Mosque of Mohamed Ali
Mohamed Ali Mosque, or Alabaster Mosque, is one of Egypt's most exciting mosques. It proudly stands on the highest point inside the Citadel of Saladin courtyard. The architect, Yousif Boushnaq, was a Turkish man who came from Istanbul to build this great Mosque for Mohamed Ali, who ruled Egypt from 1805 until 1849.
He designed his plans based on the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul, and construction began in 1830 A.D. It continued ceaselessly until Mohamed Ali died in 1849 and was restarted and finished during his successors' reigns. Mohamed Ali was buried in a tomb on the southeastern side of Beit Al Salah, on the right side of the entrance leading to the main section.
In 1899, the Mosque showed signs of cracking, and repairs were undertaken, but some were inadequate. Therefore, in 1931, during the reign of King Fuad I, a committee was set up comprising several great architects, which eventually presented a report recommending a considerable change; they wanted the demolition of the giant central dome, the semi-domes, and the small domes, and then reconstructing them according to the original design. Between 1931 and 1939, the project, including demolition, building, rebuilding, painting, and gilding, was undertaken; the total cost was 100,000 LE (about USD 560.00).
The primary material used for the construction was limestone, but the lower parts of the Mosque and the forecourt are faced with alabaster to a height of 11.5m. When it was completed, it was a marvel to behold.
The Mosque is rectangular and consists of two sections:
The Western Section is called the "Sahn" "or "Courtyard".
The Eastern or central section is called The "Beit al-Salah" or "House of Prayer."
The eastern section is the part that was dedicated to prayer. It is square, each side measuring 41m, and has a roof with a central dome (52m in height) resting on four large arches supported by massive piers. Surrounding the giant central dome are four half domes, while four more small domes cover the corners.
The marble mihrab is covered by a half-dome at the lower level. The domes are pointed and covered with medallions and other motifs. The interior dome is impressive because of its size and shape, similar to the Mosques of Istanbul. There are six medallions around the dome, including Allah (God) and Mohamed (the Prophet), and the names of the rightly guided Caliphs Abou Bakr, Omar, Othman, and Ali.
The Mosque has two minibars or pulpits. The original is more considerable and made of wood decorated with gilded ornaments, while the smaller is made of marble; it was gifted to the Mosque by King Farouk in 1939 A.D.
Above the entrance is a grand gallery supported on marble pillars with a stunning bronze balustrade. To the right of the entrance is the white marble tomb of Mohamed Ali, adorned with floral motifs and pointed and gilded inscriptions. Originally, Mohamed Ali was not buried in his mosque. Later, though, during the reign of King Abbas I (1849-1854), his body was transferred from Housh El Basha to the mosque, where it rests inside the bronze grill.
The Western Section (The Courtyard or the Sahn)
This large open courtyard is about 54 m in length and 53 m in width, surrounded by a single arched ritual, and showcases naves raised on pillars and roofed with small domes.
The octagonal ablution fountain is in the middle of the courtyard, covered by a large leaded domed canopy resting on eight pillars with natural ornaments. This type of fountain was created for sacred washing during religious ceremonies. Inside the dome is another smaller one. In the walls of the courtyard riwaqs, there are 46 windows. While the Eastern wall has eight windows that include a frieze of an inscription of the Koran (Surat Al Fath),
Above the eastern section entrance is a frieze, a sculpted decoration that bears the name of the Turkish sultan Abd Al Maguid.
Opposite the doorway of the prayer house, at the far end of the center of the N.W. ritual, is a pavilion. Above it is an elaborate French clock, presented to Mohamed Ali in 1845 by France, specifically King Luis Philip, in exchange for the obelisk now standing in Concorde Square in Paris. Interestingly, the clock has never worked correctly.
At the west and north corners are two slender octagonal minarets, each rising to 82 M in height, featuring two balconies.