The golden city of Cairo is filled with incredible marvelous examples of Islamic heritage and culture but nothing like the immortal Ibn Tulan mosque the father of inspiration and innovation as shown across history. The mosque changed the face of architecture across the entire Islamic world but was also able to cross to other borders and different cultures.
Ibn Tulun mosque is known for being the best-preserved mosque in Egypt, Cairo’s oldest intact functioning Islamic monument, and one of the most important historical and architectural achievements in Muslim civilization. It was built by the Emir Ahmed Ibn Tulun who ruled Egypt from 868 to 883 A.D under the rule of the Abbasid Caliph. The mosque was designed by a famous Egyptian Architect called Saiid Ibn Kateb Al-Farghany who was a Christian Orthodox. After taking control of Egypt, he founded a new city called Al-Qata’I on a rocky outcrop said to be the landing site of Noah’s Ark. In May 879 C.E, The construction of a palace complex, a hippodrome, a spiral minaret, a large mosque named after him was completed.
Ibn Tulun mosque is not an ordinary mosque, it’s one of the oldest, largest, and best-preserved mosques in the world as it contains an unbelievable amount of history, allure, and elegance from the early Islamic age. Ibn Tulun mosque is built on a 26,318 sqm, which makes it the third-largest mosque in the world. Ibn Tulun drew inspiration from the ancient mosque of Samarra (Iraq) in his homeland and from the ancient Lighthouse of Alexandria as shown in the minaret. The mosque was constructed in the Samarran style with Abbasid constructions plus constructed around a courtyard, with one covered hall on each of the four sides where the largest one is on the side of the qibla, or direction of Mecca.
The mosque has a square shape 162 meters long, a total number of 42 doors, and consists of three main sections, the praying hall which holds the breathtaking mihrab and minibar, the beautifully decorated courtyard, and the open extensions (wall battlements) that surround the mosque and works as a barrier between the streets and the religious space inside. The mosque and the arches of the courtyard are decorated with some impressive designs in carved stucco and wood. The internal decoration of the mosque was out of this world as some of the decoration patterns can be traced back to the Hellenic and Sassanian eras, on the windows and the arcades which are a combination of floral and geometrical patterns.
Ibn Tulun mosque also had magical calligraphy works on the high section of the walls, the internal frames of the windows, and the mihrab. The minaret is 170 ft in height and modeled after the minarets of the famous city of Samarra, with a beautiful spiral staircase around the outside which makes it the only one of its kind in Egypt. The mosque was restored a couple of times through history, notably between 1296 and 1299 A.D, and most recently in 1890 when the entire mosque was completely restored.
Ibn Tulun Mosque is a rare example where Europeans openly admitted its profound influence on the development of architecture beyond Islamic boundaries as it was the first recorded example of the systematic adoption of piers to carry the arcades and the roof as an alternative to columns. The mosque was also the first building where the pointed arch was used constructively and systematically. Elements as the pointed arch, the wall battlements, and the piers became essential ingredients of Gothic architecture.
The mosque of Ibn Tulun is considered to be one of the most famous Cairo tourist attractions, that can’t be missed during your Egypt vacation. If you want to take an exploring tour that includes visiting Ibn Tulun mosque, then you have to check our Egypt private tours where you will find the best tailor-made tour to all the Egyptian attractions in Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor, and Aswan.
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