Built in 1361-63, the cruciform madrasa of Amir Mithqal al-Anuqi was dedicated to the Shafi'i rite. The desire to impose formal architectural planning on a constricted irregular site produced an inventive scheme in which symmetry is achieved by a modified and attenuated four-iwan plan. An unusual engineering feat is the suspension of the whole structure over an alley, producing a hanging madrasa.
This madrasa is located in the Darb Qirmiz, a residential neighborhood in the 10th-century Fatimid quarter of Cairo. The major monuments of the district, the oldest dating from the 14th century, follow a narrow meandering street that bisects the neighborhood. They include three madrasas, a palace, mausoleum, fountain and bazaar. The restoration of all seven monuments has been planned as the first step in the rehabilitation of the larger area.
Recipient of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, 1983, the award honors the completion of Phase I which includes the restoration of the Madrasa of al-Anuqi, as well as the Mausoleum of Sheikh Sinan (1585). The conservation work included the replacement of corroded stone and loose plaster surfaces, and the repair or replacement of all damaged decorative work, carpentry and original painted surfaces in the original techniques and materials. The project has employed the finest masons, plasterers and carpenters left in Cairo. The jury commended "the high quality and purity of the restoration work evident throughout and its positive value for the surrounding community."