Underneath my drawing table there was a certain wooden box, it laid there for years forgotten until one day I moved it's dust covered led...
Inside I found my chisels and carving knives wrapped up in neglect, once were busy now in stealth a mere trap for dust.. and blocks of wood and wooden heads, a work in progress that never saw a ray of light.. different ingredients to create magic, different recipes to make art.
Four years ago, I first laid hands on these chisels and knives and carved away a little piece of old cracked wood, clueless as I was at the time, and without a pattern or guide, my first carving emerged, my first little wooden head... It was the start of something new, and my passion for carving and wood work grew....
Oh, how I love the wood aroma when I carve, how I love being immersed in wood shavings and saw dust, but most of all the joy I find when giving life to an old piece of cracked wood.
I still have a lot to learn but I'm determined.
So after years of hesitation last night I held my chisels and knifes, for hours that felt like minutes and with no plan of guide I carved away a block of wood...
until a wooden-button-nosed-egg emerged... I wonder what egg-white-yellow-yolk-stories lurking in its shell... waiting to be heard, waiting to be told.
Let me tell you of the last of the legends of the Cretan Woman house, the tale of the beneficent Saint Haroon al-Husseini, son of the Prophet's grandson, who was slain at Kerbela and whose blessed head still rests in the midst of Bait Al-kretliya.
During the reign of the Fatimites, with much state in procession, they brought the body of master Haroon to Cairo, and buried him in Bait Al-Kretliya, where a tomb had been made ready to harbor him and where those good people of Al-kretly family who once lived in this house, rejoiced to have in their midst and keep in their care such a cherished and blessed relic, and under a domed tomb; he has lain ever since bringing peace to the place and miraculous benefits to those who dwell in this house.
For example, when a young child of the house was playing in the court, stretched out his hands in his innocence to caress a mad dog that had entered by chance, the saint's unseen hands caught him up by the hair of his head out of harm's way, and once when a child fell by ill-chance from the roof from high above the tomb of Master Haroon, and under the condition would have been killed for sure, but in this case he was hung, suspended by the breath of the saint, in mid air and was let down so lightly that not a bone in his body was broken nor any hurt came to him.
One, moreover, the saint appeared to a young woman in the house who, at night, seeing a light in the qa'ah, peeped in through a chink in the door and beheld there a young man who, with others, conducted zikr and again, though there were no lamps in the room, the place was illumined by light shining from the young man, and he said to her-although she was not in the room with him but without-'Fear not, good woman, I make this rhythmic intercession for the recovery of thy husband who is grievously ill.'
Now the woman knew nothing of this, for her husband, was at the time far away on a journey. Yet it proved just as the Saint had said, the husband recovered and came back to tell her how he had been sick unto death until he saw the Saint in a vision as the woman had seen him, and at the same time as she, and from then on he recovered his strength until he was now stronger than ever before.
But Perhaps the strangest of all strange happenings has to do with a thief, an evil man who entered the house to rob it. One day when the children of the house were playing on the roof, saw this man as a shadow thrown upon a wall and, in terror thinking this is an afreet and fearing to look round and behold it, the children ran off screaming to tell their mother. By the time she had reassured the children and come back to see what was amiss, behold, an ill-looking man was there who groped his way through daylight, and she perceived at one that this was no ghost but a blind man who could not harm anyone.At that the children ran towards him and. striking him with their fists and small sticks and called out in derision 'Bad man, what do you here?'
To all this he made no resistance but only threw up his arms and cried with many tears, saying 'I am indeed a thief and came here to steal but I have been struck blind by some unseen power.' Thereupon the mother silenced the children while she caused food and drinks to be brought for the man, who was too weak to say more. After he had drunk and eaten he greatly revived and recounted his story.
He told how he entered the house unobserved between dusk and dark while the door was unguarded, three days before as he judged it, for he could tell night from day only by the sounds in the house; how, creeping into hareem with intent to lay hands on what jewels he could find, he had hidden there til midnight before venturing forth; how, scarce had he come into the room where the women lay sleeping than a bright light shone forth intensely and, wherever he looked, it was there, burning his eyes till it blinded him; how, in affright, he had then felt his way to the door bust since he could no longer see nor judge daylight from darkness, he had lost himself in the house and knew not whither he went; how he had hidden for those three days in a chests and in cupboards with nothing to eat or to drink, and by night he groped stealthily about, unable to find either food or his way out of the house, even though empty-handed, so that now he was well-night dead from hunger and thirst and weakness.
