Al-Ashraf Qaytbay was a mamluk purchased by Sultan al-Ashraf Barsbay (ruled 1422-1438) and served under several Mamluk sultans, the last of whom – Sultan al-Zahir Timurbugha (ruled 1467-1468) – appointed him amir al-kabir, the commander-in-chief or highest position for an amir under the sultan.
What remains today is the mosque, which is attached the mausoleum of Qaytbay himself, as well as a maq'ad (loggia), a smaller mosque and mausoleum for Qaytbay's sons, a hod (drinking trough for animals), and a rab' (an apartment complex where tenants paid rent). At one point it was also described to have had large gardens.
The facade features ablaq stonework (alternating dark and light stone) and the entrance portal is enhanced by a high elaborate groin-vaulted recess with muqarnas squinches.
The outer dome of the mausoleum demonstrates an evolution from the stone domes built earlier and nearby by Sultan Barsbay and others: it is often cited as the apogee of Mamluk dome design in Cairo due to its complex stone-carved decorative pattern, which features a central geometric star radiating from the apex of the dome and an arabesque floral design which are superimposed and enhanced by natural shadows.
The mihrab is relatively modest but the wooden minbar is richly carved with geometric patterns and inlaid with ivory and mother-of-pearl. The wooden lantern ceiling above the central space is notable for its carving and painted pattern but is a restoration work and not the original.