In this guide, you will explore Al-Aqmar Mosque's celestial beauty on Cairo's Al-Muiz Street. Immerse in Fatimid history and intricate Kufic inscriptions.
|Location||Al-Muiz Street in Cairo|
|Known As||The Moonlight Mosque|
|Building Style||Fatimid Architecture|
|Constructed Date||1211 - 1125 AD|
The moonlit Al-Aqmar mosque is a celestial gem that radiates blessed alluring rays of wonder and greatness showcasing the excellence and brilliance of the Fatimid artistic and architectural styles. Al Aqmar Mosque is found in the heart of Al-Muiz Street which is one of the biggest and richest streets all over Cairo that contains lots of hypnotic Islamic sights and attractions that reflect a great part of Egypt’s great history, traditions, and customs and it was the essential street in Cairo when it was rebuilt during the 11th century. The northern part of El-Muiz Street was recently renovated & opened to the public and it is currently considered one of the most attractive parts of Cairo.
Although it is a small one, it is really amazing and it is usually called "The Moonlight Mosque" and has some incredible architectural features that make it a unique one when compared with the other mosques around. Al-Aqmar Mosque was established around 1125 AD during the Fatimid era when Al-Ma’mun Al-Bata’ihi was ruling Egypt. Lots of historians believe that that mosque was constructed during the reign of Imam Al-Amir Bi-Ahkami-Lah but others believe that it was the reign of the Caliphate of Al-Mustansir what really matters is to know that it was the first mosque all around Cairo to use an offset façade.
Al Aqmar Mosque is one of the most incredible Fatimid examples of architecture which is found in the heart of Cairo in Muizz Street within a magical neighborhood filled with majestic Fatimid caliphal palaces.
The place is very easy to reach from any place in Cairo but it is advisable to hire a travel agency that will provide a vehicle with a skilled driver plus a seasoned tour guide who will uncover all the interesting facts and tales about these epic attractions.
The Al-Aqmar mosque was constructed by the Legendary Fatimid vizier by the name of al-Ma'mun al-Bata'ihi during his tenure from 1121 all the way to 1125. This took this position in a time of a religious and political crisis during the Fatimid Caliphate, following the First Crusade.
Al-Ma'mun implemented reforms and restored ceremonial elements of the powerful caliphate. He also undertook other construction projects and renovations in the Fatimid Incredible Palaces. His background in poverty and early exposure to building skills may have contributed to his architectural achievements. However, he was arrested and executed in 1128. The mosque's location near the Fatimid Great Palace, along with concerns about security, resulted in its lack of a minaret.
The mosque's name, "Al-Aqmar" is an epithet of the patron associated with light, akin to other mosques like Al-Azhar mosque and Al-Hakim mosque. It underwent restoration by a Mamluk prince known as Yalbugha al-Salimi in 1393 or 1397, including the addition of a minaret and shop stalls. Various elements like the minbar, mihrab, and ablutions area were also restored or replaced.
During Muhammad Ali Pasha's rule in the 19th century, Prince Sulayman Agha al-Silahdar further restored the mosque and constructed a nearby mosque. The Dawoodi Bohras in 1993 extensively renovated the mosque, which included replacing the mihrab with a marble Minbar and reconstructing part of the southern half of the exterior façade which was criticized for sacrificing historical elements, especially in the interior.
The is renowned for its architectural brilliance because of two magnificent elements the façade’s decorations and the floor’s plan design. The mosque is known to be the first building in the history of Cairo to be alignment with the street. The layout of the mosque is hypostyle which has an internal square courtyard which is surrounded by epic roofed sections which are defined by great rows of 4 centered arches.
The mosque’s prayer hall contains three bays and the courtyard’s gallery has one bay, where every bay is covered by a shallow brick dome that features several phenomenal Fatimid monuments. The mosque has a very magical vaulted ceiling that was added in the 14th-century restoration process.
The vaulted ceilings resemble the types that were used in the Mamluk monument Khanqah of Faraj ibn Barquq during the early days of the 15th century. The mosque holds a marvelous floor plan which aligns its façade with the street which at the same time maintains interior orientation toward the epic qibla.
The mosque has some different variations in the wall thickness to achieve internal symmetry and accommodate the difference in the angle. The alignment of the mosque was highly affected by Muizz Street becoming marmorized by all the Fatimid caliphal palaces.
The mosque held a number of a row of ships which provided rental income that led to the enlargement and preservation of the mosque for ages until the shops were buried with time as the street rose in height. The amazing architectural design is very similar to the Mosque of al-Salih Tala'i, constructed later in the same century, where excavated shops are visible below street level.
The mosque has a very magnificent interior filled with marvelous Kufic inscriptions with a floriated background along the arches in the courtyard which much of it is not very preserved. In the 14th century, the Fatimid mihrab was replaced by a mamluk-style mihrab with marvelous marble paneling. In the 90s, a restoration process took place to add modern marble.
