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An iwan ( eyvān) is defined as a vaulted hall or space, walled on three sides, with one end entirely open.

Iwans were a trademark of the Sassanid architecture of Persiamarker, later finding their way into Islamic architecture. This transition reached its peak during the Seljuki era, when iwans became established as a fundamental design unit in Islamic architecture.

Typically, iwans open on to a central courtyard, and have been used in both public and residential architecture.

The Great Iwan of Cairo

The Great Iwan (or al-Iwan al-Kabir, Dar al-'Adl, Iwan of al-Nasir) of Cairomarker was a public and ceremonial space located in the southern section of the Saladin Citadelmarker where the Mamluk sultan sat enthroned to administer justice, receive ambassadors, and carry out other duties of state. The structure used to be known as Dar al-'Adl during the reign of Saladin, the Mamluk ruler of the Bahri dynasty Al-Nasir Muhammad rebuilt the monumental structure twice, in 1315 and 1334. The Great Iwan was demolished by Muhammad Ali Pasha in the early 19th century.

The 19th century Description de l'Egypte depicted a square hypostyle structure with five parallel aisles and a dome. The building was open to the exterior on three sides through arcades, and the main façade was articulated with a large central arch flanked by two smaller arches on either side.


Image:June21 2004-Wazir Khan Mosque Lahore (2).jpg|The entrance iwan of the Wazir Khan Mosque, Lahoremarker, Pakistanmarker.Image:Iwan Muzeh melli.jpg|The iwan of the National Museum of Iran was designed with the architectural precedent of Ctesiphonmarker in mind.Image:Amerian Taq up.jpg|Iwans are also used in residential architecture. The main iwan of the Amerian House, Kashanmarker, Iranmarker.Image:Badshahi Mosque July 1 2005 pic32 by Ali Imran (1).jpg|The Badshahi Masjidmarker with an iwan in the centre, Lahoremarker, Pakistanmarker.Image:Jamamasjid.JPG|The entrance iwan of the Jama Masjidmarker, Delhimarker, Indiamarker.Image:Storks samarkand.jpg|Intricate designs on the iwan of the Ulugh Beg Madrassa, Samarkandmarker, Uzbekistanmarker.Image:TajEntryArch.jpg|The entrance iwan of the Taj Mahalmarker, Agramarker, Indiamarker.Image:Model of Jame Mosque.jpg|Great Mosque of Esfahanmarker, scale model showing the court with the four iwans.Image:King_Saud_Mosque2_(5).jpg|King Saud Mosque, Jeddahmarker, an Iwan in the central court.Image:Herat_Masjidi_Jami_iwan.jpg|Iwan of the Friday Mosque of HeratFile:Humayun's Tomb from the entrance, Delhi.jpg|Humayun's Tombmarker with its entrance iwan, Delhimarker.File:Central iwan of Qila-i-Kuhna mosque, Purana Qila.jpg|Central iwan of Qila-i-Kuhna Mosque of Sher Shah Suri, 1541 CE


  1. Rabbat, Nasser O. 1989. Citadel of Cairo (Geneva: AKTC), p. 11-13.
  2. Gillispie, Charles Coulston & Michel Dewachter. 1987. Monuments of Egypt : the Napoleonic edition : the complete archaeological plates from La description de l'Egypte. (Princeton, NJ : Princeton AP & Architectural League of NY, The J. Paul Getty Trust).

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