tarek Swelim, “An Interpretation of the Mosque of Sinan Pasha in Cairo”, Muqarnas, Vol. 10 (1993): 98

[11] Tarek Abdelsalam, “Sinan’s Architecture as a Source of Inspiration in Mosque Design in Egypt from 16th to 19th century: Three different approaches”, Sinan and His Age [conference proceeding] (Kayseri: October University for Modern Sciences & Arts, 2010), 5

[12] Michael Winter, Egyptian Society Under Ottoman Rule 1517-1798, (London: Routledge, 2003), xiii

[13] Doris Behrens-Abouseif, Islamic Architecture in Cairo: An Introduction (New York: Brill, 1992), 168

[14] Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom, The Art and Architecture of Islam 1250-1800, (London: Yale University Press, 1994), 252

[15] Tarek Abdelsalam, “Sinan’s Architecture as a Source of Inspiration in Mosque Design in Egypt from 16th to 19th century: Three different approaches”, Sinan and His Age [conference proceeding] (Kayseri: October University for Modern Sciences & Arts, 2010), 5

[16] Hussein Dokail, Ancient minarets from Ottoman Egypt/ مآذن أثرية من مصر العثمانية. (Cairo: Bibliomania Publishing, 2021), 33

[17] Doris Behrens-Abouseif, Cairo of the Mamluks : a history of the architecture and its culture, (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 51

[18] M. Tarek Swelim, “An Interpretation of the Mosque of Sinan Pasha in Cairo”, Muqarnas, Vol. 10 (1993): 101-102

[19] Ibid., 102

[20] see note 14 above

[21] Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom, The Art and Architecture of Islam 1250-1800, (London: Yale University Press, 1994), 252

[22] M. Tarek Swelim, “An Interpretation of the Mosque of Sinan Pasha in Cairo”, Muqarnas, Vol. 10 (1993): 102

[23] Doris Behrens-Abouseif, Islamic Architecture in Cairo: An Introduction (New York: Brill, 1992), 161

[24] Caroline Williams, “Reviewed Works: An Urban History of Būlāq in the Mamluk and Ottoman Periods by Nelly Hanna; Azbakiyya and Its Environs from Azbak to Ismāʿīl, 1476-1879 by Doris Behrens-Abouseif, Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, vol. 23, (1986): 219

[25] Nezar Al-Sayyad, Cairo, histories of a city, (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011), 161

[26] Zeinab Abul-Magd, Imagined Empires: A History of Revolt in Egypt, (Berkeley: Univ of California Press, 2013), 37

[27] Daniel Crecelius, “The Waqf of Muhammad Bey Abu al-Dhahab in Historical Perspective”, International Journal of Middle East Studies , Vol. 23, No. 1, (1991): 60

[28] Daniel Crecelius, “The Waqfīyah of Muḥammad Bey Abū al-Dhahab”,  Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, Vol. 15, (1978): 102

[29] Nezar Al-Sayyad, Cairo, histories of a city, (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011), 161

[30] Tarek Abdelsalam, “Sinan’s Architecture as a Source of Inspiration in Mosque Design in Egypt from 16th to 19th century: Three different approaches”, Sinan and His Age [conference proceeding] (Kayseri: October University for Modern Sciences & Arts, 2010), 9

[31] Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom, The Art and Architecture of Islam 1250-1800, (London: Yale University Press, 1994), 252

[32] Doris Behrens-Abouseif, Islamic Architecture in Cairo: An Introduction (New York: Brill, 1992), 165-166

[33] see note 30 above

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