The mosque of Sultan Hassan and madrassah

The mosque of Sultan Hassan and madrassah

This is one of the extraordinarily wonderful Islamic Monuments In the Islamic World. If Ancient Egypt is proud of the Pyramids of Giza, Islamic Egypt has to be proud of the Sultan Hassan Madrassa. The founder of this gigantic monument is the Sultan Hassan, son of the great Mamluke Sultan Al-Nasser Mohamed Ibn Qalawoun. Sultan Hassan ruled twice, the first time in 1347, when he was 13 years old, only to be dethroned by the other Mamluke princes and generals. The second time was in 1356A.D, and before he had time to put an end to the power of the princes and high officials, they revolted against him, and the chief of the army with other generals attacked him. It said that he escaped from the Citadel and hid in Cairo; but he was found and imprisoned, never to be seen again! Most probably he was murdered 16 years after his ascension to the throne. Either way, he left 10 sons and 6 daughters.

The Sultan Hassan gave order for the construction of this Madrassa to be under the supervision of Prince Mohamed Ibn Baylik Al-Muhssani in 1361A.D, and the work continued for 4 years. The Mosque was almost complete when Sultan Hassan disappeared or was killed. It was finished by one of his functionaries whose name was Bashir Al-Gamdar. The site of the Madrassa was previously known as Souk Al-Khayl or the Horses Market. The Madrassa was built of stones, but some internal parts and details were built of bricks, faced with stones.

The Madrassa-Mosque was built according to the cruciform, an open courtyard surrounded by 4 iwans. It contains 4 Madrassas or religious schools and is 7,906 square metres big. It is very distinguishable due to its many sides. It has 4 fa�ades, the most important being the 2 main facades.

The most remarkable is the northeast one. It is 145m long and 38m tall! Its shear wall has 4 pairs of windows set vertically, and at the top of the wall is a massive cornice of 5 layers of stalactites, projecting about 1.5m.

The Sahn, or the court, of the Mosque is almost square, about 34m long and 32m wide, with a large ablution fountain in the centre, which is covered with a wooden dome, carried on 8 marble columns around its capital decorated with a band of inscriptions of The Qur’an (the verse of Al-Kursi). At each corner of the sahn is a door that leads to one of the 4 Madrassas (schools); the biggest one being the Hanafiyya Madrassa, which occupies an area of 898 square metres.

The quibla iwan is the biggest of the 4 iwans of the Mosque. In its wall, 2 windows in recesses, and an oculus above the mihrab, the pointed-arched mihrab is fine, and covered with marble, and there are small double columns supporting the frame with complex joggled voussoirs.

On the rectangular outer frame is a band of Naskhi inscription. Flanking the Mihrab are windows with bronze grills. The marble Minbar is covered with coloured panels of marble decorated in its upper part by floral motifs.

The Dekkat Al-Mouballegh or the bench of the repeater is situated at the front of the quibla iwan, and it is made of marble, raised on 8 pillars and 3 piers. There are 2 doors opened in the Quibla wall leading to a mausoleum dome behind the mihrab, where the Sultan is supposed to be buried. The Mausoleum dome is 21 square metres and its decoration is similar to that of the quibla iwan.

The citadel and the mosque of Mohamed Ali

Mohamed Ali Mosque is amongst the most interesting Mosques in Egypt. It stands proudly on the highest point inside the courtyard of the Citadel of Saladin, and is also called the Alabaster Mosque. The architect was Yousf Boushnaq, a Turkish man who had come over from Istanbul to build this great Mosque for Mohamed Ali, the ruler of Egypt from1805 until 1849.

He based his plans on the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul, and the construction began in 1830 A.D. The work continued ceaselessly until the death of Mohamed Ali in 1849, and had to be finished during the reign of his successors. Mohamed Ali was buried in the tomb situated on the south-eastern side of Beit Al Salah, on the right side of the entrance that leads to the main section.

In 1899 the Mosque showed signs of cracking and repairs were undertaken, but some of these repairs were not adequate. Therefore, in 1931, during the reign of King Fuad I, a committee was set up, comprising of several great architects, which eventually presented a report recommending the demolition of the big main dome, the semi domes and the small domes, and then reconstructing them according to the original design. Between 1931 and 1939, the project, including demolition, building and rebuilding, painting and gilding, was undertaken; the total cost being 100,000 LE.

