How old is the city of Cairo?
Highlights of Islamic Cairo:
The greatest concentration of sights in Islamic Cairo is on Al-Muizz Al-Deen Street. This street was the main street through the city when it was built in the 11th century and mausoleums and palaces were constructed here. The northern section of the street (between Bab El-Fotouh and Al-Azhar Street) was recently restored. This is one of the most picturesque parts of Cairo. The Qala’un Complex here is one of the impressive in the city.
It is easy to spend a day in this area, ending up in the evening at Cairo’s famous 14th-century souk, Khan Al-Khalili. Restoration work on the southern section of the street (from the Ghouriya Complex to Bab Zuweila) was begun in 2011. Also in the area of Khan Al-Khalili is Al-Azhar Mosque.
Who founded Al Azhar Mosque? And how old is it?
While there are hundreds of old mosques to visit in Cairo, there is none that can compete with Al-Azhar Mosque in standing and importance to the history of Islam. Founded by the Fatimids in 970 AD as a mosque dedicated to both worship and learning, it developed over the centuries into the most important center of Islamic theology and learning in the world.
Over a thousand years since its founding, Al-Azhar Mosque and the university that bears its name draw students from all over the world to learn about the history of Islam and the different schools of thought that govern the interpretation of the Koran.
From its founding, Al-Azhar University was an institution that revealed in pluralism. Founded by the Ismaili Shi’i Fatimid Dynasty, it became a Sunni university under subsequent dynasties in Egypt, but, in spite tension between these different theologies, Sunni and Shi’i scholars have worked, taught, and debated alongside one another at Al-Azhar for most of its history.
Today it is regarded with respect throughout the world as an influential moderating and regulating authority for Islamic theology.
What are the most famous constructions of Islamic Cairo?
The southern section of Islamic Cairo offers some Cairo’s largest Islamic monuments. Construction of Cairo’s Citadel began under the Ayyubid general Saladin (Salah Al-Deen) in the 12th century. Today the Citadel offers breathtaking views over the city and several museums dedicated to Egypt’s police and military. There are also three notable mosques inside the walls: Al-Nasir Muhammed Mosque, Suleyman Pasha Mosque, and Muhammed Ali’s Alabaster Mosque.
Below the Citadel is the massive Sultan Hassan Mosque, built by a 14th-century Sultan of the same name. This huge mosque is built as a madrassa (religious school) and displays some of the most impressive architectural decoration in any mosque in the city.
Ibn Tulun Mosque is within walking distance of both the Citadel and Sultan Hassan. Dedicated in 872 AD, it is the oldest mosque in Cairo and the largest by land area. It is a truly impressive space, owing to its unique Samarran architectural style to the fact that it was built when Egypt’s rulers were from Iraq. Additionally, the Gayer-Anderson Museum attached to its outer walls. The proximity of the Citadel and Sultan Hassan Mosque to Ibn Tulun makes them easy sights to combine into a day of touring.
Azhar Park is a new addition to Islamic Cairo. In the 1990s the Egyptian government reclaimed land that had been used as a landfill for centuries to create a park for the city. Today, Azhar Park offers 74-acres of park space to a city that has few green spaces. This beautiful setting offers spectacular views over the city and manicured gardens. There are a café and a restaurant as well. Watching the sunset from the park as the evening call to prayer echoes up from Cairo’s thousands of minarets is a truly memorable experience.