It was of course, the protective presence and power of Saint Haroon that had confused and afflicted him thus, though the Saint himself did not appear. On hearing all this the mother, a kind and compassionate woman, was moved in her pity to say, 'Oh thief, if our Saint hath seen fit to smite thee thus blind for thy sins, nought then remains for me to do but to pardon thy thee. Therefore go now and take this coin in thy wallet to meet thy needs and come no more.' With this benediction she led him to the door of the house and dismissed him.
So that it was that he who had come to steal went away empty-handed but for the mother's alms, being thus both rewarded and punished for what he had set out to do but had failed to accomplish, thanks for the good benefits of Saint Haroon. Nor did the thief ever recover his sight, for his life had been evil and this affliction which had thus been laid upon him was just.For long thereafter he dwelt in these parts as a blind bigger who had once been a rich man; for, seeing him helpless, his women and accomplices forsook him and divided up between them all he had amassed by his cunning. Thus he was left penniless, an object of pity and warning to others; for t hose of the neighborhood would point him out to strangers and tell them the tale I have told you.
I shall tell you a tale of love with which the magic Well of the Bats has much to do. Know then that once upon a time, long ago, there lived in the Bait al-kertliya a rich, widowed lady with her daughter Lutfiya, a maiden as fair as a full moon and simple and sweet as a flower. At the same time there dwelt in a house over the way a handsome youth called Ameen, like Lutfiya that only child of his mother, who was also a widow.
Now, much to both parents regret, their young ones showed no desire to marry, being yet scarce acquainted with love and cautious by nature. Having heard of each others loveliness and yet how averse to be wed, the young ones interest was aroused, Lutfiya found herself deeply in love with her vision of Ameen just as he was with his fancy of her. All day Ameen would sit thus, gazing out through the mashrabiya at the house over the way, watching and waiting, but no door opened, nor even a window though indeed, unknown to him, Lutfiya, even as he, was all the while peeping through a chink in the hope that she might spy young Ameen. Thus sat they, sighing these two, each unknown to the other.
Now one day Lutifiya, after some hesitation, arose and, pulling a shawl that was by her over her head. Across the court-yard she ran to the well in the corner, the Well of the Bats, that magic well of which I have told you how, in the days of old Noah when the Ark was stranded here on hill Yushkur, the last waters of the Flood subsided into its depth, endowing them with miraculous and amorous powers. and the Sultan of the Dijnn who resides amid his treasure at the depth within this well.
Now Lutifiya had head those legends and, for that reason, had always been frightened of the well so that she could scarce bring herself to look down into it, half hoping as she did, yet half fearing to see, as many had told her she might, her lover's reflection therein. On this occasion, though frightened as ever, she none the less could not resist hastily looking down into the well-shaft, for she hoped to see Ameen gazing up at her. But no such sight met her eyes, for as she looked down, lo and behold! those waters that reflected her own face awoke and were agitated because of the beauty cast upon them and, becoming enamored for her loveliness, they rose and swelled up till they filled the whole shaft of the well to the very top and then they flowed over. Now indeed was Lutifiya alarmed, as well she might be, for the waters began to embrace her feet! With a cry, she turned to escape and, she ran, her shawl fell from her head on to her shoulder. Cross the court she ran, out into the street.
Ameen was gazing, as he become his wont, out through the lattice of a window, when all of a sudden he saw the great eastern door of Bait al-Kretliya thrown open, and out ran a maiden, frightened and he saw how the waves kissed her feet as she ran.
Ameen hurried down and reached the street in time to see Lutifya turn the corner of the wall of Ibn Tulun mosque that stands adjacent to the Bait al-Kretliya, moving as if her feet are not touching the ground and by the time she reached the spiral minaret, Lutifya was above the ground. Tiny fingers, sharp like claws, carried her to safety. Her body was lifted up high towards the top of the spiral minaret above the raging flood, unable to catch its prey, on rushed these waters, mad with desire, tumbling over and over till they came to the foot of the hill and were lost in the Khalig, the ancient canal that flowed through Cairo in those days and into the great River Nile.
When Ameen reached the base of the minaret he could only hear a muffled voice coming from beyond the spiral minaret, from the direction of the great River Nile. One word calling again and again, until it faded away and he can no longer hear anything: "Lutfiya, Lutfiya."