The main material used for the construction was limestone, but the lower parts of the Mosque, and the forecourt, are faced to a height of 11.5m with alabaster.

The Mosque is rectangular in shape and consists of two sections:

The Eastern Section, which is the main section, called “Beit al Salah” or “House of Prayer”.

The Western Section, called the “Sahn” “or “Courtyard”.

The Eastern Section (The “Beit al Salah” or “House of Prayer”)

The eastern section is the part that was dedicated to prayer. It is square in shape, each side measure 41m, and has a roof with a central dome (52m in height) resting on four large arches supported by massive piers. Surrounding the big central dome there are four half domes, while there are four more small domes covering the corners.

The marble mihrab is covered by a half-dome at the lower level. The domes are pointed and covered with medallions and other motifs. The interior dome is impressive because of its size and shape, similar to the Mosques of Istanbul. There are 6 medallions around the dome, which include the names of Allah (God) and Mohamed (the Prophet), as well as the names of the four rightly guided Caliphs, namely Abou Bakr, Omar, Othman, and Ali.

The mosque has 2 Minbars or pulpits; the original one is the larger, it is made of wood decorated with gilded ornaments, while the smaller one is of marble, it was gifted to the mosque by king Farouk in 1939 A.D.

Above the entrance is a grand gallery supported on marble pillars with bronze balustrade. To the right of the entrance is the tomb of Mohamed Ali. It is made white marble covered with floral motifs, and pointed and gilded inscriptions. originally Mohamed Ali was not buried in his mosque but later during the time king Abbas I (1849-1854), His body was transferred from Housh El Basha to the inside of the mosque where it rests inside The bronze grill.

The Western Section (The Courtyard or the Sahn)

It is a large open courtyard of about 54 m in length and 53 m in width. It is surrounded by a single arched riwaqs or naves raised on pillars and roofed with small domes.
In the middle of the courtyard there is the ablution fountain, it is octagonal in shape and covered by a large leaded domed canopy resting on 8 pillars with natural ornaments. Inside the dome is another marble small dome and it is octagonal in shape, decorated with floral motifs. In the walls of the riwaqs of the courtyard there are 46 widows. While the Eastern wall which overlooks the Eastern Section, it has 8 windows above which there is a frieze of inscription of the Koran (Surat Al Fath),

Above the entrance to the Easter section there is frieze that bears the name of the Turkish sultan Abd Al Maguid.

Opposite to the doorway of the prayer House, at the far end of the centre of the NW Riwaq is a pavilion, above which is an elaborate French Clock, presented to Mohamed Ali in 1845 by the King Luis Philip in exchange of the obelisk which is now standing in the Concorde square in Paris. This clock has never been working properly!
At the west and the North Corners are 2 slender octagonal minarets that rise to 82 M in height. And has with 2 balconies.

Mosque of Ibn Tulun

The founder :

Ahmed Ibn Tulun ( 263-265 A.H ), born about 835 A.D, he is one of the Turkish commanders in Samarra in Iraqu. He receives his military and theological training in Samarra and Tarsus .His intelligence and courage attracted the attention of the Khalif and in 868 A.D he made proxy for his step-father Bakabak’s governorship of Egypt.

He established himself as an independent ruler for the Province. An abortive attempt to remove him encouraged Ahmed to attach Syria.

Ahmed Ibn Tulun founded a new Capital called Alqatai around the hill of Gabal Yashkur, to the NE of Al Fustat, razing the Christian and the Jewish cemetery that was located in that area.

The Mosque

The site chosen for his mosque was an outcrop of rock called Gabal Yashkur. Is It situated in sharia Al Saliba.

1-It is the oldest intact functioning Islamic monument in Cairo. It is considered the 3rd mosque which was constructed for the whole community or the congregation joined together for the Friday noon prayer.

2- It is also rare preserved example of the art and the architecture of the classical period of Islam.

It is one of the biggest mosques in Egypt. The mosque together with the ziyada occupies an area of 6.5 acres.

