The Historic Islamic

“A Journey Through Time at Historic Islamic Sites.”

Egypt is an ideal destination for visitors looking for historic religious sites, especially during the holy month of Ramadan. The country is home to dozens of historic Islamic landmarks that attract tourists from all over the world.

Islamic Cairo is known for its unique beauty and rich history, with many mosques, houses, and museums dating back to the Fatimid, Ayyubid, Mameluke, Ottoman, and Muhammad Ali dynasty periods. This makes it a highly attractive destination for visitors.

Islamic Cairo also offers many cultural and artistic events that make a visit to the city an unforgettable experience. Visitors can enjoy various entertainment and educational activities while learning about the history of these magnificent religious landmarks.

Al-Muizz Street

For those who want to experience Ramadan up close, their first destination should be Al-Muizz Street of Fatimid Cairo, also known as “Al-Muizz Street,” which is the largest open-air museum of Islamic antiquities in the world.

The street Is located in the Al-Azhar area of Fatimid Cairo, stretches for one kilometer, and includes 33 historic sites, including six ancient mosques, seven schools, as well as fountains, four palaces, two agencies, three corners, and two gates: Bab Al-Futuh and Bab Zuweila, as well as two historic public baths.

Visitors to the street can walk amidst this array of antiquities, including the Qalawun complex, whether during the day or at night. The street also allows visitors to learn about the crafts, handicrafts, and cafes in the area. Visitors will not have difficulty learning about the history and landmarks of the street, through the informative signs on each site or the archaeologists present in the street.

During Ramadan, Al-Muizz Street turns into a cultural and artistic exhibition, whether through events presented on the poet’s stage located in the area, or Ramadan celebrations held at some of its historic monuments, which begin from the night of “looking for the crescent moon” until the night of “Eid.” This increases tourist demand for the street.

The Ramadan atmospheree in Al-Muizz Street extends to the Al-Hussein Mosque area, especially in Khan Al-Khalili market, where tourists mingle with Egyptians, and in the background, the voices of singers and musicians spread from the famous cafes in the area.

Sitting in these cafes is a special pleasure, and the most famous of them is the Fishawy Café, whose history dates back hundreds of years, and has attracted intellectuals, artists, as well as politicians during its long history.

City of a Thousand Minarets

Cairo is described as the “City of a Thousand Minarets” due to the presence of many historic mosques, and visiting these mosques is a

 

beloved activity during the month of Ramadan, as they are decorated for visitors, whether for prayer or to learn about theirarchitecture and history.

Al-Azhar Mosque is considered one of the most important and famous mosques in Egypt, and visiting it acquaints you with its long history. It was built by Jawhar Al-Siqilli after a year of the Fatimids’ conquest of Egypt, and opened for prayer in Ramadan of 361 AH – 972 AD.

In the opposite direction, there is Al-Hussein Mosque, which was built during the Fatimid Caliphate in 1154. The mosque contains many important artifacts, such as the oldest copy of the Quran.

If Al-Azhar Mosque is one of the most famous mosques in Cairo, then visiting Amr Ibn Al-As Mosque, the first mosque built in Egypt in the 20th year of the Hijra, has a special taste. It attracts thousands of worshippers, especially during Ramadan, which confirms its nicknames, such as the Ancient Mosque and the Crown of Mosques.

Visiting Ahmed Ibn Tulun Mosque, the third mosque established in Islamic Egypt, should not be missed. You are in front of a mosque built on an area of 6 and a half acres, and in the midst of a unique architectural style, both in terms of design and decoration. Also, ascending to the mosque’s circular minaret is a wonderful experience to see old Cairo from above and rotate around it, as it features an external staircase that extends for 40 meters.

In the heart of Cairo, you can visit Al-Rifa’I Mosque and its twin, Sultan Hassan Mosque, which face each other and are similar in size and height despite being built about 500 years apart. Sultan Hassan Mosque was established in 1359, while Al-Rifa’I Mosque was built in 1869 by Khushyar Hanem, the mother of Khedive Ismail.

Salah El-Din Citadel

Salah El-Din Citadel is one of the most important landmarks of Islamic Cairo. It is located in the “Citadel” district and was built on a separate hill from the Muqattam Mountain on the outskirts of Cairo. The citadel is one of the most luxurious military fortresses built in the Middle Ages, and its strategic location provided it with great defensive importance. It controlled the cities of Cairo and Fustat and served as a natural barrier between them.

Visiting the Citadel offers a panoramic view of Cairo. Salah El-Din built the citadel on a hill in the Muqattam Mountain, and historians say that he chose the location perfectly, as it provided complete supervision over Cairo. The citadel’s defender could carry out two military operations at the same time: securing the internal front and cutting off anyone who disobeyed the Sultan’s authority, and resisting any external attempts to seize Cairo.

The wall that Salah El-Din built around Cairo to defend it against external attacks is also an important military structure that complemented the role of the fortress in the Middle Ages. The wall was discovered years ago after Salah El-Din (1171-1193 CE) took over ruling Egypt and focused on the development of the area outside the Fatimid Cairo, between Bab Zuweila and Ahmed Ibn Tulun Mosque. The area is dominated by the Salih Tala’I Mosque, which is considered the last trace of the Fatimid era in Egypt.

