Egypt: Cairo: Mosques - The Ibn Tulun Mosque

The Ibn Tulun Mosque

Built by Ahmed Ibn Tulun in 879 (265 H), the Ibn Tulun Mosque in the Sayyedah Zeinab district has an atmosphere of tranquillity unlike that of any other mosque in the city. Ahmed Ibn Tulun was sent to govern Cairo by the Abbasid Caliph in Baghdad, which explains the Mesopotamian influence. It is the oldest original mosque and the largest in Egypt. It incorporates a number of unique features, such as the external spiral staircase of the unusual minaret (the only one of its type in Egypt) which is similar to the famous Samarra Mosque in Mesopotamia. Its design is simple, consisting of an open sahn with an ablution fountain in the center, surrounded by four riwaqs, the largest being the Qiblah riwaq. There are five naves on the Qiblah side (the side facing Mecca), and two on the remaining sides. The building style follows that of the Abbasid type, characterized by pilasters on which slightly pointed arches are applied, and which have a slight inward curve at the bottom. The rectangular building surrounding the sahn has a rampart walk and the high walled additions (Ziyyadahs) are found on the south, west and north. Within the prayer niche, or mihrab, constructed of marble and gilted mosaic and bordered by four columns with leaf like crowns, is a wonderful pulpit, or minbar of 13th (Mameluke) century origin. Many of the 13th century restorations were carried out by Sultan Lajin, who at one point took refuge in the mosque and vowed to restore it. The stone carvings on the interior walls are elegant and the designs of the rondels {128 latticed windows made of gypsum are distinct and unusual. Running around the interior of the four arcades are original Koranic inscriptions carved in sycamore. It was used as a military hospital by Ibrahim Pasha during the 19th century and was later used as a salt warehouse and beggar's prison prior to its restoration in 1918.

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