The plan of the Mosque:

It is nearly square in shape, measures 162 m. in length and 161 m. in width. The area which is dedicated for the prayer is rectangular in shape measures about 137 m. x 118 m.

It was designed as open court or central square Sahn (about 92 m) Surrounded by four riwaqs. The riwaq of the quibla contains 5 arcades . while each of the other riwaqs consists of 2 arcades.

The mosque surrounded by Ziyadas ( extension) on 3 sides, the Ziyada is an enclosed space or precinct to separate the mosque from the markets and in order to protect the mosque and the prayers from the noise of the street.

Outside the mosque on the quibla wall there was a palace or Dar El Imarah (house of the government, or the ruler residence ), now destroyed, with its own entrance near to the Mihrab from which Ahmed Ibn Tulun used to enter to the mosque before leading the prayer.

The Entrance of the Mosque:

This mosque has19 doors on 3 sides, each door corresponding To another door in the ziyadas, and there are another 3 doors cut in the wall of the quibla. The lintels are composed of palm-trunks, boxed with wood and above a releasing arch, some of these doors still retain their original carving.

The Foundation Slate:

On the right hand central Pier of the 3rd arcade from the sahn is the Foundation Slate ; it includes the Foundation Inscription, it is a rectangular slab of marble ( 1,6 m X 97 cm) written in Kufic inscription and it contains The verse of El Kursi ( Ayat Al Kursi) from the Koran and the date of 265 A.H

The Crenulations:

Both the walls of the mosque and the Ziyada are crowned with crenulations which are similar to the paper cut-outs of human figures with linked arms.

The Sahn ( the courtyard ):

It is square in shape, each of its sides measures about 92 m.

The original courtyard was not paved and filled with pebbles as it is today, because this space was intended for prayer.

The Fawarah in the middle of the Sahn is the 3rd one, the first one was the original built by Ahmed Ibn Tulun. It was gilded and stood on 10 columns of marble. The 2nd one was Al Aziz but was destroyed .The actual one is the third built by The sultan Lagin Al Mansoury among some other works he did for the mosque. ( 14 X 12 m ) and it is 20 m in height. This Fawarah was built by the architect Ibn Al Roumyyah. It has a Mameluk design; it is stood on 4 pointed arches , the zone of transition has stepped corners with a window in the uppermost step and 3 windows of 3 lights on each side. The dome is plain without a drum and raised on squinch. Above, a continuos stalactite frieze runs around the base of the dome and above that a band of Naskhi inscription from the Koran dealing with the ablution.

The Arcades:

The arcades around the courtyard or the Sahn which are deeper on the quibla Riwaq or the sanctuary side are formed by pointed Arches on brick Piers .Rosettes and windows form a continuous and simple decoration. These arcades are supported by piers.

Unlike columns.These Piers are rectangular and decorated with four masonry-engaged columns. Their capitals have the same bell shape as the bases, and both plastered and carved. Originally would seem that all of the arcades had soffits of curved stucco similar to those which have been restored in the Southern arcade.

The arches:

The Arches of the arcades are pointed, They are outlined with an edge of carved stucco, and spring from oblong supports rounded at the corners by pilasters or engaged columns.

The Quibla Riwaq ( The Sanctuary ):

It includes 5 aisles deeper than the others and they are parallel to the Prayer niche ( the Mihrab), while each of the other riwaq includes just 2 aisles . This Riwaq actually has 6 prayer niches or mihrabs

The main Mihrab is in the middle of the quibla wall, it is the tallest and the only concave one The others are flat .It consists of a double pointed arched recess flanked by a pair

Byzantine style marble columns with basket work capitals. Its stucco moluding and the 2 stucco bosses on each side of the arch are original. The interior is decorated in Mameluk style made by the sultan Lajin, the upper decoration of painted wood, and strips of polychrome marble , above which is a band of Naskhi inscription in black mosaic on a gold background containing the shahada. The Dikka of the Mouballegh ( the bench of the Mouballegh) is situated in Riwaq. Al Quibla near the courtyard. It is a wide bench of marble columns used for communicating the words of the Imam during the prayer.

The Ceiling:

The ceiling is composed of Palm logs boxed in wooden panels. Below the ceiling there are a long band of inscription on sycamore wood which runs around the whole mosque contains verses from the Koran. This frieze is 2 Km. In length, and it is calculate one fifteenth of the whole holly book .There is a legend that the boards used for this inscription are left over from the Noah’s Ark.

