Fatimid Town, Cairo
To the east of Shari Port Said, which is laid out on the line of a former canal, extends the Fatimid Town founded by Gohar, which has preserved three of the old town gates in the second circuit of walls built from 1074 onwards (Bab el-Futuh and Bab el-Nasr on the north side and Bab Zuwaila on the south).
The Museum of Islamic Art, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is significant for its extensive collection, which contains works from every Islamic country in the world.
Dating to the mid 14th C, the Sultan Hasan Mosque is one of the best examples of Arab-Egyptian architecture. The building is shaped like a Pentagon, and claims the highest minaret in Cairo at 81.5m.
Almost at the end of the street which runs north through the old town to Bab el-Futah, on the right, is the entrance to the El-Hakim Mosque, begun in 990 by El-Aziz on a site outside the oldest town walls, on the model of the Ibn Tulun Mosque, and completed in 1012 by his son El-Hakim. The two minarets, standing on the second town wall, which at this point is well preserved, were originally round; their present square casing and the domed top section resembling an Arab incense burner date from the rebuilding of the mosque after the 1303 earthquake.
Gate of Conquests
The Bab el-Futuh ("Gate of Conquests") at the end of the street and the Bab el-Nasr ("Gate of Victory"), with which it is connected by the old town walls, are similar in form to ancient Roman town gates. It is well worth while to climb up at the gates and walk along the walls, from which there are fine views of the city and surrounding area.
The triple domes of the Ibn Tulun Mosque along with the multiple minarets make this holy site an important destination for devotees and tourists.
Mosque of Mohammed el-Nasir
On the north side of the Qalaun Mosque we come to the Mosque of Mohammed el-Nasir (1304), one of the great masterpieces of Islamic architecture in Egypt. It is entered by a Gothic doorway from a church at Akka (Acre) in Syria. The beautiful minaret, the sanctuary (to the left) and the founder's tomb (right) preserve some of their original delicate plaster ornament.
On its two massive towers are the minarets of the dilapidated Muayyad Mosque, also known as El-Ahmar, the "Red Mosque", which was begun in 1405 by Sheikh El-Mahmudi Muayyad and completed a year after his death (1410). The bronze gate at the entrance, the finest in Cairo, came from the Sultan Hasan Mosque. The magnificent three aisled sanctuary has a beautiful painted wooden ceiling.
Farther down the Shari el-Ahmar, on the right, is the El-Mardani Mosque, one of the largest in Cairo, was built in 1340 by the Cup-bearer of Sultan Mohammed el-Nasir. The prayer niche beyond the modern concrete dome, borne on ancient Egyptian granite columns, is covered with costly mosaics.
To the south of the Sultan Hasan Mosque is a large elongated square, the Midan Salah ed-Din (Saladin Square), where the caravans for Mecca used to assemble. On its east side is the Citadel, with a massive gate tower, the Bab el-Azab, formerly the main entrance. In the lane behind it the leaders of the Mamel ukes were massacred on Mohammed Ali's orders in 1811.
Farther up the street which runs north through the old town to Babel-Futuh, on the right, is the El-Aqmar Mosque, the "Gray Mosque", built in 1125 by the Grand Vizier of the Fatimid El-Amir. The handsome facade, with tall pointed arches in rectangular frames, is the oldest mosque facade in Cairo. Near by, in a side street to the right, can be seen the patrician house of Beitel-Siheimi (1648).
Mosque of Sultan Barquq Qalaun
In the northern part of the Fatimid town are a number of notable examples of Mameluke architecture. Northwest of the Great Bazaar stands the little Mosque of Sultan Barquq Qalaun, its facade projecting into the street. This was part of a large hospital, now ruined, begun in 1284 by the Mameluke Sultan El-Mansur Qalaun; in the prayer niche is a fine Byzantine mosaic.
Mausoleum of Qalaun
On the right of the long corridor is the Mausoleum of Qalaun, one of the finest Arab buildings in Cairo, completed in 1293 by Qalaun's son Mohammed el-Nasir; it has a richly ornamented prayer niche and fine marble and mother-of-pearl mosaics.
Shari el-Qala ends in the spacious Midan Mohammed Ali, on the east side of which is the El-Rifai Mosque, built in 1912, on the model of the Sultan Hasan Mosque, to house the tomb of Khedive Ismail. The ex Shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlevi (1919-80), is buried here.
Salih Talai Mosque
Outside the Bab Zuwaila, Shari Darb el Ahmar (to the left) and its continuation, Shari Babel-Wazir, run southeast and then south to the Citadel. At the near end of the street, on the right, stands the Salih Talai Mosque, built in 1160 under the last Fatimid Sultan, with delicate plaster ornament on the arches of the sanctuary.
Some distance beyond this, on the left, is the picturesque Aq-Sunqur Mosque, or Ibrahim Aga Mosque, built in 1346 and richly decorated in 1653 with blue wall tiles which have earned it the name of the Blue Mosque.
Immediately adjoining the Ibn Tulun Mosque, in a patrician house of the Mameluke period, the Beit el-Kiridliya (1631), is the Gayer-Anderson Museum, furnished in the style of an Arab house, with a variety of Islamic objets d'art.
On the south side of the Fatimid town is the Bab Zuwaila (1091 ), a relic of the first town wall.
The Barquqiya Mosque, a medrese built in 1386 by the Mameluke Sultan Barquq, is now a branch of the El-Azhar University.
Barquqiya Mosque Sanctuary
The east wall of the sanctuary is strikingly beautiful.