Built in 1092, this is one of three remaining gates of Fatimid Cairo. It was named after members of the Fatimid army who hailed from a North African Berber tribe called the Zuwayli.
The gate features a pair of minaret-topped semicircular towers. Notice the lobed-arch decoration on the inner flanks of the towers in the entrance. These arches were used earlier in North African architecture and were introduced here following the Fatimid conquest of Egypt. They are seen in later Fatimid and Mamluk buildings.
As you pass through the massive doorway, take into account that the street level has risen to such an extent that what you see as you walk would have been at eye level for a traveler entering the city on a camel. According to the great architectural historian K.A.C. Creswell, the loggia between the two towers on the outside of the wall once housed an orchestra that announced royal comings and goings.
However, Bab Zuwayla wasn't always such a lighthearted spot. It was
here that public hangings and beheadings took place. The conquering Turks hanged the last independent Mamluk sultan, Tumanbay II, from this gate in 1517. The unlucky man's agony was prolonged because the rope broke three times. Finally, fed up, the Ottomans had him beheaded.
The views from the tower are some of the best in Cairo. Minarets galore and little glimpses of street life in the alleyways below mean you may spend more than a few minutes here.
Bab Zuwayla marks the southern end of the Fatimid city, as Bab al-Futuh marks the north. And al-Mu'iz, the central artery of medieval Cairo, runs from the latter through the former. Al-Mu'iz continues all the way to the Southern Cemeteries, but as is common with many older streets, the name keeps changing along the way, describing the area it passes through, as when it passes through the tent-makers' bazaar.