The building’s name:
The Great Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha
The mosque is located in the northwest corner inside the Citadel of Salah al-Din. It overlooks the city of Cairo from above, and its majestic minarets can be seen from every point in the city, Cairo, Egypt.
1265 AH / 1848 AD
Ottoman era (during the rule of Muhammad Ali Pasha over Egypt)
Muhammad Ali Pasha the Great (r. 1220 – 1265 AH / 1805 – 1848 AD), the dynasty’s founder, ruled Egypt for nearly a century and a half (1220 – 1372 AH / 1805 – 1952 AD).
The Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha is one of Egypt’s most famous archaeological and tourist attractions. The design of this mosque was borrowed from the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul (built AH 1025 / AD 1616). The mosque’s construction began in 1246 AH / 1830 AD, and work continued without interruption until Muhammad Ali Pasha died in 1265 AH / 1848 AD and was buried in the cemetery he had prepared for himself inside the mosque in the southwestern corner. The works of the walls, domes and minarets were completed. When Abbas Pasha I (r. 1265-1270 AH / 1848-1854 AD) took over, he ordered the completion of the remaining marble works, engravings and gilding and added the marble construction and the copper shrine to the mausoleum of the builder. In 1931 AD, during the reign of King Fouad I (r. 1917-1936 AD), a major defect occurred in the main dome and the half-domes around it, so it was rebuilt according to its old form in terms of architecture and decoration. The mosque was inaugurated after its restoration in 1939 AD during the reign of King Farouk I (reigned in the period 1936 – 1952 AD).
The building has four stone facades, all covered with Egyptian alabaster. The northeastern facade of the building is the main one. In the middle is the main entrance, a door opening with two wooden shutters, topped by a semi-circular arch, the interior of which is decorated with overlapping vegetal motifs. The façade to the right of the entrance includes eleven vertical recesses in its wall. Below each recess, a window opening is provided with hollow vegetal and geometric metallic decorations. As for the part to the left of the entrance is an apostate part, preceded by a portico with semi-circular arches resting on marble columns, divided into eleven square areas covered by low domes.
The building’s horizontal plan consists of a rectangle divided into two square parts: an eastern part and a western part. The eastern part represents the house of prayer; the length of its inner side is 41 m, and in the middle is a dome with a diameter of 21 m and a height of 52 m from the floor level of the building. The dome rests on four large arches on four huge square shoulders. Four semi-domes surround the dome. Another half-dome is located above the mihrab, and four small domes are located in the corners of the building. The domes are covered on the outside with lead sheets, and their interior surfaces are decorated with colourful and gilded reliefs executed in a modernized Baroque style. The arches and spherical triangles at the bottom of the dome were adorned with the word “Allah” and the phrase “Muhammad is the Messenger of God” and the Rightly-Guided Caliphs’ names. The interior walls of the mosque and the four internal shoulders, to a height of 11 m, were clad with Egyptian marble. In the middle of the qibla wall is an alabaster mihrab; next to it is a magnificent marble pulpit, is another gilded wooden pulpit made by King Farouk. There is a bench in the northwest wall, which extends the width of the building and rests on eight marble columns.
The western part of the mosque consists of a 53 x 54 m, surrounded by four galleries whose arches rest on marble columns. The arcades are covered with small domes carved from the inside with geometric and vegetal motifs and covered on the outside with lead panels. In the courtyard centre, the ablution fountain is octagonal and covered by a marble dome and an external wooden one based on eight marble columns surmounted by a wooden flap. The interior of the dome is decorated with elaborate landscapes. At both ends of the western facade of the court are two graceful minarets 82 m high, each crowned with a pointed conical top in the style of Ottoman minarets. In the middle of this facade is the copper clock tower gifted by the King of France, Louis-Philippe (r. 1830-1848 CE), to Muhammad Ali Pasha in 1262 AH / 1845 AD.
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How the building was dated:
The building was dated based on what it contains historical inscriptions, as there is an inscription above the windows of the eastern entrance overlooking the courtyard of the mosque that contains Quranic verses and the date 1262 AH / 1843 AD, and another inscription of Qur’anic verses on the ablution fountain includes the date 1263 AH / 1844 AD. The date of the building is also based on endowment documents related to the building, including Endowment No. 854 dated 1269 AH / 1852 AD in the name of Abbas Pasha I. Endowment No. 860 dated 1273 AH / 1856 AD in the name of Muhammad Said Pasha (ruled in the period 1270 – 1279 AH / 1854 – 1863 AD). The two arguments are preserved in the archives of the Egyptian Ministry of Awqaf.