January 19, 2008

Mosque of Sultan Al-Muayyad

Posted in English, Places, Reflections at 9:24 pm by Rou...

Mosque of Sultan Al-Muayyad Sheikh* lies immediately to the west of Bab Zoueila; inside Fatimid Cairo.


The mosque was built on the site of an old jail, where Al-Muayyad had been imprisoned when he was still a Mamluk soldier. During his incarceration, he vowed to replace the prison with a mosque if he ever came to power, which he verily did on 1415 after becoming a Sultan.


However, he lavishly spent lots of money on its construction by means of tax money, and took parts from other mosques to include into his. One of the famous things he placed into his mosque was the superb bronze-plated wooden entrance door, which originally belonged to the Sultan Hassan mosque. This grounded hatred of people to this mosque to the extent of calling it: جامع الخطيئة” or “Sin Mosque”


The Complex of Sultan Al-Muayyad Sheikh, in the vein of most of the Mamluk’s architecture, is far beyond merely a place of worship and praying. It includes a mosque, Sultan’s mausoleum, in addition to a school that was one of the outstanding academic institutions of the fifteenth century where more than 200 students had been taught by great scientists such as “Imam Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani” of Palestine.


The burial chamber that has Al-Muayyad’s mausoleum and marble tomb includes also the tomb of his son, Ibrahim.


The mosque originally had 3 minarets; one collapsed after a short period of its construction, while the other two were built by the architect Muhammad ibn al-Qazzaz using the towers of Bab Zoueila as both buttresses and bases from which the two identical minarets rise to be seen from both the inside and the outside of Fatimid Cairo.


The view from the roof of the mosque is well worth the climb because it offers a superb perspective on the extent of the medieval city to the north and the south. From the other side of the roof, immediately next to the mosque, a large building which looks like a small palace can be seen; this, in fact, is the bath-house (Hammam) of Al-Muayyad, which has fallen into disrepair.   


There are some elements that beautifully identify the interior of the mosque such as:

– Painted wooden panels known as “Damascus ceilings”

– Wooden pulpit (Minbar) decorated with geometric designs called “star patterns”, in the center of which is a six-pointed star (Ters), around this is an engraved composition with designs resembling arrowheads (kinda) surrounded by four-sided polygons (Loza).

– The bench (Dikka) of the Mouballegh; a wide bench of marble used for communicating the words of the Imam during the prayer.

– The Riwaq style (Columns arranged into rows).

– The colored marbles on the Qibla wall along with the blue Ottoman qashani tiles on the far right of the Qibla wall that were added during restoration work by Ibrahim Pasha, the son of Muhammad Ali.

– “Muqarnas” designs in top of the burial chamber to cover the octagon resulting from breaking the square level to reach the circular design of the dome.



* Al-Mu’ayyad Shaykh, was the forth Sultan of Circassian (Burgi) Mamluks in Egypt after Sultan Barquq, Sultan Faraj ibn Barquq, and Sultan Abdul-Aziz.


* Photos by Camel.



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