One of the hidden treasures in Islamic Cairo, the Mosque of El Aqmaris a quite significant and interesting monument. Although not included in many travel packages to Egypt, the Mosque of Al Aqmar or the moon lit mosque is really worth the visit for its historical value and remarkable architecture especially at the façade of the mosque. This is why GAT includes it in many of our best tours to Egypt that we present.
Constructed in the 12th century, during the Fatimid ruling period in Egypt, the Mosque of Al Aqmar literally used to shine in the past with its grey stones under the light of the moon. Today it has become one of the monuments ornamenting the Muiz Street explored by many tourists who travel to Egypt for the country’s wonderful Islamic monuments dating to various eras.
Situated in the heart of the Muiz Street, the center of Cairo in the times of the Fatimids, the Mosque of Al Aqmar is among many notable Islamic monuments located nearby in the same street. This includes the magnificent complex of Qalaun, the Mosque of Al Hakim, and Beit El Sehemy, the most wonderful and preserved historical house in Cairo.
Tourists who spend their vacation in Egypt find it easy to reach the Muiz Street as it is simply situated in parallel with the famous Khan El Khalili market. The tourist can take a taxi, stop at the famous Mosque of Al Azhar, pass to the other side of the rout, enter the Muiz Street where he can find the Mosque of Al Aqmar after 10 minutes walking escorted by some of the most interesting Islamic monuments in Egypt.
The Fatimids belonged to the Shiite sector of the Islam religion. They believed that the leadership of the Moslems should have been transmitted from the prophet Mohamed to his son in law, Ali and his sons Hassan and Hussein.
After the death of the sixth Shiite Imam, Jaafar El Sadeq, in 765 AD, there was another split in the Shiites. Some followed his eldest son, Ismail, and these were called the Ismailies, while on the other side some followed a younger son, Mousa, and those were called the Twelvers.
The history of the Fatimids has witnessed many periods of glory and also many periods of decline. The Mosque of Al Aqmar was constructed in a period rather described to be among the periods of political and religious crisis.
The mosque was constructed in the period from 1121 until 1125 AD and the builder of the mosque was Mamoun El Bataihi, the Vizier the Fatimid Caliph; El Amir.
The Mosque of Al Aqmar was the first mosque to be constructed in Egypt with the entrance not on an axis with the Qibla wall in the direction of Mecca as the entrance of the mosque had to inline with the borders of the street at the time.
Moreover, the façade of the mosque is the first one in Cairo to have a magnificent stone decoration. The salient section of this decoration with its pierced medallion appeared in the mosque of Al Aqmar for the first time in Egypt and it became a stereotype of many buildings around Egypt afterwords.
The stone inscriptions below the decoration notes the name of the constructer of the mosque; “The construction of this Mosque was ordered by Al Amer Be Ahkam Allah.”
The decoration of the façade of the Mosque of Al Aqmar is featured with its iconic compositions of stone which is matchless in Egypt and it has some Quranic inscriptions as well.
The panel above the entrance to the mosque is decorated from the top left side with a mosque and some stars that reflect the pledge that the world will not be drowned and that the family of the Shiite will save the community from astray.
With centuries passing by, the level of the street has been raised considerably and this is why tourists visiting the mosque during their holiday in Egypt has to take a set of stairs to descend inside the mosque.
The interior of the mosque is mostly original with some wonderful Quran verses in the Kufic scripts with some arabesque backgrounds survived until today.
Restoration works of the Minbar and the Mihrab of Al Aqmar mosque were carried out during the reign of Sultan Barquq at the end of the 14th century. The marble Mihrab we see today in the mosque was actually created by the Bohras community, a section of the Ismailies sector of Shiite, during their huge restoration that was carried out in 1993.
The Mosque of Al Aqmar is also featured with its original stone minaret characterized with its circular shape and simple yet charming decoration. Constructed in the Fatimid outline of architecture, the minaret of Al Aqmar mosque is the only surviving Fatimid minaret in Egypt; together with the two huge minarets of Al Hakim Mosque, located nearby close to the El Fetouh Gate and the ancient walls of Cairo.
Today tourists enjoying their Vacation in Egypt would commonly visit the magnificent historical Khan El Khalili market and then take a tour walking around Islamic Cairo to admire the beauty of the monuments situated in the area.
With important highlights like Al Hakim Mosque, Al Azhar Mosque and Qalaun Complex, the visitors should not miss exploring the beauty and the charm of smaller monuments like the mosque of Al Aqmar.