The « Gate of Heaven » (Sha’ar Hashamayim) Synagogue in Cairo (1898-1905)

The "Gate of Heaven" Synagogue, Cairo

Hana TARAGAN (Tel Aviv University) « The "Gate of Heaven" (Sha’ar Hashamayim) Synagogue in Cairo (1898-1905) : On the Contextualization of Jewish Communal Architecture », Journal of Jewish Identities, vol. 2, no 1, 2009, p. 31-53. DOI : 10.1353/jji.0.0002


Brief excerpt of the content :

Sha'ar Hashamayim (The Gate of Heaven), Cairo's most impressive synagogue, was built in the Ismailiyya Quarter. It is a landmark in the history of the wealthy, educated, Jewish elite in late nineteenth century Cairo. However, it also forms an integral part of the process of development of urban Europeanized Cairo as it took shape during the nineteenth century under the Khedives' regime and from 1882 under British rule. This process was mainly dictated by European architects who took different forms and styles inspired by the past and used them all together in the same area, structure or space. While for 1,200 years there had been a clearly identifiable, Cairene-Muslim style, now a new multicultural cosmopolitan one had come into being. Thus a building in the Gothic style would be erected next to one in Romanesque or Classical style, or a Baroque-inspired building next to Pharaonic, Arab, Moorish or Mamluk structures. Moreover, beyond the rejuvenated forms and the use of a system of architectural motifs and elements that were timeless and syncretic, the decorative trends of the time were influenced either by Art Deco or the German Jugendstil, which venerated and glorified decoration for its own sake.