This ancient Well under the arch in a corner of the court of the Bait al-Kretliya, now little used and little considered, was once famous far and wide. So much was this the case that the road leading uphill to the House and the Mosque is still called 'The Way to the Well of Bats,' which is still writ up in order to direct all who wish to visit this famous well; and they were many in the olden days, for its waters have always been known to possess magical and beneficent properties; and that is hardly to be wondered at, since they flowed into this shaft from the Great Flood as it subsided, and left Noah's ark stranded on this hill of Yashkur.
Yes, the Well had long been renowned for the many cures it has wrought, lovers it has served, and countless strange happenings concerning it which have taken place in the Bait al-Kretliya. But above all, it is renowned as the haunt and home of Sultan al-Watawit, the King of the Jinn, who inhabits a palace within it with his seven fair daughters amidst vast treasures which are guarded by his magic.This explains why, at the Sultan's demand, the Bait al-Kretliya was built round the magic well, instead of a shaft being sunk in the midst of the house as was the usual procedure.
The Sultan is still in his palace and his seven fair daughters-in another version of the story it is seven sons- lie around him under a spell, each in her golden bed; and all so fast asleep that if any intrude and arouse them they hardly stir, but murmur, 'Take all you will and leave us to our slumbers.' Their father guards them-and his treasure-by his sorceries, changing himself at times into a bat, a shape he assumes at will, in which guise he may sometimes be seen of an evening to enter or leave the mouth of the well. All that closely guarded treasure remains still for the finding, but it is by no means easy to come by, for very many have tried but so far no one has succeeded.
Some of those who have set out on that venture have never returned, but were either lost in perdition or chose to abide where they found themselves. And, strange though as it may sound, the good King of the Djinn sometimes helps the wives or the widows of those who have not returned from the venture of seeking to rob him, should they be needy, and he does it in the following manner. He sees to it that, now and again, when such a one lowers her bucket into the well, a coin of gold or silver is dropped into it for her to recover.
Though, as I say, no one so far has come by this treasure, it is well known through the writing in magical books how best to obtain it. First of all, well provided with rope, rations, a lantern, and all else that such a venture may need, and not forgetting the holly book and to commend yourself to God's care, you are lowered on the end of a rope to where the shaft opens out at the water's level into a chamber. From the east and west of this space issue two hidden passages, and at the entrance stands anIfrit who works a shadoof, lifting water out of the well and pouring it down these two inclined ways, one of which leads to the palace of the Sultan and the treasure, the other to an unknown bottomless pit of destruction.
Now which is which of these two passages no one can tell, save by divination, divine intuition or by some sorcerer's spell. Yet on the choice of direction depends whether the seeker shall survive and emerge a rich man, or fall and disappear entirely, never again to be seen or heard of: for so steep are the two paths, and so slippery, that once started on either one cannot stop.
Before setting out on this adventures one must also learn, through sorcery, not only which way to turn at the well's end but also the magical word that shall open the door of the palace if one gets there, for it is locked and sealed with Solomon's seal.
(Though it is the primary conjunction in Arabic, the letter waw "و", never connects to the letter following it)
There were also various secret reasons which caused the Sultan to remain for long in league with al-Kretlie family, to whom he gave much gold as a reward, and this they stored away in a secret chamber under the floor of the hareem, a procedure that resulted in a catastrophe to al-Kretlie family. When Agha Saleem al-Kretli who lived in Bait al-Kretliya long ago, though a pious man, was avaricious for gold, had made a pact with the Sultan al-Watawit concerning some secret matter of great import, and for his help in the affair the Sultan paid him vast sums in the form of gold-dust which he drew up in a bucket from the bottom of the well and stored it away in the secret chamber under the floor of the hareem. and if any of the women would ask what he was hiding there, he would say 'it's only tibn, chaff for the donkey to eat, for the bins are full in the stable below.'
All things went well, and the secret chamber was nigh filled with the yellow dust when, alas! Agha Saleem took to him a new wife,and one day, while he was away on a journey, his new wife called out the serving maids and ordered them to clear the secret chamber of all donkey chaff. After considerable labor, with shovel and basket, they left not one speck in thesecret chamber, for they had thrown out of the window the gold dust into the street below where it was swept, trod and lost forever and ever.
