Much has been written about the ‘decline’ of Cairo, and other Arab cities, during the Ottoman period. This view reflects the reduction of Cairo from the status of an imperial to a provincial capital, and the cessation of the construction of magnificent monuments, such as mosques and mausoleums, for which the Mamluk Sultanate was famous. André Raymond has noted that Cairo started to decline before the Ottoman conquest, because of the diversion of the Indian spice route from Egypt to the Cape and the insecurity of the final decades of Mamluk rule. In the Ottoman period, the city benefited from the commerce stimulated by the annual pilgrimage to Mecca and the international coffee trade, which began in the early sixteenth century and eventually took the place formerly occupied by the spice trade. Though no longer an imperial capital, Ottoman Cairo was still an extremely important town, being the seat of a pasha and a center of a large number of soldiers and bureaucrats who consumed a great quantity

of luxury goods. Cairo’s lively commercial activity was expressed in the multiplication of caravanserais, bazaars and guilds of artisans and merchants.1