Beshtak Palace: A palace and museum in Cairo

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The Beshtak palace is located on Al-Muizz Street, in the area known as Bayn al-Qasrayn (meaning “between the two palaces”), in reference to the great Fatimid palaces that formerly stood there, precisely in Darb Qurmuz (Qurmuz Alley), next to the Katkhuda Sabil.

View of the remains of the Beshtak palace on Al-Muizz street, Bayn al-Qasrayn

The Beshtak Palace belonged to Prince Beshtak, who was a powerful Emir and held the title “Honorary Prince of Weapons”. It was created by transforming one of the palaces of the Fatimid caliphs, which he bought from their offspring and established, at first, as a place for receiving protocol visits, with its own adjacent stables. Beshtak was much admired and drew many followers, so he took the most trustworthy boys from the local mosques, blessed them and had them join his household. At later stages Beshtak Palace was expanded with the demolition of surrounding houses, thus creating a larger palace overlooking the road and a pond. Unfortunately there are no records left of the buildings which were destroyed.

The Beshtak Palace

The remains of this palace highlight the beauty of the 14th century style of decoration. Of special interest among the remains of the palace are the stone slots over the arches that were used for holding the ‘mashrabiya’ screens, as well as the intricate ceiling with its nice wooden patterns.

View of the ceiling of the Besthtak Palace’s Reception Hall or Qa’a

Inside the Beshtak Palace

The façade of the palace has a remarkable ‘mashrabiya’ window and is surrounded by some stalls which were gifts to the Emir. The entrance is handsomely ornamented with roundels on its two sides. From the entrance, one can find a vast courtyard with a flight of stairs leading to the ‘Qa’a’, or reception hall of the palace, on the second floor.

Details of the wooden ceiling and stained glass windows

Main entrance of the Besthak Palace

Colonnades holding the ‘mashrabiya’ screens

The walls of the Reception Hall, or Qa’a, are nicely decorated with ‘mashrabiya’ screens, allowing the women in the ‘haramlik’ (secluded women’s quarters) to see what is happening in the rest of the house below. In the centre of the hall, there is a charming fountain area that was used for playing music to entertain the guests. At the end of this hall, some windows overlook the main street, while others have stained glass, used for beautification and illumination. The palace was restored in the last quarter of the 20th century.

Marble fountain in the Reception Hall of the Beshtak Palace

Mashrabiyas in the Beshtak Palace

View from the first floor showing the stained glass windows

Close-up of one of the niches, showing details of the woodwork

After the 1992 earthquake, the edifice was about to collapse, but since then it has been repaired in partnership with the German Archaeological Institute at a cost of about LE50 million.

View from one of the windows of the palace

Courtyard as you enter through Palace from the main entrance

Now the 14th-century architectural gem has been turned into an authentic Arabic music centre, currently known as the “House of Arabic Singing”.

(photo: cdf.gov)

The “House of Arabic Singing” is the first international centre specialised in teaching and reviving various traditional Arabic singing schools: Egyptian, Levantine and North African. It includes the first audio/video library documenting all Arabic schools of singing in their original dialects, in addition to hosting the first museum of Arabic musical instruments.

One of the rooms of the Beshtak palace (photo: cairo.gov)

View of the Reception Hall (Qa’a) of the Beshtak palace

(photo: cdf.gov)

(photo: cdf.gov)