Bab al-Nasr

Bab al-Nasr

Bab al‑Nasr (Gate of Victory) is one of the gates of the northern wall of Fatimid Cairo, and opens onto al‑Gamaliya Street. It was built in 480 AH/1087 AD by the vizier and commander‑in‑chief, Badr al‑Jamali, during the reign of Caliph al‑Mustansir Billah. With its perfect masonry and two great square towers standing more than 20 meters high, this a truly impressive monument. Bab al‑Nasr, along with Bab al‑Futuh and Bab Zuwayla, is among the rare examples of military architecture in the Islamic world prior to the Crusades.

          The current Bab al‑Nasr displaced an earlier, brick, gate constructed by Jawhar al‑Siqilli, Cairo’s founder. Deeming it insufficient for the protection of the city, Badr decided to construct a new, stone, tower, which he sited farther north, thus also giving Cairo more room to expand. Although this new structure was founded as Bab al‑‘Izz (Gate of Glory, or Power), it continued to be known by the name of the old tower, Bab al‑Nasr.

          Around halfway up the height of the gates, running along the bottom of the cornice, is the monument’s dating inscription. It is written in Kufic, and masterfully executed in raised relief. It identifies the gate’s official name, and the year in which it was founded.

          A series of shields worked in raised relief adorns the outer face of the gate and its towers. These are likely suggestive of the protective role of the Fatimid fortifications, which are acting as the shields of the city.

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