When Agha Saleem returned from his journey and after he learned what had happened to his precious gold-dust he cried in horror 'My golden tibn, My gold!' And those were the last words he ever spoke, for there on the spot he was struck dumb! Some say it was by the Sultan al-Watawit, lest his secret be given away. Be that it may, the power of his limbs also forsook him, so that he could but lie abed with out speech.
The Agha Saleem never recovered. He withered way and soon afterwards died.
They say too. that the Sultan al-Watawit, in his anger at the waste of all the good gold, smote also the young wife, widowed now, with a lingering illness from which she, too never recovered. Ever since then, even up to our own times, in order to propitiate him and obtain his good office, women in these parts are accustomed to cast offerings to the Jinn through the trap-door into the secret chamber, now empty, which once was brim-full of pure gold.
"In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. Listen now, oh honoured friend, I shall begin these Legends concerning this ancient House of the Kretliya which belonged to my Family, and in which I was born and my fathers before me. For every ancient house, and this one even more than most, has strange legends attached to it which, though of the past, are yet kept in mind from generation to generation." ~Sheikh Suliman - Legends of the House of the Cretan Woman
This tale tells of a snake, a benevolent serpent, that inhabits the house of the Cretan woman and has always done so, for such serpents dwell only in those houses that are especially favoured, as this one is, by God's blessing.
Such snakes are guardians that keep the house in their care, allowing no other reptile to enter, nor evil to harbour within its walls, so that those who live in the house need have no fear of Djinn or Afreet and may sleep, if they will, with their doors left unlocked.
Now, though this benevolent serpent comes not forth save at night or in secret and is therefore seldom observed, its young, in their folly, may sometimes adventure, as you will learn from what I am about to tell you.
Once long ago, there lived in the Bait al-Kretliya, a devout and pious man, the Hagg Mohammed, whose children, two little boys, playing together one day in the court-yard, spied two of the young of our benevolent serpent as they ventured out of their hiding. Thereupon these little boys greatly delighted, pounced on the small snakes, each seizing one and acing tied a string round its belly, took it for his own as plaything, unaware in their innocence of the harm they did or the danger they ran. Anon the good parent snake, coming back to her lair from whence she had issued, found her little ones done and, in much agitation, she hastened to search for them, peering this way and that till very soon she perceived what has happened and that her young ones were now in the hands of their captors, the two little boys of the house. At that, swollen with rage and blind to all else save revenge, she sought out the cupboard where the drinking water is stored in a great Zeer (earthen-ware vessel), and into this jar she spat out her venom and so poisoned that water that anyone drinking thereof must surely die.
Hardly had she done this that good pious man, the Hagg Mohammed, who had been out about some business , returned and, seeing his sons playing each with a little serpent tied by a string around its belly, was greatly alarmed and cried out: 'What in God's name are you doing, O wicked ones? Shame on you! Do you not know you have each made captive a little one of our patron, our protector, our benevolent serpent, without whose blessing that house would surely be desolate? In the name of the Prophet, release your victims at once ere great harm befall you and all of us.'
Thereupon each of those children hung his head much ashamed and affrighted and, hastily obeying his father freed the young reptile he has made captive, which then wriggled off to his cranny none the worse for the adventure.
Now when the good parent-snake, the benevolent serpent who all this time had been lurking nearby, overheard what this pious man said and observed how, in obedience, his little sons had st once released her offspring uninjured, and when she realized that neither the Sheikh nor his sons meant any harm, he anger subsided forthwith and, full of remorse for what she had done to poison their drinking water, she was greatly concerned how to avert the evil that threatened. And Anon her anxiety was greatly increased for she heard the master call out to serving-maid, 'Go, Aisha, fetch me a cup of cold water from the Zeer,' it then being the heat of the summer.
Filled now with immediate alarm on behalf the Hagg Mohammed, the benevolent serpent knew not which way to turn now what best to do till, she was prompted so that, hastening off once again to the cupboard where the water was kept, she wound herself around the great Zeer that was full of it and drew herself tighter and tighter about the vessel till at last it broke and fell asunder with much splash and clatter.
Into nine and ninety pieces was that water jar splintered-for the Hagg Mohammed counted them one and all afterwards-and the water gushed out and was spilt harmlessly on the floor so that no ill to any came of it.
