Exploring some of the less visited Islamic Monuments in Cairo
By Seif Kamel
Cairo, nicknamed as the city of the thousand minarets, is one of the largest cities in the world rich with Islamic monuments and different structures. Many trips to Egypt include a visit to many historical mosques and Islamic structures.
Many of these monuments are famous and popular among tourists who travel to Egypt like the Mosque of Mohamed Ali, the Mosque of Amr Ibn Al Aas, and the Mosque of Sultan Hassan. All travel packages to Egypt would certainly include a visit to one of these monuments.
However, there are more several remarkable Islamic monuments in Egypt that are really worth a visit, especially for Islamic art and history fans. Today, we will explore some of these sites and buildings.
The Northern Cemetery of Cairo
Near Salah Salem, one of the largest streets in Cairo lays man cemeteries that date back to different periods of the history of the city. Among them, the Northern Cemetery is not only a necropolis, but also a place where people have started living.
Many remarkable monuments are located within the cemetery along with numerous other modest tombs and burial sites.
By the 14th century, the population of Cairo reached half a million inhabitant, forming the largest city in the world at the time. Therefore, the Mamluk kings, who ruled Egypt at the time, looked beyond the city walls, to construct their huge mausoleum structures which was considered to be among their greatest achievements.
One of the finest examples of the Mamluk architecture in the city of the dead of Cairo is the mosque of Qaitbey, built in 1474. This monument is rarely visited by travelers who spend their Egypt holidays although it is quite remarkable.
A finely designed mosque with notable interior design, the mosque of Qaitbey has attractive minarets and wonderfully decorated stone domes.
Going towards the South, there is the Complex of Sultan Ahsraf Baresbay. Much of the original complex was ruined with time passing by; however, the main mosque is still in a good condition to be viewed today.
Further to the North, there is the huge Faraj Ibn Barqouq Mausoleum. The complex is a unique piece of Mamluk architectural arts, with two symmetric domes and minarets facing each others.
This complex acted as a Khanqah, a monastery of Islamic teachings and it contains many cells where the students used to stay and study. This mausoleum is one of the finest in Cairo although it is considered to be less visited by travelers who spend their vacations in Egypt.
Beneath the two domes, there are the two burial chambers, one for the men and one for the women. The interior design of these domes is one of the most fascinating in Egypt as it they were richly decorated.
The Carpets Market
Passing the Al Azhar Street from Al Mui’z Street, Fatimid Cairo extends to the North forming another market area, similar to that of Khan El Khalili but mainly sells local products like cloth and spices.
At the end of these alleys, or the Carpet Market is located and it sells wool and silk handmade carpets decorated with the finest colors, camel drawings, birds, and country scenes. Many travelers who go on tours to Egypt usually admire the handmade carpets of the country.
Nearby, there are two workshop producing “Tarbush’, the red hat that was the formal dress code in the Ottoman era.
Bab Zweila is the only remaining Southern Fatimid gate of Cairo. The gate was originally built in the 11th century and it was named after a tribe that used to reside near the gate. Bab Zweila is a notable monument for travelers who go on group tours to Egypt to view and maybe climb at the top of one of the towers of the gate to have an overall view of Fatimid Cairo.
Another name for the gate was Bab Al Motawelly, as the officer who was responsible for the affairs of people used to sit near the gate to receive the complaints of the locals.
In the Mamluks period, the Sultan used to sit here and watch the caravans’ departure to the pilgrimage in Mecca. This was also were public executions took place and many heads of criminals were hang on the entrance of the gate.
This bloody habit remained until the 19th century when Mohamed Ali murdered a large number of Mamluk princes and their heads were put for public display at Bab Zweila.
When the Mosque of Al Mu’ayad was built in 1415, one of the towers of the Zweila Gate was added to the complex. These minarets or towers of Bab Zweila offer magnificent views of Islamic Cairo that is usually full of tourists who travel to Egypt.
The Mosque of Saleh Talai
This was the last Fatimid mosque to be built in Cairo; the mosque of Saleh Talai was constructed in 1160 as the first second storey mosque to be ever erected in Egypt.
The mosque rests on a number of shops and the builders of the mosque had the plan that the revenues coming from these stores would pay for the costs of the services provided in the mosque.
However, with time passing by the street level has gone upwards for almost 3 meters and now the mosque is on the same level as the street.
Passing through Bab Zweila going to the North, there is the Khayameya, or the tentmakers market. This is the only covered market that remained in Cairo. This market is frequently visited by many tourists who travel to Egypt.
It was built by Radwan Bek in 1650 and now it is where many fabrics are produced to especially the colored ones that are used in marriage ceremonies and funerals around Cairo and many other cities in Egypt.
The Sabil Kuttab of Qaitbey
Another architectural achievement of the Qaitbey, who was a great Mamluk builder and his fort in Alexandria remains as his finest monuments, is located near Saladin Square, where Al Sultan Hassan and Refaie mosques are situated.
The façade of this complex built in the 15th century shows marvelous marble decorations and the interior is notable as well.
Many other monuments are located in street, rich with Islamic architecture, although it was titled the Saliba Street, or the Cross Street. Many custom tours to Egypt can include exploring some of the less visited Islamic monuments in Egypt.
The remarkable monuments nearby include the fascinating mosque of Ahemd Ibn Tulun, the Sangermiech Madrasa, the Khaqah of Sangar Al Gawly, the Gayer Andersen Museums, and the marvelously golden decorated of Sabil Om Abbas. Many affordable tours to Egypt can be organized to include many of these historical monuments.
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