Bait Al-Kretliya, better known as the Gayer-Anderson Museum, is one of Cairo’s impressively well preserved examples of 17th century architecture, which is located between Al-Sayyida Zainab and Al-Khalifah neighborhoods, and beside Ibn Tulun Mosque. The museum achieved popularity in London without us -Egyptians- knowing anything about its charm.
Two Houses, One Mountain
In 1540 AD, an Egyptian blacksmith called Abd Al-Qadir decided to build a house on the mountain in the area between Al-Sayyida Zainab and al-Khalifah, which is a small mountain called Mount Yashkur.
First, the Mosque of Ahmad Ibn Tulun was built on the mountain, then two consecutive houses followed; one of which was Abd Al-Qader’s house. After nearly a century, in the year 1642, an Egyptian butcher called Hajj Muhammad built another house that is larger and more beautiful in architecture and decoration. However, in a weird twist of fate, the two men didn’t realize they were building important monuments that will last for many centuries ahead.
A Cretan Woman Lives on Top of Mount Yashkur
Over the years and at the beginning of the 19th century, the butcher’s house along with the blacksmith’s were sold to a woman from the island of Crete, whose name was Amina Bint Salem. And from then on the two houses were made into one place, and was given the name Bait Al-Kretliya, as in “House of the Cretan Woman.”
As we know time can heal, it also often has the ability to ruin, and so it has affected the beauty of these two houses, and destroyed a big part of them. Moreover, at some point, the government even decided to remove them during the expansion of the Ibn Tulun Mosque, but fate refused to allow them to be gone.
An English Officer Resides in the House
In 1935, Gayer Anderson, who was an English officer and doctor working in Egypt at the time, heard about the Egyptian government’s decision to demolish the two houses. And because he was a great admirer of those houses during his youth, he made an offer to restore both houses and live in them.
Being a traveler and a lover of the Oriental and Egyptian culture, Gayer used to collect various artifacts from different historical periods, and, so, he supplied the two homes with his collection of antiques and relics that he loved. In addition, the rooms of the house have been decorated in a variety of styles: the Persian Room has exquisite tiling, the Damascus Room has lacquer and gold, and the Queen Anne Room displays ornate furniture and a silver tea set.
After his death, Gayer left the house, along with his collection, to the Egyptian government so it would be turned into a museum.
James Bond lives in Bait Al-Kretliya
Just as the Egyptian movie, “Shahd El-Malika”, the popularity of the house prompted James Bond showrunners, as well, to shoot part of The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) in one of the fanciful house’s halls.
Truly, we would never be able to explain how bewitching Egypt and Egyptian architecture are; seven thousand years later, and it still surprises us with its majestic hidden charm, everyday.
But Why is it the perfect spot to hide? Well, sadly, because only a few people know about the existence of that enchanting house.. *sigh*
So, if you haven’t visited it, yet, we strongly advise you to do it, as soon as possible, or next time you visit Cairo!