The Mosque Of Amr Ibn El-Aas
The Mosque of Amr Ibn El-Aas, constructed by Amr Ibn Al-As in 642 AD, is the first mosque built in Egypt and Africa.
Amr was an Arab general who fought against the Romans and was hailed by the Copts as a liberator. He was later appointed governor by the Caliph. Amr founded a new capital, Al Fustat, that replaced the old one, Alexandria.
This mosque was built in the center of Al Fustat, surrounded by the houses there. Initially, the mosque was overlooking the Nile on its Northwest side.
The mosque was called "the Crown of the Mosques" and "the Antique Mosque." Interestingly, the current features of the mosque are pretty different from the original ones. Many reconstructions and restorations have occurred since its foundation was laid. The rectangular mosque was built with a low shed of wood and palm leaves, supported on columns of palm stems, stones, and mud bricks, while the floor was covered with gravel. This first simple mosque measures about 29 m. in length and 17 m. in width.
Governor Abdullah Ibn Taher ordered the most critical change and the last one during the reign of Caliph Al Mamoun in the 9th century. He extended the mosque, adding a new area at the S.W. side. At that time, the mosque measured 120 m. in length and 112 m. in width and represented the actual area of the mosque. At the end of the Fatimid period, the mosque was ruined due to the Al Fustat Fire in 1175 AD, which lasted 54 days. Al Fustat was burnt by Shawer, the Vizier of the Fatimid Caliph Al Adid, to prevent the Crusaders from invading Al Fustat. Therefore, Saladin rebuilt it and renovated it in 1179 AD. Just before the French Expedition to Egypt, Mourad Bey, one of the Mameluke leaders at the end of the 18th century, demolished the mosque and later rebuilt it in 1796 AD. Mourad Bey changed the Iwan and the courtyard, replacing the seven rows of columns in the qibla iwan with six and changing the bays to be perpendicular to the qibla wall instead of parallel. He is believed to have built the remaining minarets, one above the right entrance in the facade and the other above the right end of the qibla wall. He renovated the ceiling, covered the floor with mats, and provided the mosque candelabras. He also made four foundation tablets that still exist, bearing poetic verses praising and dating his achievements. One of these tablets is fixed to the qibla wall to the left of the Mihrab.
The mosque was restored entirely in 1906 and was wholly restored during the reign of Khedive Abbas Helmy II. The Arab Antiquities Preservation Committee accomplished this work.
At the southern corner of the qibla, Riwaq has a mausoleum below a dome, perhaps belonging to Abdulla, the son of Amr, but historians cannot still determine this.
One of the most remarkable facts about that mosque is that it was not only a place for prayer but a type of intellectual university built 600 years before the foundation of Al Azhar mosque in Cairo. It was an important place where lesson circles and religious lectures were held. Mohamed Ibn Idris Al Shafi' was one of the most renowned religious professors and Imams who taught in this mosque.
As a side note, it is known that in the Western Addition (Ziada), there was once a court of law that saw many trials in ancient times.