Hospital (Bimaristan) al-Qaymari
Al-Salihiyya Quarter, Bayn Al-Madaris Street, Damascus, Syria
Hegira 646–54 / AD 1248–56
Sayf al-Din al-Qaymari.
Bimaristan al-Qaymari (bimaristan being a Persian word meaning hospital or infirmary) was founded by Sayf al-Din al-Qaymari in AH 646 / AD 1248. Al-Qaymari was a prince renowned for his bravery in battle who died while fighting the Crusaders at Nablus in AH 654 / AD 1256. The construction of this grand hospital in the Salihiyya Quarter indicates the degree of urbanisation and independence the region had reached since its foundation in the AH mid-5th / AD 11th century. Bimaristan al-Qaymari continued to be used as an infirmary up until modern times.
The layout of the bimaristan is very much influenced by the Bimaristan Nur al-Din (built in AH 548 / AD 1154 within the city walls). It has a square plan with four centrally oriented iwans each flanked by entrances to further rooms.
The bimaristan has a fully ablaq (rows of stones in alternating colour)portal with an ornate arch. The stones of the façade itself are square, while those making up the arch are curvilinear. A lavish muqarnas caps the portal and three extensive lines of inscription in thuluth script offer plenty of information on the construction, supervision, and funding of the bimaristan.
Much of the stucco decoration of the southern iwan has survived, notably, the medallions. Across the three walls of the iwan is an elaborate band of naskhi inscription repeating the Shahada (confession of faith). The vegetal motifs interwoven between these letters are highly intricate, including lotus flowers and other elements of chinoiserie. This level of ornamentation reveals the beginning of a transition from Ayyubid sobriety to Mamluk-style embellishment.
In recognition of the healing benefits of beautiful scenery and panoramic views, all the south-facing rooms of this bimaristan have windows overlooking the city of Damascus and the gardens of al-Salihiyya.
This Ayyubid medical centre was sponsored by a warrior prince who died while fighting the Crusaders at Nablus in AH 654 / AD 1256. It continued to be used as an infirmary until modern times. The layout of the building is inspired by the architectural style brought to Syria by the Atabegs, particularly the Bimaristan Nur al-Din. Its more lavish ornamentation, seen in its entrance and main iwan, signifies a period of transition that heralds the more flamboyant style of the Mamluks. Colourful and curvilinear stones decorate its recessed muqarnas portal, which includes a protruding ledge for visitors to sit on while awaiting entry.
The monument is dated by the inscription along the top of the doorway which cites the beginning of construction in 646 (1248). Its completion date is not completely legible –65(?), but the date of Sayf al-Din's death is known to be 654 / 1256.
Allen, T., “Ayyubid Architecture”, Occidental (electronic publication 7th edition), 2003.
Herzfeld, E., "Damascus: Studies in Architecture”, Part III, Ars Islamica, Vols.XI–XII, 1946, pp.1–71.
Abd al-Razzaq Moaz, Zena Takieddine "Hospital (Bimaristan) al-Qaymari" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2017. 2017. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;sy;Mon01;9;en
Prepared by: Abd Al-Razzaq MoazAbd al-Razzaq Moaz
Abd al-Razzaq Moaz is Deputy Minister of Culture, in charge of Cultural Heritage and Head of EU projects, at the Ministry of Culture, Syria. He was born in Damascus in 1962. He received his BA in History at the University of Damascus in 1985, a DEA in Archaeology from the University of Provence, Aix-en-Provence in 1987, and his Doctorate in Archaeology from the same university in 1991. He was a Scholar at the Institut Francais d'Etudes Arabes de Damas, Damascus, 1991–3 and was a Visiting Scholar at the Aga Khan Progam for Islamic Architecture, Harvard University and MIT, USA in 1993/4, at Granada University, Spain in 1994, at Harvard University (Fulbright Scholar) in 1995 and at Harvard University Urban Planning Department in 1996. He was a lecturer at Damascus University, 1997–9 and Visiting Professor, Harvard University in spring 1999. He was Director General of Antiquities and Museums, Syria, from 2000 to 2002. He speaks Arabic, French and English., Zena TakieddineZena Takieddine
Zena Takieddine is a researcher of Arab history and Islamic art. She received her BA in history (with distinction) from the American University of Beirut, and her MA in art and archaeology (with distinction) from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. She has a diploma in art and antique connoisseurship from Sotheby's, London. Her fields of interest include pre-Islamic Arabian epigraphy and the development of the Arabic script, early Islamic art and architecture, Arab miniature painting, the study of intercultural influences between Islamic civilisation and the Christian West during the medieval period, and post-colonial methodology in the study of history and identity.
Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: SY 13
Islamic Dynasties / Period
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