Universität Bonn

Islamic Archaeology Research Unit of the University of Bonn

Iman R. Abdulfattah, M.A.

Iman R. Abdulfattah, M.A.
© Iman R. Abdulfattah

Iman R. Abdulfattah, M.A.

Research Unit of Islamic Archaeology

Brühler Str. 7

53119 Bonn

(A Sultan and his Monument: The Role of the Complex of Qalawun in the Development of Mamluk Architecture)

Built in Cairo between 1284 and 1285, the funerary complex of Sultan Qalawun (r. 1279-1290) is one of the finest examples of medieval Islamic architecture, vying with the madrasa (teaching institution) built by his grandson Sultan al-Nasir Hasan (r. 1347-1351 and 1354-1361) as the most splendid and grandiose of the buildings erected during the Mamluk period (1250-1517). In addition to its imposing scale, the complex is recognized for being the first Cairene monument that combined pious, charitable, and civic functions within a single edifice from its inception, and for the experimental nature of its decoration, both features that left a lasting mark on the city. Yet despite being of great historical interest and acknowledged importance to the history of medieval Islamic architecture, to date no comprehensive monograph exists on Qalawun's spectacular funerary complex; and while much has been written about specific aspects of Qalawun's complex, a synthetic analysis of this key architectural complex is lacking, which is all the more surprising given that it is well preserved. Such a lacuna stands in marked distinction to the other acknowledged masterpieces of Islamic architecture in Cairo, such the Mosque of Ibn Tulun (879), and the funerary complex of sultans Hasan (1356-1361), Qaytbay (1472-1474) and al-Ghuri (1503-1505), all of which have been the subject of detailed monographic studies. This project will address this historical oversight.

