Old Cairo’s Islamic architecture

On our second tour of Old Cairo, we started at the southern wall through an arched entrance—a wall that once surrounded all of Old Cairo. Along Sharia Al Muizz Li Din Allah where no traffic was allowed during the day we passed one beautifully designed building after another. Intricate wooden latticework, sculptured doors, and Arabic calligraphy decorated the walls of building after stone building.

During Fatimid rule, this section of Old Cairo had been the centre of power, and only been accessible to the caliph, the army, and officials. But during their rule, not only Muslims held these important positions, but Christians and Jews were also assigned to important posts. At the end of Fatimid rule in 1171, the town was open to everyone.

We came to the building of Muhammed Ali Pasha, one of Cairo’s earlier rulers, who, in 1820 had dedicated the project to honour his son. Further on was the Al Ghouri Complex (featured image) that contained both a mosque and madrasa. Under the harsh reign of Mamluk Sultan in the early 1500s, he confiscated and demolished properties to build his mausoleum and mosque that was completed in 1504. Under a wooden roof (that’s since been replaced) and between buildings, markets had once been held.

The Qaawun complex of 1285 was made up of mausoleum, a madrasa, and a hospital. Constructed of granite and marble with interlaced geometric shaped windows, this was yet another fine example of Islamic architecture. Unfortunately, little remained of the buildings where Islam and medicine were once taught.

At the intersection of two streets was Sabil Kuttab of Katkhuda that included a public fountain. This monument was established as a Quran school in 1744.

Near Bab-al-Nasr, one of Old Cairo’s northern gates, was Al Aqmar Mosque. Constructed by a Fatimid vizier from 1125-6, this small mosque is one of the most beautiful Fatimid mosques.

Bab-al-Nasr—Gate of Victory was one of the three remaining gates into Old Cairo that was constructed in 1008. Badr al-Jamali, a Fatimid vizier ordered the gate’s construction during the rule of Caliph/Imam al-Mustansir bi Allah.

We left this unforgettable experience, past a sleeping guard and headed back to the souk. No wonder this was a UNESCO world heritage site.