Highlights of Islamic Cairo:
Some of the greatest sights of Islamic Cairo are located in Al-Muizz Al-Deen Street. This street was the main street in the city when it was built back in the 11th century and it is also where mausoleums and palaces were constructed. The northern section of the street (between Bab El-Fotouh and Al-Azhar Street) was recently restored and opened for visitors. This is one of the most picturesque parts of Cairo and that’s why people enjoy spending their time there. The Qala’un Complex here is one of the impressive sights in the city.
The southern part of Islamic Cairo offers some of Cairo’s largest Islamic monuments. One of the best examples of Islamic construction is Cairo’s Citadel. The construction of Cairo’s Citadel began under the Ayyubid general Salah Ad-Din Al Ayyubi in the 12th century. There are three notable mosques inside the walls of the citadel which are: Al-Nasir Muhammed Mosque, Suleyman Pasha Mosque, Muhammed Ali’s Alabaster Mosque, and Al Aqmar Mosque.
One of the impressive and oldest buildings of old Islamic Cairo down El Moez Street is Al Aqmar Mosque. This small, but unique mosque along Al-Muizz Street is one of the oldest buildings in Islamic Cairo. The builders of Al-Qahira, the walled city that today forms the core of Islamic Cairo, were the Fatimids, who ruled Egypt from 969 until 1171. Originating from present-day Tunisia, they conquered Egypt and installed their Shi’a Islamic ideology as the religion of the state.
Who built Al-Aqmar Mosque?
Al-Aqmar Mosque, or the Moonlight Mosque, has several unique architectural features. It was the first mosque in Cairo to use an offset façade—allowing the facade to remain square to the street front, while the rest of the building sits at an angle, aligning with the qibla, the direction of prayer toward Mecca.
Al Aqmar mosque was built during the Fatimid period in 1125 AD under the rule of Al-Ma’mun Al Bata’ihi. Some historians believe that the mosque was originally built during the caliphate of Imam Al Amir bi-Ahkami l-Lah; while others still claim that it was built during the caliphate of Al Mustansir.
The construction of Al-Aqmar Mosque:
The facade itself is also quite unique, decorated with three fluted hoods around the portal and to either side as well as beautiful inscriptions. Many of the features of this mosque later became common in Cairene mosque architecture. The Mosque’s façade is also known for its detailed stonework, while the interior part welcomes all its visitors with a fresh, cooling breeze.
Al Aqmar mosque is considered one of the first hanging mosques in the history of Old Cairo and was originally built higher than street level, above a shopping area and a souk. However, the mosque now appears to be at street level, as the shops kept going higher. The mosque was the first of its kind to be designed with an entrance parallel to the street and adjusted to align with the existing street plan, as opposed to facing the prayer’s Qibla, Mecca. Some historians claim that the mosque’s ceiling was re-done during the restorations of Mamluk Amir Yallugha Al-Salami as this type of architecture was unfamiliar during the Fatimid period.