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

The synagogue of Ben Ezra

(Other names: El-Geniza Synagogue, El-Yaho church)

In the Encyclopedia Britannica, a Synagogue is described as “A prayer place for the Jews”.

In old Greek it means: “The usual place where the Jews assemble to receive religious teachings and to worship” Some of these Temples were built close to a source of water, as much as for protection from any attack, not just for ablution!

The Synagogue of Ben Ezra was originally named El-Shamieen Church, and is situated behind the “hanging church”. The Synagogue once had an old copy of the Old Testament, and it was said that Ezra the Prophet (Al-Azir) had written it.

It is believed that the site of the Synagogue where the box of Baby Moses was found.
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The Ben Ezra Synagogue was originally a Christian church that the Copts had to sell, to the Jews, in 882A.D in order to pay the annual taxes imposed by the Muslim rulers of the time, and therefore Abraham Ben Ezra, who came from Jerusalem during the reign of Ahmed Ibn Tulun, bought the church for the sum of 20,000 dinars.

 

Through the centuries, the Synagogue received extensive restorations and renovations until it reached its present state. The present building dates back to 1892; the original one had collapsed and a new one was built, echoing it.

A description of the Synagogue

It is built in the shape of a basilica (rectangle), consisting of 2 floors; the 1st dedicated for the men while the 2nd is dedicated for the women. The entrance is situated on the north side

The 1st floor:

It is rectangular in shape, measuring 17m in length and 11.3m wide. It is divided into 3 parts, the largest being the middle one (4.75 m in width); these parts are divided by steel bars painted in a marble-like color.

There is a platform located in front of the sanctuary, where the rabbi stands to read the Torah. The lector platform is in an octagonal shape and is made of marble. A copper fence is situated on the 8th side of the platform, where the Torah, and its rolls, is rested. There is a memorial Stella located in front of the platform. In the middle of this Stella is a top part consisting of 2 semi-arches carried on 3 pillars, with a height of 85cm. there are 2 rooms on each side of the Holy Ark on the 1st floor.

The Most Important Decorations of the Synagogue: 

Geometrical Decoration:

This decoration goes back to the Turkish Period. It is clearly seen on the side halls with patterns such as, star patterns, pentagonal patterns and rectangles.

 

Floral decorations:

Used as a background for the geometrical patterns, they are also found around the Star of David in the middle of the ceiling. Here is a mixture of the Hatai and the Roman decorations, which are floral patterns and are called “Ottoman Arabesque”. This decoration includes floral patterns, palmettos and lotus flower. The south eastern side of the top of the Torah closet is decorated with stalactites, on top of which is a semi circle with ray decorations. The frame of the Torah Ark is a mimic decoration and on each of the two sides are 2 wooden columns with geometrical patterns. The 2 columns have stalactite capitals of the Ottoman period.

The hanging church

The Hanging Church is considered the oldest church in the area of Al-Fustat (Old Cairo).

It is known as Al-Muallaka (the hanging) because it was built on the ruins of two old towers that remained from an old fortress called the Fortress of Babylon. It was dedicated to The Virgin Mary and St. Dimiana.

It dates back to the end of the 3rd Century A.D and the beginning of the 4th Century A.D, but it has been reconstructed and renovated several times since. Some historians believe that it was built earlier, and it might have been a Roman Temple that was later converted to a Roman Church, and at a later date still, it became a Coptic Church. This was proved by the discovery, in 1984, of the scenes, on the western side of the right aisle of the church, which contained pagan Roman Gods, but layers of plaster had covered them.

This church has played an important role in the history of the Coptic Church because it became the seat of the Patriarchs after transferring it from Alexandria to Al-Fustat. The 66th patriarch Anba Christodolos (1039-1079 A.D) was the first Pope to chant the Holy Liturgy in the church. This was maintained in El-Mullaka Church until the 14th Century, when it was transferred to Abu Sefein church.

There are 110 icons here, the oldest of which dates back to the 8th Century, but most of them date to the 18th Century. Nakhla Al- Baraty Bey gave some of them as gifts, in 1898 A.D, when he was the overseer of the church.

The French monk Vansleb, who was sent to Egypt in 1671 by King Louis XIV in order to study the state of the churches and the monasteries of Egypt, mentioned that he had seen on one of the walls of the Hanging Church, inscriptions written by the hand of the great Muslim commander Amr Ibn El-As, asking the Muslim people to treat this church with respect.

The Plan of the Church:

It takes the shape of a basilica and it has a wooden roof in the shape of Noah’s Ark.