The Windows:

The upper part of the mosque wall is pierced with pointed arch windows flanked with colonnades .The windows alternate on the outside wall within blind niches with a shell conch .

There are 128 windows and their arrangements on the walls are independent of the arches so that not every arch has a centred window. The functions of these arched windows of the arched windows are providing light and reduce the weight carried by the arches.

Creswell attributes only 4 of the windows stucco grills to the Tulunide Period, those of the plain geometrical design, while the rest displaying a large variety of more complicated geometrical patterns date back to the Fatimide and the Mameluk Periods.

The Minaret:

It stands on the North side of the Ziyada, where a door leads to it is an unusual stone structure with an outer staircase, and a Mameluk top of the type named Mabkhara. This minaret caused controversy among the Cairo’s Architectural historians. We don’t have enough sources to clear this point or determine its date.

Mosque of Amr Ibn-As

Mosque of Amr Ibn Al-As is the first mosque built in Egypt and Africa and It was constructed by Amr Ibn Al-As in 642 AD.

Amr was the Arab general who conquest Egypt to fight against the Roman and He was hailed by the Copts as a liberator. Then he was appointed governor by the Caliph. Amr founded a new capital instead of Alexandria, and that was Al Fustat

In he center of Al Futat was the mosque which later on was named ” The Mosque of Amr” It was surrounded by the plans and houses of Al Fustat. Originally the mosque was overlooking the Nile from the Northwest side .

The mosque was called ” the Crown of the Mosques” and the Antique Mosque. In fact the actual features of the mosque is very different of his first ancient aspect. Many reconstructions, and restorations took place since the time of its foundation till now to be resulted in its actual. The mosque was built in a shape of rectangular low shed of wood and palm leaves supported on columns of palm stems, stones and mud bricks while the floor was covered with gravel. That first simple mosque measures about 29 m. in length and 17 m. in width.

Since the time of the foundation of the mosque many additions and extensions took place, but the most important one was made by the governor Abudllah Ibn Taher during the reign of Caliph Al Mamoun in the 9th century . He extended the mosque adding a new area at the S.W side and that extension was the last one. Thus at that time the mosque measures 120 m. in length and 112 m. in width, and that represents the actual area of the mosque. At the end of the Fatimid period, the mosque was ruined as a result of Al Fustat Fire which took place in 1175 AD. When Al Fustat was burnt by Shawer, the Vizier of the Fatimid Caliph Al Adid, to prevent the crusaders from invading Al Fustat , and that fire continued 54 days.Therefore Saladin rebuilt it and renovated it in 1179 AD. Just before the arrival of the French Expedition to Egypt Mourad Bey one of the Mameluke leaders in the end of the 18th century demolished the mosque and rebuilt it in 1796 AD. Mourad Bey changed the Iwan and the courtyard replacing the seven rows of coumns in the quibla liwan with 6 ones and changing the bays to be perpendicular to the quibla wall instead of being parallel to it. Most probably he built the remaining minarets, one above the right entrance in the façade and the other is situated above the right end of the quibla wall. He renovated the ceiling, and covered the floor with mats and provided the mosque with candelabras. Also he made 4 foundation tablets still existing, bearing poetic verses praising and dating his achievements. One of this tablets is fixed to the quibla wall to the left of the Mihrab.

In 1906 during the reign of khedive Abbas Helmy II, the mosque was restored entirely. These works were achieved by the Arab Antiquities Preservation committee.

At the Southern corner of the quibla Riwaq there is a Mausoleum below a dome, Perhaps it belongs to Abdulla the son of Amr, some Historians cant confirm that, they believe that no honorable figure was buried in that Mausoleum.

One of the most remarkable facts about that mosque, that it was not only a place for prayer but also a very important kind of university 600 years before the foundation of Al Azhar mosque in Cairo. It was the place where lesson circles and religious lectures were held. One of the most important Religious professors and Imams who taught in this mosque, was the Mohamed Ibn Idris Al Shafi’.

Finally we should mention that in the Western addition (Ziada) there was used as a court of low and many trials of law were held