Unauthorised renovations at Sayyeda Zeinab Mosque halted

Nevine El-Aref , Monday 20 May 2013

The National Organisation for Urban Harmony insists Cairo authorities stops recent painting of the historic building

Painting work at Sayyeda Zeinab mosque

Representatives of an Egyptian heritage body have called for authorities to act to stop ongoing building and painting work at the Sayyeda Zeinab Mosque in Cairo.

On Monday, Samir Gharib, head of the National Organisation for Urban Harmony (NOUH) called on Cairo governor Osama Kamel to stop the work on the façade of the Sayyeda Zeinab Mosque in downtown Cairo because it does not follow the established regulations for the protection of historic buildings.  

The Sayyeda Zeinab Mosque is on the historic buildings list, and comes under Law 119 of 2008 which protects historical buildings and structures.

Gharib said that the dome and minaret of the mosque are now painted in rosy colours, which is a flagrant violation of all laws and regulations issued to protect historic buildings.

According to the regulations, explained Gharib, any renovation to the mosque should be done in collaboration with the NOUH because the mosque is on Egypt's historical buildings list. The mosque should have been painted in light beige to suit all Islamic historical buildings of its era and to be in harmony with historic Cairo.

Major General Khaled Abdel-Razzak, head of Sayyeda Zeinab district where the mosque is located, said that he did not know who had painted the dome and minaret of the mosque, and that those who had done so had not had permission from any relevant authority such as the governorate or the antiquities ministry.

He ordered a halt to all works there and said he would carry out investigations to find out who was responsible.

The mosque is dedicated to Zeinab, the granddaughter of Prophet Mohamed and daughter of the fourth caliph Imam Ali. The surrounding area was named after the mosque, which was originally built in the twelfth century but has been rebuilt and renovated several times throughout its history. The recent structure of the building dates to the 19th century.

The main facade, minaret and cupola are of the Mamluk architectural style. Inside is a colonnaded prayer hall with a painted wood ceiling and cupola in front of the mihrab (pulpit).

The shrine mausoleum, which Sunni Muslims believe holds the body of the prophet’s granddaughter, is located on the western side of the mosque, topped with a small dome supported by a pendent of stalactites. The cenotaph is enclosed within a finely worked bronze grille.

Zeinab travelled to Egypt after the Ummayads killed her brother, Al-Hussein, in 680 CE. Egyptians visit the mosque seeking her blessing. Although the mosque is not a tourist destination, foreigners are welcome provided they dress modestly and act respectfully.

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