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Washington, United States
loves: you win if you guessed "pets" and "museums". Also books, art history, travel, British punk, Korean kimchi, bindis, martinis, and other things TBD. I will always make it very clear if a post is sponsored in any way. Drop me a line at thepetmuseum AT gmail.com !

Sunday, March 28, 2010

the cat garden of cairo

Once upon a time, in 13th century Cairo, a Mamluk sultan loved cats. Then as now, there were many felines to be found roaming the city streets, with homes or not, probably mostly the latter. So Sultan al-Zahir Baybars funded a "cats' garden," to house and refresh these creatures.

It is a curious fact, that, in Cairo, houseless cats are fed at the expense of the Kadee (chief judge); or, rather, almost wholly at his expense. Every afternoon, a quantity of offal is brought into the great court before the Mahkemeh; and the cats are called together to eat. The Sultan Ez-Zahir Beybars (as I learn from the Biish-Katib of the Kadee) bequeathed a garden, which is called "gheyt el-kuttah" (or the garden of the cat), near his mosque, on the north of Cairo, for the benefit of the cats: but this garden has been sold, over and over again, by the trustees and purchasers: the former sold it on pretence of its being too much out of order to be rendered productive, except at a considerable expense; and it now produces only a " hekr" (or quit-rent) of fifteen piasters a year, to be applied to the maintenance of the destitute cats. Almost the whole expense of their support has, in consequence, fallen upon the Kadee, who, by reason of his office, is the guardian of this and all other charitable and pious legacies, and must suffer for the neglect of his predecessors. Latterly, however, the duty of feeding the cats has been very inadequately performed. Many persons in Cairo, when they wish to get rid of a cat, send or take it to the Kadee's house, and let it loose in the great court.

-- from Edward William Lane and Edward Stanley Poole, An account of the manners and customs of the modern Egyptians (London: John Murray, Albemarle Street, 1871), vol. I, p, 362. I wanted to find a photo of whatever may remain now of this gheyt el-kuttah, but I couldn't. There are many photos online of the sultan's mosque, though. Just to give a sense of place.


Maryanne Stroud Gabbani said...

Modern Egyptian householders have taken over for the Kadee. There are many people who feed the street cats and even some shelters for them.

A few Good Cats said...

Nice to have powerful friends in high places.

parlance said...

A lovely story. but I'm sad that people would just dump their cats.

toile la la said...

After learning of the sultan's cat garden at Catstuff, I too was curious about the appearance of Gheyt el Quoltah.

An interesting post - and I like the Pet Museum blog... even enjoyed the "Litter Trippin'" video.