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Cairo’s Famous Mosques


Mosque of Al-Aqmar

Al-Aqmar mosque is located on al‑Mo’ez Street, and was commissioned by the Fatimid Caliph al‑‘Amir Bi‑Ahkam Allah in 519 AH / 1125 AD. The mosque’s construction was supervised by the Vizier al‑Ma’mun al‑Bata’ihi, and it was renewed during the reign of Sultan Barquq in 799 AH / 1397 AD under the supervision of the governor Yalbugha al‑Salmi.


The main façade of the mosque is presently the oldest surviving stone façade. Its architecture is characterized by its intricate stone carvings and the repetition of the phrase “Muhammad and Ali”, in addition to Qur’anic verses written in the Kufic script. The engineer’s ingenuity is most manifest in his ability to orient the façade to the street, whilst maintaining the direction of prayer inside the mosque.


The mosque consists of an open courtyard at its center surrounded by four riwaqs (arcades) topped by shallow domes, the largest of which marks the qibla, the direction of prayer. An inscription above the mihrab (niche in the wall of a mosque marking the qibla) records the renovations that were undertaken by Yalbugha al‑Salmi.




Al-Rifa’i Mosque

Located on Salah al‑Din Square (or Maydan al‑Qal’a “Citadel Square”), al‑Rifa’i Mosque was built in the nineteenth century to complement its fourteenth‑century neighbor, the mosque of al‑Sultan Hasan. It is a monumental structure that dwarfs the surrounding landscape. The mosque gets its name from Imam Ahmad al‑Rifa’i (512–578 AH/1118–1181/2 AD), who founded the Rifa’i tariqa (Sufi path).

The original structure was a Fatimid mosque, which was then transformed into a shrine for Ali abu Sheibak. Finally, Ottoman queen Kosheir Hanim commissioned the current design of the mosque and put in charge of the construction the architect Hussein Pasha Fahmi. Part of the plan was to have a mausoleum for the royal family as part of the extension, which was made by imported building materials from Europe, such as Italian marble. In addition to traditional raw materials, cement has also been employed in the construction of the mosque—a first for any Islamic monument in Egypt—signaling the transition into modern times.


Al‑Rifa’i Mosque’s architectural design is as interesting as its construction history. Visitors stand in awe of the detailed decoration of the outer walls and massive columns of the outer gate. The minarets are distinguished by their beauty and elegance.


While a section of the mosque is dedicated to prayers, another is reserved for the members of the family of Muhammad Ali Pasha, which was in power from the early nineteenth century until the 1952 revolution, when the modern Egyptian republic was born. Khedive Ismail and his mother koshiyar Qadin, as well as Kings Fuad I and Faruq, the last two rulers of the Muhammad Ali Dynasty, are buried here, all enshrined in elaborate tombs. The mosque briefly also served as the burial place of Reza Shah (king) of Iran (d.1363 AH/1944 AD), but he was returned to his home country following the end of World War II. Part of his burial chamber, however, is occupied by his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (d. 1400 AH/1980 AD), the last Shah of Iran.




Sultan Hasan Mosque

The Mosque and Madrasa of Sultan Hasan is one of the largest and architecturally exquisite mosques in all of Egypt. It was commissioned by the Mamluk sultan Hasan Ibn Al‑Nasir Muhammad Ibn Qalawun sometime between 757 AH/1356 AD and 764 AH/1363 AD, and is located at the end of Muhammad Ali Street, opposite its nineteenth century neighbor al‑Rifa’i mosque in al‑Qalaa.


Its proximity to the citadel ultimately resulted in its use as a fort by enemies several times throughout its history. Some sultans seriously considered demolishing it because enemy armies would use the mosques high platforms to launch attacks on the citadel.


Like most Islamic monuments in Cairo, this one has also undergone several phases of reconstruction, up until the twentieth century. The interior and exterior domes of the mosque are extremely ornate, and their designs may have been inspired by Armenian art and architecture.


A monumental iwan opens up on each of the four sides of the interior square courtyard. An iwan is a vaulted rectangular space that is open on one side. Doorways at the four corners of the courtyard allow access into four madrasas, educational institutions, where the four Sunni Islamic schools were taught.


Al‑Hakim bi‑Amr Allah Mosque

The Mosque of al‑Hakim bi‑Amr Allah is the fourth oldest mosque in Egypt, and the second largest after the Mosque of ibn Tulun. The construction of the mosque was begun by al‑Hakim’s father, the Fatimid Caliph Al‑Aziz bi‑Allah in 379 AH/989 AD, but he died before its completion, leaving his son to finish it in 403 AH/1013 AD. The mosque is located at the end of al‑Mo’ez Street in Al-Gammalia district, between Bab al‑Futuh and Bab al‑Nasr.


The main entrance lies on the western side of the mosque, and is monumental in size and design. It is one of the oldest architectural examples of projecting stone porches, and was influenced by the great Mosque of Mahdiya in Tunis. The mosque once served as a Shiite center in Egypt, and is comparable to the role Al‑Azhar Mosque would later play for Sunni Islam.


