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Cairo's Historic Cemetery of al-Suyuti Conflicting Claims.

SAYYIDI 'ABD AL-'AL AL-JINI

Tle location of this shrine was indicated on the 1930s cadastral map (called al-Jili). Not much is known about this shrine except that it is famous for healing and relieving troubles. It is currently visited only rarely. Its mawlid used to be held in conjunction with that of al-SayyidaA’isha. It is no longer held, but the few visits that take place happen during the Sayyida A’isha Mawlid.

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Identification

We only know of this shrine because it is marked in the 1:1000 Survey of Egypt map of 1930. It has now sunk into obscurity and is only known to some of the cemetery residents and caretakers. Nothing is known of the identity or history of ‘Abd al-‘Al al-Jini, although there seems to be a connection to the Ahmadiyya Marzuqiyya tariqa which is in charge of the shrine.

Myth and Ritual

According to the turabi in charge of the area, the shrine is said to be effective in fulfilling needs (sirruh bati’) and that no visitor will leave it disappointed. It was particularly famous for curing illnesses and relieving sorrows. Yet, it is now known to only a few and is rarely visited.

In the past, and as part of the rituals of al-Sayyida ‘A’isha mawlid on the eve of the 14th of Sha’ban, a kiswa procession would be organized from the mosque of al-Rifa’i, passing by al-Sayyida ‘A’isha to this shrine. The shaykh of the Ahmadiyya Marzuqiyya tariqa carried a green turban and kiswa to the shrine of al-Jini, although he did not necessary change the existing kiswa and turban. It was more of a symbolic gesture of respect. A hadra would then be held in front of the shrine and the Sufis would line up in two rows opposite each other and sway to the sound of religious music. Some of the visitors, who hailed from Upper and Lower Egypt as well as from Cairo, would stay overnight. Specific foods, such as plates of cooked yellow lentils and loaves of farmer’s bread for example, would be distributed.

After the death of the last tariqa shaykh who organized the procession and the lights for the mawlid, ‘Id Baraka, the turabi in charge, took responsibility for the event. After the latter’s death, all that was done was the fixing of a few decorative lights and the procession was cancelled although some visitors continued to come.

Description

The shrine of ‘Abd al-‘Al  al-Jini is located some 300 meters north-west of the mausoleum of Badr al-Qarafi. This shrine is an example of a type of burial structure that existed in the late 19th to early 20th century. It basically consists of a roofed rectangular space with a central shukhshaykha. The main north-western façade contains the only entrance door with an iron grille window next to it. The northern corner is chamfered, probably to accommodate an existing path. A second grill window is located high up the chamfered wall section. The central wooden beams of the roof carry a small octagonal shukhshaykha or lantern topped by a pointed dome made of plastered battens of wood (bughdadly).

This shrine is colorfully painted. Its façade is striped horizontally (mushahhar) with thick bands of alternating ochre and brown. The grilles and wooden shutters of the door and windows are painted green. The interior is also very colorful with the ceiling painted ochre and the walls a mix of turquoise blue and maroon. Two plain cylindrical columns with block-shaped capitals and topped by a semi-circular arch mark the qibla. This formation, painted in green, juts out from the line of the wall and is adorned by two stucco roundels with Allah written on them. A tarkiba marks the cultic importance of the site and is still draped with green cloth and topped by the green turban that was such an important part of this shaykh’s annual procession. Currently, a new green cloth covers the older kiswa which still bears the name of al-Jini. The red banner of the Ahmadiyya Marzuqiyya tariqa is also placed on the marker.

More generic calligraphy is to be found on the exterior. A basmallah tops the entrance door, and below it is a small plaque bearing the words “udkhuluha salimin” (enter it in peace). The shaykh himself is not referred to. The only name plaque commemorates a recent burial – that of ‘Abd al-‘Al ‘Ali al-Sayyid Khattab who died in 1998.

Bibliography

Survey of Egypt Map; 1:1000, 1930.