Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Al-Azhar Mosque

Al-Azhar Mosque
  Located in El Hussein Square, the Al-Azhar (the most blooming), established in 972 (361 H) in an arcade style shortly after the founding of Cairo itself, was originally designed by the Fatimid general Jawhar El-Sequili (Gawhara Qunqubay, Jawhar al-Sakkaly) and built on the orders of Caliph Muezz Li-Din Allah. Located in the center of an area teaming with the most beautiful Islamic monuments from the 10th century, it was called "Al-Azhar" after Fatama al-Zahraa, daughter of Prophet Muhammad (peace and prayers be upon him). He imitates both the Amr Ibn El-As and Ibn Tulun mosques. The first Fatimid monument in Egypt, Al-Azhar was both a meeting place for Shi'a students and through the centuries, it has remained a focal point of the famous university which has grown up around it. It is under Yaqub Ibn Cals that the mosque became a teaching institute. It is the oldest university in the world, where the first lecture was delivered in 975 AD. Today, the university built around the Mosque is the most prestigious of Muslim schools, and students are highly esteemed for their traditional training. While ten thousand students once studied here, today, university courses are conducted in adjacent buildings and the Mosque is reserved for prayer. In addition to religious studies, modern language schools medicine, science and abroad have also been added.

View outside the Al-Azhar Mosque
 Architecturally, the mosque is a palimpsest of all styles and influences that went through Egypt, with much of it having been renovated by Abderrahmane Khesheda. There are five very fine minarets with small balconies and intricately carved columns. It has six entrances, with the main entrance being the 18th Century Bab el-Muzayini (the door of the salon), where students were once shaved. This door opens onto a small courtyard and the Aqbaughawiya Medersa to the left, which was built in 1340 and serves as a library. On the right is the Taybarsiya Medersa built in 1310 which has a very beautiful mihrab. The Quaitbay entrance was built in 1469 and has a minaret built atop. Inside is a large courtyard that is 275 by 112 feet, which is surrounded by porticos supported by over three hundred columns of marble of ancient origin. To the east, the prayer hall which is larger than the courtyard and has several rows of columns. The Kufic inscription inside the mihrab is original, though the mihrab has been amended several times, and behind is a hall added in 1753 by Abd el-Rahman Katkhuda. At the northern end is the tomb of Jawhar El-Madrasa Sequili.

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