Then off glided that benevolent serpent back to her hiding place, well pleased at having contrived to avert so great catastrophe, with the serving-maid who had come at that very moment to the Zeer-cupboard to fetch her master the drink he had called for, hearing the clatter ad seeing water spilt out and flowing away without a cause, so it seemed to her, ran off herself with a cry of alarm to tell everyone what has happened; and she was greatly afraid, as indeed who would not have been? For she though an Afreet or Djinn to be the cause of so strange an occurrence.
Long ago and right now, in one of the oldest quarters of Cairo, on top of the hill Yashkur, there it stood, the fascinating ninth century mosque of Ibn Tulun and it's unique spiral minaret.
For hundreds of years the area around the mosque of Ibn Tulun was one of the busiest quarters of Cairo, It was there that caravans and traders came to unload exotic spices and strange cargo from the Far East and Africa, the narrow ally way and stone court yard were alive with sights and smiles of a thriving commercial district.
The area fell in hard times, houses were abandoned, fill into decay, and were then destroyed , save one house clinging into the walls of the mosque remained,
The House of the Cretan Woman - Bait al-Kretliya.
The immediate physical proximity of Bait al-Kretliya to The Mosque of Ibn Tulun is paralleled by a mythic connection that is recorded in a once popular now forgotten legends and myths.
"when Ibn Tulun was building his mosque, a genie appeared to him and showed him a treasure that he devoted completely to building the mosque. He proceeded to build it with his own hands working along side the laborers until he became known as the Sultan Of Bricklayers. The rest of the gold from this miraculous treasure remains to this day in a haunted passageway, long forgotten and neglected, that runs from the Bait al-Kretliya under the mosque."
The legendary house of the Cretan woman is in fact a two sixteenth century houses, Beit el-Kretliya from 1632 and Beit Amna Bent Salim from 1540, linked together with a bridge on the third floor, framing a gate way to the mosque.
The house was repeated to be haunted by djinn, djinn which either could be good or bad spirits featured extensively in Arabic folklore.
they said to particularly like living inside watery places such as wells and were in past feared for their abilities to posses humans .
"It said that the House of Cretan Women is built around the Well of the Bats - which has been here since the days of Noah's flood - and that it was the King of the djinn the Sultan of Bats who advised my ancestors on this place so that the house may protect the well where he and his seven daughters sleep around their magical golden treasure which has cost the lives of those who were tempted to find it. Playing on the parody of greed, the well is said to have compensated their families over the years by placing gold coins in the water bucket."
The history of the house as well as those joined to it is rather unique.In 1930's the house became the home of Major Gayer-Anderson, an eccentric retired English doctor and art collector, who collected and translated the stories and the myths from Sheikh Suleiman, the last head of the Kretli family and guardian of the Saint's Harun tomb that flanks the house.
"Ages ago, the rulers of Egypt were the Fatimid Caliphs, who built Cairo, they had brought the body of our master Harun-son of the prophet's grandson al-Hasan. They buried it under a tomb adjacent to the house. It is known and Harun's Tomb - The guardian of the neighborhood and whose benefices still protect the people."
Mysticism has colluded over time with pop culture, often clashing with historical and geographical facts, to describe the hill of Yashkur as a holy site. Legend has it that not only was it here that Abraham was ordered by God to sacrifice his son but that it was the port where Noah's Ark came to port following its tempestuous journey. It is also said that it was there that Moses first spoke to God, and had his famous staff turned into a giant snake. All of this provided Ibn Toulun with enough reason to build his huge mosque there. The house is a living legend in itself, with a chamber of secrets, a lovers well, the snake of the house, the good spirit of Sheikh Harun, the djinn King of bats and his seven daughters and a hidden treasure of gold.. it is the house of Scheherazade.
Anderson commissioned a local artisan, the unique Abdl al-Aziz Abdu, commonly known as "Abu Shanab" ("Father of Mustachios" ) to create a series of illustrations on copper plates to depict each of the fourteen legends, and published the stories together with these illustration and his own description of the house, in a small edition in England is now long out of print. The original illustrations of the Legends of the House of the Cretan Woman by Abd al-Aziz Abdu are bound in an album now in the possession of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
"When Abd al-Aziz heard that I intended to make a book of the Legends with his design as illustrations, he drew and engraved another design and presented the drawing and plate to me as a surprise backsheeh (tip). This drawing I have included as a headpiece to the Legends. It is a portrait group of the three colaborators, each plainly labelled, Sheikh Sulaiman, Abd al-Aziz, and myself with my beloved Dachshund "Fadle Effendi" ("Make yourself at home, sir".)" ~R.G Gayer-Anderson Pasha
Major Gayer-Anderson furnished the house with a remarkable vast array of different items from various historical periods collection of Oriental furniture, glassware, crystal, carpets, silks, and embroidered Arab costumes.