Inside the Citadel, you can visit the “Mohammed Ali Mosque,” which is the most famous landmark of the citadel. Many people believe that it represents the entire Salah El-Din Citadel. Sources and references indicate that after Mohammed Ali Pasha completed the reconstruction of the Salah El-Din Citadel, including his palaces, offices, and schools, he decided to build a large mosque to perform religious duties and to serve as his burial place. He began building the mosque in 1246 AH – 1830 CE and the work continued until his death in 1265 AH – 1848 CE. He was buried in the cemetery he prepared for himself inside the mosque.

Mohammed Ali Mosque has several distinctive architectural and artistic features. Its two minarets are towering at about 84 meters in height, and the hanging lamps inside the mosque number 365, representing the number of days in a year.

In the middle of the Citadel, there is another mosque, the “Al-Nasir Mohammed Ibn Qalawun Mosque,” built by King Al-Nasir Mohammed Ibn Qalawun in 718 AH – 1318 CE. It is planned like the early mosques, consisting of an open central courtyard surrounded by four iwans. The largest iwan is the qibla iwan, which is located in front of the mihrab with a dome carried on granite columns. The mosque is distinguished by the marble columns that support the ceiling, which are from various eras, including the Pharaonic, Ptolemaic, and Roman periods, and were reused with beauty and splendor.

Houses and Agencies

Cairo’s Fatimid district is rich with creative details of Islamic architecture. As you stroll through its streets and alleys, you will come across masterpieces of Islamic architecture that have survived from different eras. The architectural creativity is evident in the houses, agencies, and waterwheels.

One of the rare historic houses that has withstood the test of time is the Sahimi House in the Al-Gamaliya district. In reality, it is more like a palace due to its immense size of 2000 square meters. Researchers and historians of Islamic architecture often mention Sahimi House in their books as one of the best traditional houses in Cairo in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Like other houses, it depends on having a roof decorated with plant and geometric motifs, with a small dome in the middle that has small openings to allow air and light to enter. This dome is called al-shakhshikha.

“Agencies” are large commercial complexes that traders and the public used to frequent for conducting commercial transactions, displaying grains and cereals, and receiving caravans. They are similar to today’s malls or commercial centers. These agencies still exist today, with the most prominent ones being the Ghuri Agency, Bazaraa Agency, and Abbas Agha Agency. The horizontal plane of the agency opens onto an exposed rectangular courtyard, and its various elements are arranged around it. The agency consists of two parts, a lower commercial section and an upper residential section, adorned with a row of drinking fountains.

What currently attracts people to houses and agencies is not just the enjoyment of viewing their architecture, but also because they serve as cultural and artistic centers. The Egyptian Ministry of Culture utilizes these buildings to hold cultural evenings, artistic and popular shows, and heritage festivals. This attracts Egyptians and foreigners who want to enjoy the arts and culture, especially during Ramadan.

“Waterwheels” were buildings that were constructed to provide water from the Nile River for drinking throughout the year, at a time when modern methods of water supply were not known. They were concentrated in densely populated areas, markets, commercial and industrial neighborhoods such as Al-Muizz Street, Al-Saiba Street, Al-Gamaliya district, Al-Ghuriya district, Al-Tabilat Street, Al-Sayeda Zeinab district, and Al-Batana Street.

The Ottoman era witnessed the construction of many waterwheels, as the Ottomans were concerned with these buildings. They were built in the form of slender buildings rich in decorations, with marble facades adorned with Quranic verses, and with windows made of brass or cast iron in beautiful decorative shapes.

We recommend that you visit the waterwheels of Mohammed Ali on Al-Muizz Street, the path of Um Abbas in the Citadel district, the path of Lady Nafisa Al-Baida near Bab Zuweila, and the path of Abdel Rahman Katkhuda in the district between the two palaces.

Islamic art museum

Visiting the Museum of Islamic Art in Bab al-Khalq Square in the center of the Egyptian capital, you will find yourself in the largest Islamic art museum in the world. The museum houses over 100,000 diverse artifacts of Islamic arts, from India and China, through the arts of the Arabian Peninsula, Syria, Egypt, North Africa, and Andalusia.

The museum’s collections are considered treasures of architecture and arts, ranging from artifacts made of ceramics, pottery, glass, rock crystal, textiles, carpets, metals, jewelry, wood, ivory, stones, gypsum, and Arabic manuscripts. Among the rare artistic pieces is a stone tomb dating back to 31 AH, equivalent to 652 CE, i.e., twelve years after the Islamic conquest of Egypt. Also, an urn was found in the village of Abu Sir in the Egyptian province of Fayoum, within the contents of the “Marwan bin Mohammed” cemetery, the last caliphs of the Umayyad dynasty. The museum also contains a rare collection of astronomical, engineering, chemical, surgical, and cupping tools that were used in the flourishing Islamic era.

You can also see rare ceramic collections that demonstrate the extent of the pottery industry’s prosperity in the Islamic world, in addition to artifacts from the Fatimid and Mamluk periods and a collection of Mamluk chandeliers that distinguish the museum from other world museum