One of the most fascinating historic monuments in Aleppo (حلب) is the Mamluk-era psychiatric hospital known as al-Bimaristan al-Arghuni (البيمارستان الارغوني). This remarkable institution was one of the first of its kind, providing care for individuals with a variety of mental illnesses at a time when Europeans viewed such people as being possessed by evil spirits. The hospital operated from the 14th century until as recently as the early 20th century. Therapeutic treatments included providing a relaxing environment for patients, with the sounds of flowing water from numerous fountains throughout the complex and live performances by musicians.
al-Bimaristan al-Arghuni (البيمارستان الارغوني) was originally a large home, probably from the Ayyubid period, and was converted into a hospital by Arghun al-Kamili (أرغون الكاملي) in 1354. Arghun al-Kamili (أرغون الكاملي) twice served as the vice governor of Aleppo (حلب), first under Aala al-Din Ismail (علاء الدين اسماعيل), then later under al-Kamil Shaban Ibn al-Nasr Mohammed Bin Qalawoun (الكامل شعبان ابن الناصر محمد بن قلاوون). Arghun al-Kamili (أرغون الكاملي) later passed away in Jerusalem (Palestine).
The entryway to al-Bimaristan al-Arghuni (البيمارستان الارغوني) is particularly impressive. It is a honeycombed portal with elaborate stone-carved decoration and extensive Arabic inscriptions. This entrance leads through a vestibule into the central courtyard, which features two iwans on the northern and southern ends, a large fountain and a well. This part of the hospital included waiting rooms, an outpatient clinic, a pharmacy and a reception room for visitors. In the southeastern corner of the courtyard, tall vaulted passageways lead to three separate courtyards, each with a central fountain and surrounded by patient cells. The most dangerously insane patients were housed in small rooms around an octagonal courtyard.
al-Bimaristan al-Arghuni (البيمارستان الارغوني) had recently been restored to house a museum dedicated to the history of Arab contributions to science and medicine. Unfortunately, the structure suffered damage during 2013-2014 armed conflict in Aleppo (حلب) and will once again need to be restored.
Getting There: al-Bimaristan al-Arghuni (البيمارستان الارغوني) is located in the southwestern district of the old city of Aleppo (حلب) in a neighborhood known as al-Jaloum (الجلوم). It is directly south of the Great Mosque of Aleppo (جامع حلب الكبير), approximately two hundred meters away. al-Bimaristan al-Arghuni (البيمارستان الارغوني) is about two hundred meters north of Bab Qinnasrin (باب قنسرين), the southwestern gate of the old city.
Coordinates: 36°11’48.00″N / 37°09’25.00″E
Transliteration Variants: al-Bimaristan al-Arghouni, al-Bimaristan al-Arghoni
Rating: (6 / 10)