The Al-Azhar Mosque, Arabic
for “the most blooming”, is located in El Hussein Square and
was built in 972 in a portico style just after the birth of
Cairo itself. It was originally designed by the Fatimid
general Jawhar El-Sequili also known as Gawhara Qunqubay,
and Gawhar al-Sakkaly, and ordered by the Caliph Muezz
Situated in the heart of an area redolent with the most
beautiful Islamic monuments from the 10th century, it was
named "Al-Azhar" in honor of Fatama al-Zahraa, daughter of
the Prophet Mohamed. It copied both the Amr Ibn El-As and
Ibn Tulun mosques.
The mosque became a teaching institution under
Yaqoub Ibn Cals.
This is the world’s oldest
university and the first lecture was taught in 975 AD.Today,
the university built around Azhar is the
most famous and most prestigious of Muslim schools,
and those who have studied here are highly esteemed
for their traditional training.
thousand students once studied here, today the
university classes are done in surrounding buildings
and the Azhar is exclusively for prayer.
to the study of religion, they have also added
modern schools of medicine, science and foreign
The mosque’s architecture is a
palimpsest of all styles and influences that have gone
through Egypt, with a large portion of it having been
reconstructed by Abdarrahman Khesheda. Five very fine
minarets with small balconies and intricately carved columns
adorn the mosque. It has six entrances, with the main
entrance built in the 18th century, Bab el-Muzayini, Arabic
for “barber’s gate”, where students were once ceremoniously
This gate leads into a small courtyard which then leads into
the Aqbaughawiya Medersa to the left. Built in 1340, it
serves as a library. On the right is the Taybarsiya Medersa,
which was built in 1310 and contains a very fine mihrab or
niche which points to the direction of Mecca.
Built in 1469 the
Qaitbay Entrance has a minaret built atop.
Surrounded with porticos, the inside is a large
courtyard that is 275 by 112 feet supported by over
three hundred marble columns of ancient origin. The
eastern side contains the prayer hall which is
bigger than the courtyard and has several rows of
The mihrab’s Kufic inscription on the interior is
original, though the mihrab has been changed several
times. Behind the mihrab is a hall added in 1753 by
Abd el-Rahman Katkhuda. At the northern end is the
tomb medersa of Jawhar El-Sequili.
Finished in 1848, the
Ali Mosque or Alabaster Mosque in the Ottoman-style is the
most conspicuous in all of Cairo. For over 150 years it has
dominated the skyline.
When the Ottoman Muhammad 'Ali took
over Cairo in the 1800s, he had all the Mamluk buildings of
the Citadel destroyed and the complex completely rebuilt.