The church was once very spacious but it became much smaller, throughout the ages, after several modifications. Obeid Bin Khozam did the last modification in 1755 A.D. It now measures 23.5m in length, 18.5in width and 9.5m in height.

It consists of the following elements:

1- Entrance known as The narthex.

2- The nave and the two aisles.

3- The three Sanctuaries (located to the east of the church, the most important being the middle one, which is dedicated to The Virgin Mary)
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Some steps lead to the middle entrance. On both sides of this entrance there is a door that leads to 2 upper floors, dedicated to the dwelling of the priest.

In front of the entrance there is a vestibule that was used as a resting place for visitors.

Inside, the southern aisle is separated from the nave by 8 marble columns, linked from above with a wooden architrave, which is supported on arches. The northern aisle is also separated from the nave by 8 marble columns but there is no architrave.

Nearly in the middle of the southern aisle there is a door, which leads to a small church with a sanctuary. Inside this small church there is a baptistery, which is a deep basin of reddish granite, which probably dates back to the 5th Century. It is decorated for the sign of water in Hieroglyphics.

Of the three sanctuaries situated on the eastern side, the most important is the middle one, which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. In the centre of this main sanctuary there is an altar made of marble. Above it there is a wooden dome, supported by 4 marble columns, and decorated with religious scenes, such as Jesus on his throne surrounded by the four evangelist saints, the disciples, and angels.

In front of the middle altar, in the nave of the church, is a pulpit that stands on 15 columns, decorated with relief and mosaics, symbolically representing Jesus, the 12 Disciples, John the Baptist and the Virgin Mary.

There are 7 altars in the Church, 3 of them situated in the main sanctuary, and 3 located in the right sanctuary, among which is the altar of Tecla Hymanot, the Ethiopian Saint, and another that was recently discovered in the northern side.

The church of St. Sergio

The church of St. Sergio (also known as St. Sergius or Abu Serga) was built in the centre of the Ancient Roman fort of Babylon. The church is considered as one of the sites visited by the Holy Family during their escape from King Herod to the land of Egypt.

The church most probably dates back to the 5th Century, although some historians believe that it was actually built in the 8th Century. We are not sure of the origin of Saint Sergius, as in the history of the Coptic Church there are two Saints with the same name. The first one was an Egyptian who died, together with his father and sister, during the intense Christian persecution. People today celebrate his memory every year on the 7th of February. The second one was a servant of the Roman Emperor Maximilian, and he was martyred in Syria at the beginning of the 4th Century.

The Church takes the shape of a basilica with a narthex, a nave, and 2 aisles, which are separated from the nave by 12 columns with Corinthian capitals, 10 of stone, one of marble and one of rosette granite. There are 3 Sanctuaries on the east side; each Sanctuary contains an altar, with a wooden dome, supported by 4 marble columns. The dome of each altar has religious scenes of Christ, Angels, and the 4 evangelists. There is a pulpit on the northeast side of the nave, which is made of marble, though originally it was made of wood, incrusted with ebony and ivory.

The pulpit is used once, each year, in the prayer of Great Friday. The central Sanctuary has a wooden screen, which dates back to the 13th Century, incrusted with panels of ebony and ivory. The frieze and the icons of the church are remarkable, most date back to the 15th and 16th Centuries, some were damaged and restored later.

One of the most important locations in this church is the cave in which the Holy Family stayed during their journey into Egypt. It has a nave and 2 aisles and the ceiling is domed. At the end of the southern aisle of the Cave, is a baptistery.
On the 1st of June, each year, the church of St. Sergio commemorates the arrival of the Holy Family by having prayers inside the church of the cave.

Valley Of The Kings

Apart from the archaeological interest in understanding how a New Kingdom settlement once looked like, the worker’s village of Deir El-Medina also reveals vital information about how New Kingdom tombs were built from the various ostraca (a piece of rock with drawings or writing on it) and papyri found in the village or in the nearby “great pit”. When these finds are added to the ones discovered at the Valley of the Kings, a clear picture of how these tombs were built emerges. Add to this the many tombs left in various stages of completion and a full picture of tomb construction in the New Kingdom can be gleaned, though some details are vaguer and speculation still has to be employed.

Location
So far there is no evidence relating to why each tomb in the valley was located in its specific location and when looking at a map of the valley one thing seems to emerge; they appear to have been dug in a random manner. Because of this a few tomb collisions did occur, but it is amazing that these did not happen more often.

