Guide, Ahmed led us down the street in Old Cairo heading to Bab Zuweyla narrowly being run down by horse-drawn carts, men carrying heavy loads on backs and head, and vehicles making their way through this one narrow street. I thought we were heading into the entrance of Bab Zuweyla and was surprised when he led us into a mosque first. Bewildered because it wasn’t on the day’s itinerary and shocked that foreigners, let alone a woman infidel with bare arms, was allowed to enter a still active mosque. Ahmed quickly corrected this misconception. Egypt’s mosques are not as rigid.
This particular mosque had an interesting story attached to it. It was once a prison that Sultan al-Muayyad spent many pre-Sultan days cohabiting with lice and fleas. He vowed that should he ever come to power he would transform the prison into a saintly place for the education of scholars. And so he did. Construction on the mosque began in 1415 and was completed in 1421, replacing the prison. You enter by walking through the mausoleum where Sultan al-Muayyad and his son are buried. One of the cenotaphs is larger than the other and has marble-crafted Kufic inscriptions from the 10th century.
The mosque was an ambitious and expensive project and is considered one of the finest examples of Mamluk architecture in Egypt. (Not that I’d know what “Mamluk architecture” looks like. Oh wait…was there a “Mamluk” in Ice Age?) Ahmed was very excited and enthusiastic about this moque. At last a subject, Islam, that he was well versed in. The ablution fountain in the quiet courtyard. The dome (incredible when seen from Bab Zuweyla’s roof). The beautiful Qibia Wall which faces Mecca and richly decorate pulpit for the Imam (the prayer leader of the mosque) to preach. Quiet and deserted area for prayers…View image
As interesting as this particular mosque was, I really liked the little Mosque outside the gate of Bab Zuweyla. Ruined and not used anymore, it was still attractive. All these structures were originally at ground level, but the streets have risen considerably since the Fatimid period.
The streets around this area of Old Cairo were fascinating. Both inside the medieval gate of Bab Zeweyla and outside of it. A person could stand at the entrance of this impressive gate, watch the flow of people and become completely absorbed in their lives. Vegetable sellers, donkeys, horse-drawn carts, pick-up trucks laden with dozens of eggs (how they don’t break, I’ll never know)…View image
…and, as a myopic myself, would someone please tell me how this completely veiled and robed Egyptian woman managed to balance her glasses and actually see where she was going?