The Mosque of al-Burdayni

The Mosque of al-Burdayni


by Jimmy Dunn writing as Ismail Abaza



Exterior of the Burdayni Mosque



Cairo is often called the city of 1,000 minarets, but there may actually be more than that number and even more small mosques that actually have no need for, and thus were built without minarets. All over Cario, there are many small mosques and even today, any number of fairly wealthy members of the Cairo Muslim populous fund private or small mosques. This is a tradition that has carried through from antiquity. The Mosque of al-Burdayni is a small gem of a structure traditionally dated to between 1616 and 1629. However, it was completed in 1694 by a wealthy merchant. It was begun by a religious scholar named Karim al-Din al-Burdayni who lived in the Ottoman period, but who was actually not a Turk, nor even a member of the ruling class, but an Egyptian Shaykh of the Shafi'i rite. Hence, there was no real royal support for this basically privately funded facility. Perhaps because of this, its minaret is not characteristic of the Ottoman style, and in fact the whole of the facade is totally Mamluk, a revival of the Qaytbay period.


Detail of the marble decorations in the interior of the mosque



This is a very small mosque, actually no larger than a square room with a raised gallery at the northwest end, though richly decorated. The walls are completely covered with marble panels, marble and mosaic arcading and marble roundels, while the ceiling shimmers with soft gilt, and the stained glass windows glow with color. Located in the Dawudiyya district not far from the much more somber Mosque of Malika Safiyya, it is a small, architectural gem.


The mosque has two facades. The western one provides the entrance portal with the minaret on its right side. The minaret's fist story is octagonal, while the second section is carved. The final upper section consists of a bulb resting on a balcony on stalactites, and thus is an imitation of late Mamluk minarets with a carved first story decorated with keel-arched niches framed with moldings. The two balconies of the minaret rest on stalactites of different patterns. Hence, the only real difference between this minaret and earlier Mamluk structures is that the bulb is not carried on an octagonal pavilion, but set directly above the upper balcony. However, the quality of the carving is less refined than that of the Qaytbay period. It is the only Ottoman period minaret with an inscription band, here placed on the octagonal section and dating to 1623, much later than that of the mosque itself.



The minbar within the mosque

The Prayer hall and mihrab of the mosque



The mosque is L-shaped, with a qibla wall entirely covered with marble polychrome panels. The other w3alls have a high marble dada. The windows have both stucco and colored stained glass decorations. The prayer niche, richly decorated with inlaid marble and blue-glass paste, is one of the finest examples of decoration in the Mamluk tradition, while the ceiling is richly painted.



Detail, Windows and Doorway of the Mosque of al-Burdayni


Detail, Windows and Doorway of the Mosque of al-Burdayni




More Details, including (right) the minarets


More Details, including (right) the minarets










Reference Number

Historical Cairo (A Walk Through the Islamic City)

Antonious, Jim


American University in Cairo Press, The

ISBN 977-424-497-4

Islamic Monuments in Cairo, A Practical Guide

Paker, Richard B.; Sabin, Robin; Williams, Caroline


American University in Cairo Press, The

ISBN 977 424 036 7

Islamic Architecture in Cairo: An Introduction

Behrens-Abouseif, Doris


E. J. Brill

ISBN 90-04-08677-3