He also collected beautiful works of art from Turkey, Persia, Syria, and other Oriental locations which he installed into the house, turning his house into a historical treasure. In 1945 Gayer-Anderson died equating everything for the Egyptian people, and the house had turned into a museum ever since, The Gayer Anderson-Museum.
The house remains a masterpiece, as do the art collection displayed beneath the gold-plated wooden ceilings, which were made 300 years ago by the hands of skillful determined craftsmen.The house consists of extraordinary 22 rooms medieval in origin, and laid out like an interlocking puzzle. I will take you by the hand through some of my favorite parts of the house and wander through it's jogging corridors, split level chambers, winding staircases and disguised rooms.
Usually when one goes to a museum, the displays are in glass cases with the explanation under it. In the Gayer Anderson Museum, one just walks about gazing at the displays and feels like a part of the history of the place itself.
Maybe this is because the house, including the ceilings, the walls, the corridors, the cupboards and the doors are among the most interesting displays. Or maybe because the museum was once a house and people once lived here at many times.
Drifting through arched stone gateway, there is a small corridor that takes one to the open air hall in the ground floor of the house, in one corner you will find my favorite part of the house, a well credited with magical powers and is known as the "Well Of Bats".
"Ye pure of heart and spiritually clean
Now when the moon shines full and clear
Approach this ancient well and lean
Over it listening. Ye shall hear
God's echoed word by angels sung
Float up to you in cadence fair,
Like pearls of blessing deftly strung
On unseen filaments of air."
The open air hall is rather amazing as one can see most of the balconies of the house above and the old walls with the Islamic decorations on them. once it used to host trades and business gatherings, now all that remains is an array of ancient scales, the legend has it they once were used to weight gold dust, gift from the king of djinn sultan of Bats
There's also a big wooden box that is connected with a strong rope. It was used to transfer food and water from stores of the house, much like an old dumbwaiter.
The next room is the main Sabil room, Sabil is part of the Islamic culture, in the past provided people who pass by to drink water on hot days. Usually these Sabils are connected to a school or a mosque. But here it is connected to the Gayer Anderson house and dates to 1631. The wooden ceiling, which is gold plated with Qura'an verses, is well preserved. Here, where the brass plates, work of Abu Shanab depicting all 14 legends of the house are on display, such as the landing of Noah's Ark plate.
On display there's also the plates of "Taset el-Khada", which is a famous Egyptian legend. Such plates are usually made of brass or silver and have magical words and certain verses of the Qura'an written inside them. Someone who is ill would fill the plate with milk and water and leave it on the balcony overnight. It was believed that a part of the sky would come and mix with the milk and water. In the morning the sick person would drink this from the plate and be cured.
The first Salamlek- a place reserved for men- is quite impressive, with mashrabeya windows and amazing ceiling and walls with Persian decorations.There's an alabaster table with Qura'an verses written on the circular edges, colorful boxes that were used to keep valuables and tobacco and the largest smoking pipes I have ever seen.
The summer Salamlek room. with two sofas opposite each other in a well decorated balcony that overlooks the open air hall. In the middle there are beautiful brass tables with Qura'an and Islamic decorations. There were also some small, ornate wooden chairs. This balcony is alive. I can imagine the people who were sitting there long ago and the stories they shared on a summer afternoon.
I journeyed through a corridors that leads to the Haramlek. The Haramlek was an area reserved for women. The word "Haramlek" is derived from the word "Hareem" which can be translated as women in Arabic.
A big room full of jewelry boxes and Mashrabiya screens designed for women to watch from the windows without being seen from outside.
There are many multicolored sofas, chairs, tables and closets most of them are acquired by Gayer Anderson from India and Persia.
On the third floor, there is the writing room of Anderon. In the entrance of the room,there are powerful ghostly white masks with hollow eyes that Anderson made of himself and his family.
