The Mosque Of Al Refaie
Al Refaie's mosque is considered one of the most remarkable Islamic structures in all of Cairo. The mosque is located in the Qala'a, right in front of the citadel, facing the Great Mosque of Al Sultan Hassan. The Refaie Mosque was embellished by Khoshiar, the mother of Khedive Ismail, to be the grand mausoleum of the royal family.
Nobody knows why Khoshiar chose that location to build the mosque. It may have been because she wanted to make a mosque rivaling Al Sultan Hassan's size and grandeur. She tried to renew the Zawiya of Al Refaie, so she bought all the land around it, eradicated the Zawiya, and started to build this new grandiose mosque.
The mosque was built directly on the site of an older mosque called the mosque of "Al Zakhira," which was built in the Ayubid era. It contained the dooms (superstitious burial tombs) of many Islamic imams and religious people.
Although the mosque of Al Refaie is named after Sheikh Ahmed Al Refaie, the Sufi leader of the Al Refaieya method, he was never buried there or in Egypt. However, the Zawiya continued to honor Al Refaie, and later, an ancestor of Al Refaie, Sheikh Abu Shebak, was buried in the mosque.
The most famous Egyptian builder at the time, Hussein Fahmy Pasha, designed this new mosque to contain the tombs of the royal family. He also added two domes for Ali Abu Shebak and Yehia Al Ansary, two sheiks buried there.
However, in 1881, the building work stopped due to design changes, and then, with the death of the mosque's creator, Khoshiar Hanem, in 1885, it was completed for good; she was buried with her design.
Twenty-five years later, when Abbas Helmy the Second became ruler of Egypt, he ordered Hatz Pasha, the director of the Association of Egyptian Antiquities at the time, to continue building the mosque.
The mosque was first opened to the public on a Friday in 1912.
The Mosque of Al Refaie featured striking, immense entrance gates with tall columns made of rock and marble adorned with rich Arabic decorations. The mosque's builders didn't want it to be outshone by its larger neighbors.
The mosque from the inside has a rectangular shape with an area of 7500. One thousand seven hundred sixty-seven meters were constructed only for praying, and the rest was built as a mausoleum.
The mosque's main gate is located on the west side. Atop the entrance, a dome is decorated with gold. As you enter, a door leads to the tombs of Abu Shebak and Ali Al Ansari.
Most of the mosque's walls are decorated with beautiful colored marble imported from seven countries around the globe. The mosque's walls, doors, and windows are richly decorated with Abanos wood and radiant golden ornaments.
The mosque's Mihrab is located inside its eastern walls; it is clothed with colored marble and features four marble columns. Five colored lines are drawn inside the Mihrab; some contain the same radiant golden ornaments.
Beside the Mihrab is the fascinating Minbar, decorated with ivory, ebony, and mother-of-pearl. It has a unique style as it was made in the Mamluk manner. The small door of the Minbar is rich with wooden decorations. The treasure trove of design elements within the mosque is second to none.
One of the most remarkable items in the mosque is its pure white alabaster Dekka, known as the place of the prayer caller. It is unique in its design and decorations, and there is nothing like it in Egypt. It is built on eight white marble columns and contains some stunning Quran inscriptions in pure gold.
On the northern side of the mosque, there are six gates. Four lead to the burial rooms of the ancient kings, queens, and many of their royal ancestors.
The first of these rooms contains the tombs of four of Khedive Tawfik's sons and daughters: Wahida, who died in 1858; Zeinab, who died in 1875; Ali Gamal El-din, who died in 1893 and Ibrahim Helmy, who died in 1926. Above this room, there is a beautiful small dome, which is also decorated with Quranic inscriptions.
If you venture to the west, there is another room where Khedive Ismail and his mother, Khoshiar Hanem, were buried.
Afterward, you will find a room where the daughters of Khedive and the wives of Ismail have been laid to rest: Shohrat Vasa, who died in 1895; Gianyar, who died in 1912; and Gushm Afet, who died in 1907.
From this room, a door leads to the room where Sultan Hussein Kamal, the son of Ismail, who ruled Egypt from 1914 until he died in 1917 (and was followed by his brother, the Kind Farouk), is interred.
The Shah of Iran, Mohamed Reda Bahlawy, the former husband of Queen Fawzeya, was also buried in the Mosque of Al Refaie, but he is an exciting tale. The Islamic revolution in Iran led to his exile. He couldn't find a place to hide out until the former Egyptian president Anwar El Sadat welcomed him in Egypt, and when he died, Al Saddat ordered that he should be buried in the Mosque of Al Refaie. His tomb room is one of the most amazing in the mosque; it has beautiful marble floors and walls. For unknown reasons, the Shah's father was buried for some time in the same room.
Besides the Iranian Shah's room is King Foaud's burial room (1868- 1936). On the eastern wall of this room is a door leading to the tomb of King Farouk, who died in Rome in 196- not that long ago.
King Farouk wanted to be buried beside his family and relatives in the Mosque of Al Refaie. However, the former Egyptian president at the time, Gamal Abdel Nasser, refused his last request. He allowed King Farouk to be buried in Cairo but not in the Mosque of Al Refaie. However, in 1970, when President Nasser passed away, the body of King Farouk was transferred to the Mosque of Al Refei, where he belonged.