Restorations to begin for Egypt's Al-Azhar mosque

Nevine El-Aref , Wednesday 22 Jan 2014

The historic Al-Azhar mosque will be restored starting in February

Al-Azhar mosque

The Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) will participate in the restoration of the Al-Azhar mosque in historic Cairo, the MSA minister told Ahram Online.

The MSA is responsible for protecting Egypt’s cultural history, which includes the country's rich Islamic heritage.

The project is carried out by the Arab Contractors under the supervision of the Ministry of Construction. The project aims to fix the foundation of the important mosque partially through soil injection as well as the restore its minaret. 

The restoration also includes cleaning its architectural designs and fine ornaments, while developing the area surrounding the mosque.

MSA Minister Mohamed Ibrahim told Ahram Online that the ministry is participating in the restoration works along with the Ministries of Construction and Religious Endowments, the Cairo Governorate and Al-Azhar. The project funded by the Saudi Arabia.

He continued that during a meeting yesterday several topics were discussed concerning the material used in the restoration of its walls, as well as the polishing colours suitable to the mosque's architectural style and historic period.

Al-Azhar mosque is one of Egypt’s Islamic monuments built during the reign of the Fatimid Caliphate Al-Muizz Li Din Allah in 972, shortly after the establishment of Cairo as Egypt’s new capital.

It was named after the name of Prophet Mohamed’s daughter Fatma el Zahraa. It is the first Fatimid monument built in Egypt and it was a meeting place for Shiite students. Throughout the history it became the focal point of the famous university.

The architectural style of the mosque shows the influence of all arts that have passed through Egypt. It was renovated and expanded several times during the Fatimid era but during the Ayyubid era the mosque was completely neglected because it represented Shiites, while the Ayyubid was Sunni. But during the Mamluk period, especially during the reign of Sultan Babirs, Al-Azhar mosque regained its luster after a great restoration project.

The mosque has five very fine minarets with small balconies and intricately carved columns. It has six entrances, but its main gate is found at Bab El-Muzayini (Barber’s gate) built in the 18th century. The Qaitbay entrance was built in 1469 and has a minaret built atop it. It opens on a large courtyard, which is surrounded with porticos supported by over three hundred marble columns of ancient origin. To the east, the prayer hall is found with several rows of columns. Behind is a hall added in 1753 by Abd el-Rahman Katkhuda and at the northern end is the tomb of Jawhar El-Sequili.

Samarat Hafez, head of the Islamic Antiquities Section at the MSA, told Ahram Online that the ministry has provided all the drawings and documents of the mosque’s restoration project carried out in 1998 in order to be a reference to the current restoration team.

Restorations are expected to start in February.

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