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Mosque lamp

Egypt and Syria were united in the fourteenth century under Mamluk rule from Cairo, where many religious buildings were erected by the sultans and their officials. The mosques and mausoleums were lit by oil lamps in glass holders, which were suspended from the domes by chains attached to lugs on their sides. Mosque lamps of this shape were decorated with coloured enamels had become standard by the late thirteenth century. The Arabic inscription on the lower part of this example states that it was made by order of Shayku al-Nāsirī (d.1357), an amir who built a mosque, monastery and tomb in Cairo between 1349 and 1356. On the neck the inscription is broken by his emblem, a red cup, indicating that he was cup-bearer to the Sultan. In addition to their practical and decorative functions, mosque lamps had a symbolic role. Like a number of others, this one bears a passage from the Qu'ran, XXIV.35, known as the Sura (chapter) of Light: 'God is the light of the heavens and the earth. The parable of His light is as a niche, in which there is a lamp'.