The location for a new tomb was chosen by the vizier, who was accompanied by the architects and chief stonemasons, and later approved of by the king. It would have been harder for the later viziers to select sites due to the best locations in the cliffs already being used and the subsequent lack of space caused by the earlier tombs, as well as the knowledge that the valley had an inclination to flood. The correct positioning of the site must have been a very important decision to make and several factors would have influenced the choice; what was the quality of the rock? Was the site easily accessed and secure? Was the rock face suitable for a tomb entrance? The commencement and subsequent abandonment of several tombs occurs throughout the valley, though any detailed study on them has never occurred. The many hill ends, which protrude from the edges of the valley, became the setting for most of the 20th Dynasty tombs due to these being the most suitable places to cut new tombs. Though some scholars say that maps must have been made in order to avoid running into already existing tombs, this seems more like speculation as the valley had been chosen for its secrecy, hence the mortuary temples being separated from their relevant burial sites and built on the other side of the mountain, and any maps would have been a boon to tomb robbers.

Once the site had been chosen a dedication ceremony may have occurred as foundation deposits, similar to those used in temple dedications, have been discovered adjacent to many of the tomb entrances, though some scholars reject this. As these tombs were being cut into the body of the mountain that was sacred to the goddesses Hathor and Meretseger, and knowing the ancient Egyptians belief in religion and magic, it would be feasible to consider that some kind of dedication or offering was made to appease the gods; the gods who would watch over the deceased king. These foundation deposits contained many different items including objects of ritual importance. It is unclear why not every tomb had pits dug for these deposits, though some may have been stolen or simply lost through time.

Planning
Once more speculation occurs and this time it is about the discovery of two important documents which show the layouts of two separate tombs. This speculation is about whether the designs are plans of tombs to be constructed or pictures of tombs already constructed.

There is a plan of the tomb of Ramesses IV (KV2), in the Turin museum and it is a very detailed representation of the tomb, showing the corridors, and their names, as well as the placement of the king’s sarcophagus. The papyrus was written in hieratic and it also gives the various dimensions of the tomb. The debate, however, is whether it was actually a plan for the tomb, or a drawing after its completion

An ostraca was found in the debris of the tomb of Ramesses IX (KV6), which is now in the Cairo museum, whilst the tomb was being cleared in 1888. A simple illustration, with no details, it shows the access stairway next to the ramp used to draw the sarcophagus into the tomb. It also shows the side niches, or annexes, used to hold statues and/or accessories, doors and corridors, recesses and pillars, the ramp to the lower levels, and the burial chamber, including the floor recess for the sarcophagus. Again, whether it was actually a plan for the tomb, or a drawing after its completion is questioned by scholars.

Apart from the two aforementioned tomb illustrations, many ostraca have been found, at both Deir El-Medina and the Valley of the Kings, that also show designs of various tombs, several of which have been studied and been matched with their relevant tombs though, as in the case of the two illustrations above, the question of them being a “blueprint” or a “memento” has not been decided upon.

A list of the KV’s discovered (so far!)
KV 01 Ramses VII KV 22 Amenhetep III KV 52 Animals
KV 02 Ramses IV KV 23 Ay KV 53 Unknown
KV 03 Cache of Ramses III KV 24 Unknown KV 54 Cache of Tutankhamen
KV 04 Ramses XI KV 25 Akhenaten (?) KV 55 Tiye, Akhenaten or Other
KV 05 Sons of Ramses II KV 26 Unknown KV 56 Unknown
KV 06 Ramses IX KV 27 Unknown KV 57 Horemheb
KV 07 Ramses II KV 28 Unknown KV 58 Cache of Ay
KV 08 Merenptah KV 29 Unknown KV 59 Unknown
KV 09 Ramses V / VI KV 30 Unknown KV 60 Two Women (Setri In?)
KV 10 Amenmeses KV 31 Unknown KV 61 Unknown
KV 11 Ramses III KV 32 Unknown KV 62 Tutankhamen
KV 12 Unknown KV 42 Hatshepsut-Meryetre KV 63 New Tomb – Unknown
KV 13 Bay KV 43 Tuthmosis IV
KV 14 Tausert / Setnakht KV 44 Anen (?)
KV 15 Seti II KV 45 Userhet
KV 16 Ramses I KV 46 Yuya and Thuya
KV 17 Seti I KV 47 Siptah
KV 18 Ramses X KV 48 Amenemopet
KV 19 Mentuherkhepshef KV 49 Maya (?)
KV 20 Hatshepsut KV 50 Animals
KV 21 Two Queens KV 51 Animals