10 Most Beautiful Mosques in Egypt
Cairo is known as the city of a thousand minarets, so imagine how many there are in Egypt as a whole. Spoiler alert: a whole lot.
Egyptian mosques are no cookie cutter experience: some are over 1,000 years old while others were built the day before yesterday, and some are architectural treasures while others are, well, not.
To really experience the beauty of Islamic art, architecture and history, we’ve narrowed down (in no particular order) the Egyptian mosques you should most definitely have on your to-see list.
Once of the most important monuments in the Islamic world, the Sultan Hassan Madrassa and Mosque was home to four different madrassas (religious schools) as well as a mosque. Islamic historians referred to it as a “wonder of construction”.
This huge Islamic structure is built in the shape of a cruciform (cross-shaped), with an open courtyard surrounded by high stone walls, and is known for its beautiful architecture. There’s also a mausoleum where it’s believed that the sultan is buried.
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Established: 1347, then added to in 1652
Aqsunqur Mosque is one of the world's 'Blue Mosques' (due to its interior blue tiling) and was originally built over 700 years ago by the Mamluk emir (prince) Sham Ad-Din Aqsunqur, son-in-law of the Sultan. It was also a mausoleum for Aqsunqur and his family.
Over the centuries it fell into disrepair until Ottoman emir Agha al-Mustafihzan renovated the mosque completely in 1652 and added the blue tiling that makes it so distinctive until today.
It's still open to the public today in the Darb el Ahmar area of Old Cairo, close to Moez Street.
Established: 970 AD
Al Azhar is known as one of the most important, if not *the* most important centers of Islamic theology and learning in the world. The mosque and its university for Islamic teaching was founded over 1,000 years ago by the Fatimids, who built the city of Cairo. Al Azhar University today is Egypt’s oldest degree-granting university.
The mosque is famous for its white marble courtyard and five minarets, which were built in 1340, 1469, and 1510.
Established: 13th century
What makes Abu Haggag so interesting is the fact that it’s built on the ruins of the Luxor Temple, so essentially the mosque looks like a hybrid between Ancient Egyptian and Medieval Islamic times.
Abu Haggag Mosque actually wasn’t the first place of worship to be built on the Luxor Temple ruins -- several churches predated it, including one in the exact spot the mosque stands now. The cool thing is, this means that for over 3,500 years, people of different religions used that same spot to pray and worship their different gods.
Right next to the Sultan Hassan mosque, separated by only a small pedestrian lane, is the equally massive Al Rifai mosque.
It’s because of its huge neighbor that Al Rifai is its size; the architects didn’t want Sultan Hassan to dwarf it. It was commissioned by Khoshiar Hanem, the mother of Khedive Ismail, to house the royal family’s tombs as well as be a place of worship.
Al Rifai mosque also hosts the tomb of its namesake, the Sheikh Al Rifai, a medieval Islamic saint. There’s also a mausoleum for the Shah of Iran.
Location: Old Cairo
Established: 884 AD
Ibn Tulun is not only the oldest mosque in Cairo in its original form, but also the largest. It also has one of the very few minarets in the world where the staircase is on the outside and lends to stunning views of the city.
The mosque was built by Ahmed Ibn Tulun, an Abbassid governor in Egypt, and it’s said that he was inspired by his homeland of Iraq. Some historians maintain that Ibn Tulun mosque has the world’s first pointed arch, some 200 years before Europe started incorporating Gothic arches in their architecture.
Local tip: make sure to climb to the top of the minaret!