House of SihaymiApprox. Time: 2 hours
Activity Level: Easy to Moderate

The Bayt al-Sihaymi house in Cairo is a fine example of the traditional wealthy family mansions built throughout the Ottoman times. A central feature in these houses is a qa'ah, or reception room, two floors high lit by extra windows. A malqaf, a shaft that rises through the roof and is angled to catch the breezes, keeps fresh air circulating. Around the qa'ah is raised seating known as liwans, with intricate semi-domed ceilings enclosed by arches. Wooden mashrabiyah windows, latticed screens made of innumerable tiny pieces of wood in designs where women can look out but not be seen, overlook the rooms as well as the streets outside. The harem area looks over the inner court. (see women) The whole aura on the inside of the Bayt al-Sihaym type of house is a cool, tranquil freshness.