During the Bohra restoration, the simple stepped crenellations at the climax of the courtyard. All the original decorative crenellations disappeared in the early 20th century which was recorded during the 19th century openwork designs and drawings which are filled with spectacular geometric and interlacing motifs.
The mosque’s minaret was constructed in the Mamluk period during a restoration work in 1393 or 1397 by Prince Yalbugha al-Salimi. The lower part of the minaret is crested from a brick covered in stucco which is adorned with convex molding, stone muqarnas, and a band of carved arabesques with openwork bosses in the middle. The upper part of the minaret fell in 1412 and was replaced by a cylindrical finial during the Ottoman age.
The most enchanting aspect of Al Aqmar is the renowned elaborate façade, distinguished by its decorative elements that carry artistic symbolic magic. Above the entrance is a huge magnificent epigraphic medallion that truly stands out featuring amazing inscriptions of famous names which are "Muhammad and 'Ali" surrounded by a Qur'anic verse emphasizing the concept of purity.
The Fatimid has declared that these verses were statements of their legitimacy and Shi'i ideology. The façade is adorned with rich recesses that have flat muqarnas panels and scalloped-shell hoods. The left beveled corner is a unique feature that helps facilitate traffic to turn around the corner. The left side of the façade is Ali’s name in the center while it is encircled by five linked names of Muhammads.
The Bohras resorted to the right side of the portal which was covered by another building. The façade has many abstract symbols, like a window grille with a hanging lamp and a six-pointed star symbolizing “ shubbāk “ the Fatimid victory. There are a number of carved panels that look like doors that hold interpretations which is a reference of a famous hadith.
The panels of the façade symbolize the doors of the caliph's court and al-Ma'mun al-Bata'ihi the mosque's founder a pivotal position as master of the panels of the door and the window will provide tangible objects displaying metaphorical meanings which are connected to the historical context of the rituals of the great Fatimid caliphal. The inscription of the main foundation of the mosques is found on the summit of the façade just below the cornice. it mentions the reigning caliph al-Amir, his father al-Musta'li, and the vizier al-Bata'ihi.
The reigning caliph's father name, al-Musta'li, takes a central position on top of the entrance door for the most absolute exposure. The inscriptions’ upper band is carved in relief with floriated letters while the lower band is known to feature small letters in the background with a floriated stem.
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The Al-Aqmar Mosque, also known as the moonlit mosque is an important historical mosque located in Muizz Street in Cairo. It was built by the Fatimid caliph Al-Mustansir Billah between 1121 all the way to 1125.
The importance of the mosque comes from its architectural significance which is able to shed light on the exquisite craftsmanship and intricate design characteristic of the Fatimid period. The mosque is famous for its distinctive and beautiful façade thus making it one of the finest examples of Fatimid architecture. It has the power to shed light on the rich cultural and historical heritage of Egypt that was created in the Fatimid dynasty. It also remains a very important religious attraction for all the local residents and visitors.
The façade of the Al-Aqmar Mosque is a magnificent piece of art that is notable for its intricate and ornate design. It features a finely detailed stucco façade with a variety of geometric patterns and inscriptions in Kufic scripts. The facade is adorned with inscriptions from the Quran, as well as epigraphic decorations that add to its architectural beauty. The combination of various decorative elements and the delicate craftsmanship of the façade make the Al-Aqmar Mosque a remarkable example of Islamic architectural artistry.
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Egypt has a variety of delicious cuisines but we recommend “Ful & Ta’meya (Fava Beans and Falafel)”, Mulukhiya, “Koshary”, a traditional Egyptian pasta dish, and Kebab & Kofta, the Egyptian traditional meat dish.
The best time to travel to Egypt is during the winter from September to April as the climate becomes a little tropical accompanied by a magical atmosphere of warm weather with a winter breeze. You will be notified in the week of your trip if the Climate is unsafe and if any changes have been made.
You should pack everything you could ever need in a small bag so you could move easily between your destinations.
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Wear whatever feels right and comfortable. It is advised to wear something light and comfortable footwear like a closed-toe shoe to sustain the terrain of Egypt. Put on sun block during your time in Egypt in the summer to protect yourself from the sun.
The best activity is by far boarding a Nile Cruise between Luxor and Aswan or Vise Versa. Witness the beauty of Egypt from a hot balloon or a plane and try all the delicious Egyptian cuisines and drinks plus shopping in old Cairo. Explore the allure and wonders of the red sea in the magical city resorts of Egypt like Hurghada and many more by diving and snorkeling in the marine life or Hurghada. Behold the mesmerizing western desert by a safari trip under the heavenly Egyptian skies.
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Arabic is the official language and Most Egyptians, who live in the cities, speak or understand English or at least some English words or phrases. Fewer Egyptians can speak French, Italian, Spanish, and German. Professional tour guides, who work in the tourism sector, are equipped to handle visitors who cannot speak Arabic and they will speak enough English and other languages to fulfill the needs of all our clients.
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