Sabil-Kuttab of Katkhuda

Sabil-Kuttab of Katkhuda is one of the most important monuments in the old part of Islamic Cairo, Egypt. This building is an example of Ottoman and Mamluk architecture mixed with Islamic architecture. It was built in 1744 by a pioneer Egyptian architect, Katkhuda of Egypt who was one of the most intelligent architects of his time. Some architects describe it as "The treasure of Ottoman architecture".


  • Arabic: سبيل وكتاب عبدالرحمن كتخدا‎

  • French: Sabil d'Abd al-Rahman Katkhuda

  • Sabil and Drinking-Trough of 'Abd al Rahman Katkhuda

  • Sabil-Kuttab of 'Abd ar-Rahman Katkhuda

  • Sabil-Kuttab of Abd al-Rahman Kethuda.


Sabil-Kuttab of Katkhuda is an important monument in Cairo, Egypt. The architect, Katkhuda, produced it with every small detail.

Sabils and Kuttabs were almost everywhere in old Islamic Cairo during Mamluk and Ottoman times. Sabils are facilities providing free, fresh water for thirsty people who are passing by. While Kuttabs are primitive kinds of elementary schools that teach children to read and write.

The architecture of this time was so delicate that even simple facilities like Sabils were designed to be pieces of art. The builder 'Abd al Rahman Katkhuda' provide; in his buildings pieces of art that even now gives witness to the creativity and greatness of the era.


Al-Muizz Lideenillah Street, Cairo, Egypt.


The Sabil-Kuttab was built to achieve the maximum available visibility in Al-Muizz Lideenillah street. This was achieved through building it with three freely standing sides.

The building consists of two main parts. The southern part is two stories high and contains the Sabil and the Kuttab from which it derives its name. The northern part is not registered and is being used now as living apartments.

The Sabil-Kuttab was built using the Mamluk style which continued to overwhelm all the styles of such buildings even after the Ottoman conquest in 1553.

The building is open on three sides and consists of grey and white stones inlaid with marble reliefs. There are also, tiles with embedded pillars at its corners.

The entrance of the Sabil has artistic writings which are verses from the Quran about "Ahl Al-Kahf". This is commonly seen in the Katkhuda's buildings.

The Kuttab is located on the second floor and is composed of five marbled columns holding the beautiful painted roof. The windows are wooden and have beautiful artistic design. This type of window is called "Mashrabeyya" which is characteristic of almost all Islamic Cairo's buildings. The door and the cupboards are wooden and are carved and painted.

The structure sits on a triangular site formed by the splitting of Al-Muizz Lideenillah Street into two branches. It serves as a visual focus for the termination of this major spine, especially to those approaching it from the monuments of the Qalawunids in the Bayn al-Qasrayn area.

The three sides of the building (northern, southern and western) are symmetrical, accurately identical, and all equal in length. Each contains all the interface to hold half the circular based on two columns of marble. In the middle of the half-circular structure is a big opening that contains the cups for people to drink. The opening is covered by a uniquely designed copper mesh with holes allowing the passage of the cups in between the holes.

The entrance of the Sabil leads to a small corridor with three doors. The first door, on the right leads to the water storing tank; the second door, on the left leads to a room with openings from which the people can drink (the Sabil); the third door, opposite to the entrance, leads to the stairs of the Kuttab. The horizontal dimensions of the Sabil room are 4.0 x 3.5 meters.

The kuttab room is present in the second floor and it has the same dimensions as the Sabil room with three windows each called mashrabeyya.


  • Mamluk architecture: Egyptian architecture which has produced many wonders of the Islamic architecture.

  • Ottoman architecture: Big domes, columns and very elegant design.

About the builder

Arabic: عبدالرحمن كتخدا‎- Abd al Rahman Katkhuda

The Sabil-Kuttab of 'Abd al Rahman Katkhuda of 1744 was named for its patron, a Mamluk Amir (prince) and leader of the Egyptian Janissaries. He died in 1776. He did much work in Cairo including developments to Al Azhar university and mosque.He also rebuilt the dome of the Qala'un Mosque after an earthquake in Egypt.


  • Sabil:Arabic: سبيل‎

An Arabic word for the place or the building which offers free fresh drinking water to passers-by or whoever asks for it.

  • Kuttab:Arabic: كتاب‎

Is a place which provides elementary education for children. It was very common in old Islamic Egypt. Kuttabs are still available as an activity of some mosques to teach the children the Quran.


  • 'Abd al-Rahman Katkhuda Sabil-Kuttab
  • Sabil-Kuttab of Katkhuda
  • Sabils of Cairo

Building Activity

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