Al-Madrasa al-Zahiriyya was originally a residential home that was transformed to a madrasa in 1277 after the death of Mamluk ruler Al-Zahir Rukn al-din Baybars al-Bunduqdari, or Baybars I (1260-1277), who is famous for the conquest of most of the Levant from the Crusaders. The king was buried in an elaborate mausoleum with a high dome in the southwest corner of the building.
The madrasa is richly decorated using various materials and techniques. The main entrance gate is semi-domed with stone muqarnas. The interior ornamental program consists of marble revetment, carved stucco, gilt wood and a continuous frieze of glass mosaic that depicts architectural ensembles on three of the four interior walls, along with vases, trees, and other stylized vegetal motifs. The mihrab in the mausoleum is made of colored marble to allude to patterns and mosaics typical of the Mamluk architectural style.
The name of the mausoleum's architect, Ibrahim b. Ghana'im, is carved into the muqarnas hood of the monumental entrance portal.
Meinecke, Michael. Die Mamlukische Architektur in Ägypten und Syrien (648/1250 bis 923/1517), I/38. Glückstadt: Verlag J. J. Augustin, 1992.
Rihawi, Abdul-Qader. Damascus; Its History Development and Artistic Heritage , 167. Damascus: Dar al-Bashar, 1977.