The walls surrounding Egypt’s Ibn Tulun Mosque were once flanked with houses. Left unkempt for years, most of the 16 and 17 century abodes were demolished by the Egyptian government in the 1920s. However, one ancient structure escaped this fate when it was found that the house was remarkably well maintained.

In 1935, Major R.G. Gayer-Anderson was a British national on assignment in Egypt, who was granted permission to reside in the house. An avid collector and self-proclaimed Orientalist, Gayer-Anderson filled his residence with beautiful pieces spanning a number of eras and cultures. Upon his return to England in 1942, Gayer-Anderson left his collected pieces in the house as a donation to the Egyptian government. In return, he was granted the title of Pasha and the house became known as the Gayer-Anderson Museum.

The structure known today as the Gayer-Anderson Museum is actually two houses built nearly a century apart. At some point in the structures’ history, a bridge was built to link the two houses together; thus becoming a single residence. Although the houses have seen a number of inhabitants and centuries of history, it was the British Orientalist who filled each room with the prized possessions that remain in the house to this day.

Entering the premise, visitors find themselves in an interior courtyard with a fountain that some believe to be enchanted. Unfortunately, at the time of this reviewer’s visit, the fountain was empty, thus we were unable to test the supposed powers for ourselves. A small sign marked ‘visitor’s route’ will direct you up a flight of stairs to the interior of the older house, the one located farther from the mosque’s wall. Upstairs, the loggia– a breezeway open to the courtyard– has several seats for admiring the view below. If you’ve walked to Sayeda Zeinab, this would be a good place to rest for a few minutes before continuing on your winding tour through the museum.

Many of the rooms in the house have placards offering information about the room itself or the contents on display, although you may have to fight for the chance to read the information. This is not due to crowding in the museum; like many of Egypt’s lesser known historical gems, the Gayer-Anderson Museum is not often crowded. However, scattered throughout the site is a number of employees, each responsible for guiding visitors through two or three rooms. These guides have a tendency to move quickly and speak a lot without saying much– mostly pointing out alabaster tables and mashrabeya without providing a lot of historical information. Don’t let these guides rush you through the building; the signage provides many useful facts and the slower you move, the more you’ll discover about the house.

Rooms include salamlek – for receiving guests, haramlek– where women could visit in privacy, libraries and bed chambers. Rooms are elaborately appointed with furniture from all over the world. There is a room holding antique furniture entirely from China. Another room has chairs from India. Italian chandeliers, English made tables, and Persian rugs are all found amongst Gayer-Anderson’s collected pieces. A room known as the House Museum was used by the Major to display a number of Egyptian artefacts he collected including a mummy case from Thebes and a statue of the head of Nefartiti.

The Gayer-Anderson House enjoys a sizeable rooftop with an incredible view. mashrabeya screens allow women to enjoy the view without being seen from below. A large opening of the mashrabeya frames the minaret of the Ibn Tulun Mosque and two openings in the screen are designed for views of the El Sultan Hassan Mosque and the Mohamed Ali Mosque.