At the south end of Al-Muizz Al-Deen Street, there are two minarets that tower over the gates of Fatimid Cairo. This is Bab Zuweila, built as the south gate to the city in the 11th century. Its twin spires were added in the 15th century when the Mu’ayyad Mosque that sits just inside of the gate on the west side of the street was built by the Mamluk Sultan Mu’ayyad Sayf Ad-Din Sheikh.
The legend goes that the Sultan was imprisoned in the prison standing at the same site under a previous Sultan. He vowed that he would turn the location into a center for worship and learning if he ever escaped and came to power. In 1412, Sayf Ad-Din Sheikh helped to overthrow Sultan Faraj, who was responsible for his imprisonment, and in the ensuing power struggle Mu’ayyad became the Sultan of Egypt. He made good on his pledge by building the Mu’ayyid Mosque, which contains a large space for Friday prayers as well as a smaller madrassa style mosque, where he employed the greatest scholars of the day to teach about Islam. Today, the Mu’ayyad Mosque is still one of the most beautiful mosques in the city, a tribute to Sultan Mu’ayad’s reputation as a great patron of architecture in Cairo.
The complex of Bab Zuweila next to the mosque was recently restored. Inside you can find explanation of the gate’s construction and renovation through the centuries. Plaques even point out where pharaonic inscriptions can be found on the walls, etched into stones that were recycled from older pharaonic temples. Climb up to the top of the wall and the minarets allow a beautiful view over Islamic Cairo, Azhar Park, and the Citadel.
The twin minarets provide a unique photo opportunity. Since both are open to be climbed, you can send someone with a camera to the top of each one. Both people can then take a picture of the other standing at the top of the opposite minaret.