I imagine Bast, the cat, which was found in the area of Saqara, kept all these years near Gayer-Anderson’s desk,
watching him writing his diary on his corona typewriter.
The walls here are full of many beautiful and some what haunting photographs of Gayer Anderson and his family and a drawing of his beloved dog Fadl Effendi.
beautifully embedded tales on the walls..
surrounding the well of winding stairs leading up to...
the roof terrace, its edges fenced by mashrabiya screens rescued from demolished houses, Their shadows reflected on the walls and the floors, creating an unforgettable contrast between light and dark.
There are a number of displays on the walls, Ottoman-era marbles basins and sink backs, sundial made of tile. used in the year 1273 to tell the times for prayers. And the oldest set of modern water taps and sinks I have ever seen. Next to the walls of the roof, there are big containers that were used to keep oil, food and other supplies for the house.
From here, we will take the bridge that Gayer Anderson built between the two houses over to the second house.Where you will find a museum within this museum.
One of the rooms contains a wonderful statue of Queen Nefertiti's head, placed in front of a Mashrabeya screen. when the sun light penetrate the wooden structure it illuminate the face of the beautiful queen, in a magical moment you might think the queen will speak.
In the middle of the room there is the replica statue of Bastet, and to the right of the door, there is a quirky black mummy cover and cabinets full of old clocks among many treasures,
and a huge ostrich egg engraved with topographical scenes of Egypt, which can be rotated by means of a little handle on top.
Gayer Anderson's was very interested in art and culture, and indeed, his library is impressive.
There are shelves with many books, locked behind glass doors where their amber pages brimming with knowledge had turned into a mere display, yet for curious eyes they will sing of names and titles embedded on their spines.
there is a fascinating drawing of Gayer Anderson which is claimed to portrait him as The Sphinx, lacking the distinctive features of The Sphinx and without the crown, I personally believe it to be a self portrait of Anderson in a traditional pharaonic headdress!
My favorite item in this house is pinned to a heavy wooden door, a beautiful door knocker that was made especially for the house on the shape of a small black angel holding symbols attached to a silver plate with the inscription of this beautiful verse:
"when love knocks the door, life walks in."
the most amazing room of the house is Damascus room which was one of Gayer Anderson's bed rooms. The bed is wooden with Islamic decorations all around it. The walls and ceiling unlike any walls I have ever seen. covered in intricate low-relief patterns of lacquer and gold ceiling covered with painted wooden panels acquired from the 17th Century house in the Syrian capital. They were designed to seem as if they are doors to somewhere else, another liminal place perhaps?
There's another Haramlek with a curious wooden jewelry cupboard. when you move the cupboard, it will reveal a secret doorway! The doorway leads to a very narrow corridor with Mashrabeya windows to the right and some wooden chairs to the left. It was used by women to watch what was going on in the celebration hall without being seen by anyone.
The big celebration hall was once used for wedding celebrations. There is a chair for the bride to the right and a chair for the groom to the left. In the middle of the room there is a fascinating marble fountain.
The other half of the room consists of a small theater, where the performances of dancers and singers once took place. now it's used to display a huge cabinet where Anderson kept the swords he collected from all over Egypt. The ceiling of the celebration hall is very high because the hall is surrounded with Mashrabeya screens for women to watch from the chambers above the hall.
The strangest item in this room is a musical instrument in the shape of a small crocodile that once was used like a guitar.
the second court yard with it's beautiful marble fountain, is right outside the last room in our visit,
The child birthing room. It has a displays of bracelets and charms that children once wore to protect them, there are also many chairs, some with Qura'an verses written on them, with openings in their seats. Women used to sit on these chairs to give birth to their babies.
The visit to the Gayer Anderson Museum is like a journey through time. I found this link to a 3D virtual tour of the house which I strongly encourage you to visit.
Some places capture your soul without a known reason. This was what happened to me when I saw the house for the first time. Maybe this because it is very old and it seems untouched by time or maybe because the whole house is an exceptionally wealthy source of strangeness, tales and myth.
Every ancient house, and this one even more than most, has strange legends attached to it which, though of the past, are yet kept in mind from generation to generation Soon I shall bring you tales & rhymes along with the imagery I created inspired by some of the legends of the Cretan woman house - a handful of folkloric tales, some are delightful and some are frightening, a glimpse into a landscape where the world of spirits and Djinn is not far away and enchantment is always peering through Mashrabiya screens.