The mosque has a long and intriguing history, including its role as a barracks during the French campaign, when its minarets were utilized as watch-towers. Originally, the mosque was constructed as an enclosure by the Fatimid Vizier Gawhar Al‑Siqilli (382 AH/992 AD), and was later incorporated into the fortifications built by the general Badr Al‑Gamali (d. 487 AH/1094 AD). The plan of the mosque consists of an irregular triangle with four arcades centering a courtyard. Two minarets flank either side of the façade, and they have undergone several restoration phases throughout their lifetime.


Al-Hussein Mosque

Al-Hussein Mosque is the closest to the hearts of Egyptians and Muslims all over the world.  For Egyptians, Al-Hussein district is not only a residential district but also a spiritual and historical one for housing Al-Hussein Mosque. Al-Hussein or Sayyidna Al-Hussein was the grandson of Prophet Mohammad peace and prayer be upon him and each year Egyptians hold a ceremony to celebrate his birth in Al-Hussein district.   


The Mosque was built during the Fatimid reign and it has three white-marble doors overlooking Khan El-Khalili area and another door next to the mosque’s dome known as the green door.


Mosque History

When first established, the mosque was a shrine built by El-Saleh Talai from stone. It had three doors, two minarets, and a dome on top of the mausoleum.  It is believed that head of Imam Al-Hussein, grandson of Prophet Mohammad, is buried at the mosque.


During the Ayuubid era, Salah El-Din took care of the mosque and built a madrassa to teach the four Sunni schools of Islamic jurisprudence. He also expanded the mosque and the shrine inside it without its original structure after it was burned because of the candles lit by the mosque's visitors. Then Amir Abdel Rahman Katkhuda rebuilt the mosque adding two iwans and a water fountain.


When Khedive Ismail ruled Egypt, he ordered to restore and expand the mosque, which took ten years to complete. Then in 1953, the Egyptian government expanded the mosque to be on a total area of 3340 m2. It established an administrative building, a library at the eastern side along the mosque’s dome, and a women’s prayer area. 


In the first year of the eighties of the 20th century, the Egyptian Antiquities Authority restored the holy shrine and the mosque.


Al-Hussein Mosque has a prophetic monuments hall built by Khedive Abbas Helmi II in 18963, Imam Al-Hussein’s shrine, and the world’s biggest chandelier.  


Al-Fakahany Mosque

The mosque is located at the beginning of Haret Housh Qadm on El-Mo’ez Street. It was built by El-Khalifa El-Zafer Bi-Nasr Allah Abu Mansour Ismail in 543 AH and 1148 AD. In the early 15th century, Amir Yashbak Ben Mahdy decorated the mosque and demolished all buildings blocking the view.


The mosque has two entrances leading to the mosque’s courtyard covered with a decorated ceiling and a minbar in the middle, which is surrounded by four iwans. The four iwans are characterized by its simple structure without any inscription or marble skirting.



The Mosque, Sabil, Kuttab of Suliman Agha El-Silehdar

The Mosque, Sabil, and Kuttab of Suliman Agha El-Silehdar is the jewel of El-Mo’ez Street and it is one the most unique and magnificent Islamic monuments in Cairo


The mosque is located on El-Mo’ez Street and it was built by Prince Suliman Agha El-Silehdar in the ottoman style. It is divided into three riwaqs (arcades) and attached to it a sabil, a kuttab, and several rooms.    


The main façade of the buildings which overlook El-Mo’ez Street includes the facades of the mosque, madrassa, and Sabil, which all built of stone, while the sabil façade covered with white marble and inscriptions. In the entrance, there is a staircase leads to the mosque’s courtyard which is surrounded by four arcades (riwaqs) supported by marble columns.   


The mosque is famous for its pencil-like minaret, and it is full of wooden decorations combining oriental and western features. 


Al-Muayyad Mosque

A vow to Allah, this is the reason why Sultan Al-Muayyad established this grand museum on Al-Mo’ez Street in 818 A.H and 1415 AD. It took 5 years to finish the establishment of the mosque.  Al-Sultan Al-Muayyad was one of Al-Zaher Barquq’s mamluks before he ruled Egypt.


The Mosque’s Description

Al-Muayyad Mosque is one of Cairo’s largest mosques and an architectural masterpiece. The entrance of the mosque belonged to the Madrassa of Sultan Hassan, and Al-Sultan Al-Muayyad bought it along with a copper furnace and attached it to the mosque. After the entrance, there is Sultan Al-Muayyad’s mausoleum and next to it the mausoleum of his son Ibrahim, who died at a young age. On the left, there is a Sabil, built for visitors of the mosque and passersby.


The mosque consists of an open courtyard surrounded by 4 arcades (riwaqs), the tallest and biggest of which is the one toward al-qibla whose wall is covered with colored marble.  


The mosque has two minarets built on top of the two towers of Bab Zuweila. Each has three decorated and inscribed levels. The mosque also has four facades, the main entrance of the mosque is on the eastern façade and has a double staircase and a tall door covered with marble.  


As for the mosque’s dome, it is built from stone and has a marble floor. The dome has two tombs of Sultan Al-Muayyad and his son.