  • “Theft, Plunder and Loot: An Examination of the Rich Diversity of Reuse in the Complex of Qalāwūn in Cairo” Mamluk Studies Review (Forthcoming).
  • “Amir ʿAlam al-Dīn Sanjar al-Shujāʿī: His Illustrious Life and Dramatic Demise,” Annmarie Schimmel Kolleg Working Paper 25 (Bonn: July), 1-31, https://www.mamluk.uni-bonn.de/publications/working-paper/ask-wp-25-abdulfattah.
  • “George T. Scanlon 1925-2014,” Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, Vol. 51 (2015), 1-4.
  • “Relics of the Prophet and Practices of His Veneration in Medieval Cairo,” Journal of Islamic Archaeology 1 (2014), 75-105.
  • “Das Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo – Revisited,” in Experimentierfeld Museum: Internationale Perspektiven auf Museum, Islam und Inklusion, ed. Susan Kamel and Christine Gerbich (transcript Verlag: Berlin, 2014), 253-263.
  • Catalogue entries: Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition, ed. Helen C. Evans with Brandie Ratliff (The Metropolitan Museum of Art: New York, 2012).
  • Catalogue entries: The Illustrated Guide to the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo, ed. Bernard O'Kane (The American University in Cairo Press: Cairo, 2012).
  • Co-author (with Mamdouh M. Sakr): “Glass Mosaics in a Royal Mamluk Qa‘ʿa: Context, Content and Interpretation” in Arts of the Mamluks in Egypt and Syria – Evolution and Impact, ed. Doris Behrens-Abouseif (Bonn: Bonn University Press by V&R Press, 2012), 203-221.
  • Since Fall 2014: University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany. PhD candidate in Islamic Studies with a concentration on art and architecture. Dissertation Topic: A Sultan and His Monument: The Role of the Complex of Qalāwūn in the Development of Mamluk Architecture
  • 2010-2013: Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, NY, NY. Graduate coursework in art history
  • 1999-2004: The American University in Cairo (AUC), Cairo, Egypt. MA in Arabic Studies with a specialization in Islamic Art and Architecture. Thesis: Carved Islamic Wood from Palermo, Sicily
  • Summer 1996: Bourguiba School for Living Languages, Tunis, Tunisia. Certificate in advanced Arabic
  • 1992-1996: New York University (NYU), New York, NY. BA in Near Eastern Languages and Literature
  • Pre-Modern art and architecture of Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean
  • History and historiography of collectors and collections of Islamic art
  • Islamic Revival and the Arts and Crafts Movement in the United States
  • 2011-2012: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY. Research Associate, Department of Islamic Art
  • 2005-2010: Ministry of Antiquities, Cairo, Egypt. Project Coordinator, Office of the Minister
  • Summer 2008: Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), London, England. Fellow, Middle Eastern Section/Asian Department
  • 1999-2001: The American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE), Cairo, Egypt. Student Fellowship Holder, Project on the “Documentation of the Inscriptions in the Historic Zone in Cairo”
  • “Conspicuous Consumption: Adaptive Reuse in the Complex of Qalāwūn in Cairo,” The American Research Center in Egypt 2017 Annual Meeting, Kansas City, MO (April 2017).
  • “The Biography of a Building: New Light on the Construction Narrative of the Complex of Qalāwūn in Cairo,” The American Research Center in Egypt, Cairo (28 September 2016)
    “From Behind the Scenes: Amir Sanjar al-Shujāʿī ’s involvement in Building the Complex of Qalāwūn,” Third Conference of the School of Mamlūk Studies, University of Chicago (23–25 June 2016 ).
  • “Relics of the Prophet as Mediators of Space in Mamluk Cairo,” Encompassing the Sacred in Islamic Art and Architecture, Universität Bamberg (2-5 July 2015).
  • “A Sultan and His Monument: The Role of the Complex of Qalawun in the Development of Mamluk Architecture,” International Research Colloquium, Universität Bonn (24 April 2015).
  • “Egypt's Antiquities: A State of Emergency?,” Cultural Heritage Now: Iraq and Beyond, The Legacy of Donny George Youkhanna, Cultural Heritage and Preservation Studies, Rutgers University New Brunswick, NJ (27 April 2011).
  • “The Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo Revisited,” Layers of Islamic Art and the Museum Context Workshop, Museum of Islamic Art at the Pergamon Museum, Berlin, (13-16 January 2010).
  • “Umayyad Scenes on Mamluk Walls: Glass Mosaics in a Qaʿa at the Citadel of Cairo,” Arts of the Mamluks Conference, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London (23–26 September 2009).
  • “Egypt's Museums in the 21st Century,” From Imperial Museum to Communication Center? The New Role of Museums and Mediators Between Science and Non-Western Societies Conference, Institute for Museum Research, Berlin (24–26 September 2009).
  • “Museum of Historic Cairo: a Museological Experience,” Work-in Progress Seminar, V&A Museum, London (1 August 2008).
  • Spearheaded, established and raised funds ($35K) for the George T. Scanlon Graduate Student Award in Arab and Islamic Civilizations (ARIC) at AUC, a merit-based award that recognizes a distinguished MA thesis produced by an ARIC student in that given academic year.
  • Co-organized (with Gregory Williams and Amna Gillani) Capturing Culture: The Use and Meaning of Historical Photographs in Cultural and Historical Studies. Universität Bonn (4 September 2015).
  • Co-organized (with Alex Coyle) the 2012 IFA-Frick Symposium on the History of Art. (20-21 April 2012)
  • Initiated and organized a formal ceremony honoring Prof. George T. Scanlon for his rescue archaeology on medieval sites below the High Dam and his work in Fustat, as well as his many years of teaching Islamic archaeology at AUC. Coinciding with this event was the dedication of volume 4 of Mishkah: Egyptian Journal of Islamic Archaeology (the Ministry of Antiquities' journal on medieval topics) to him. Prof. Scanlon was the first non-Egyptian, medieval archaeologist honored in this way by the MSA (25 May 2010).
  • The Temples of Millions of Years and Royal Power at Thebes in the New Kingdom: Science and New Technologies Applied to Archaeology, Mubarak Public Library, Luxor (3-5 January 2010).
  • Valley of the Kings Since Howard Carter, Mummification Museum, Luxor (4 November 2009).

  • Researcher-in-Residence, The New York Public Library, NY, NY (2016-2017)
  • American Research Center in Egypt Pre-doctoral Fellowship, Cairo, Egypt (2015-2016)
  • Annemarie Schimmel Kolleg PhD Fellowship, Bonn, Germany (2014-2015).
  • Sheldon H. Solow Scholarship, IFA, NYU (2010-2013).
  • Leon Levy and Shelby White Travel Grant, IFA, NYU (2011).
  • Ford Foundation/IIE Grant (2008).
  • Scholars and Related Projects Grant, Barakat Trust UK (2008).
  • Travel Grant, Barakat Foundation USA (2003).
  • Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAGHS)
  • American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE)
  • Art Deco Society of New York (ADSNY)
  • Barakat Trust
  • Historians of Islamic Art Association (HIAA)
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