Cairo, nicknamed as the city of the thousand minarets, is famous for its various Islamic historical buildings. Early Moslem rulers, Fatimids, Tolonids, Mamluks, Ottomans, and then the Royal family of Mohamed Ali have all ruled over Egypt in different period's time under the leadership of Islam. All these dynasties had impressive buildings constructed and they are still the highlights of many tours to Egypt
All of these dynasties wanted to leave their landmark in Egypt, the heart of the Arab world. Egypt has witnessed many Islamic architectural styles from the simple Fatimid style, the Mamluk more sophisticated style, till the Ottomans style of marvelous mosques and Sabils.
Many of the historical mosques are still providing services to the Egyptians until today. However, they always welcome visitors from all over the world to who come to spend their holidays in Egypt
Cairo, founded by the Fatimid dynasty in 969 AD, Al Qahera, or the victorious, became the imperial capital of Egypt. Although the Fatimids have constructed great marvelous palaces and remarkable mosques covered by high walls in the city of Cairo which they have established, very little of their achievements in Egypt remained.
When other dynasties came in power and to construct their own buildings, they took the place and maybe the material of other Fatimid's structures.
Today the Fatimid Cairo is full of Mamluk and Ottoman historical buildings. The narrow streets of Islamic Cairo are like an open museum of historical Moslem architecture that welcome hundreds of travelers everyday that spends their Egypt Vacations.
Bein Al Qasrein
The word Bein Al Qasrein; means ;between the two palaces, referring to the two magnificent Fatimid palaces that used to stand in the entrance of the Mui'z Street in an ancient Cairo. Facing each others in a busy area, the two palaces formed the heart of ancient Cairo.
Subsequent dynasties have replaced these two palaces, but the name remained as it is. The area nowadays is lined with marvelous facades from its Western part. These facades belong to three remarkable Mamluk structures. The most southerly, coming from the Azhar Street, is the Madrasa and Mausoleum of Sultan Qalaun. This building which is the oldest among the three was constructed by Qalauan, one of the most important Mamluk leaders.
The construction of his complex was completed in 1279 with the efforts of 300 crusaders prisoners and took the workers only 13 months to finish the construction that still amazes many tourists visiting Islamic Cairo as part of their Egypt Tours.
The Christian touch in the complex maybe found in it gothic fa;ade. When the guest enters he finds himself in a dark corridor with the Madrasa to the left and the mausoleum to the right.
The mausoleum of Sultan Qalaun has one of the most marvelous interior designs in Egypt. Inspired by the Jerusalem;s Dome of the Rock, the mausoleum has octagonal arrangements of columns with two giant granite pillars that were brought from an ancient Pharaonic structure during the Mamluk era.
The walls of the complex are covered with decorative mosaic displaying Islamic ornaments. The golden color is spread all over the walls shining with the sunlight entering from the several colored windows in the complex. Across the mausoleum, an Islamic Madrasa and a hospital were built and the hospital, after 700 years of its establishment, is still providing some medical services.
Continuing in the Al Muiz Street towards the north, the less expensive and less charming faade of the Madrasa and the Mausoleum of Al Nasser Mohamed is located.
Constructed between 1299 and 1304 for the Sultan that los his throne twice but fought back to regain power and he ruled for a total period of 42 years. During this period he had around 200 structures built around Egypt with his mosque in the citadel, the mosque of Al Nasser Mohamed, standing as his best architectural achievement that is viewed by numerous travelers visiting the citadel as a section of their group Egypt Tour.
The faade of the mausoleum of Al Nasser Mohamed is quite remarkable with the North African style stucco work and the black and white colors of the doorway. The entrance gate of the mausoleum was brought from a Church near Palestine to mark the final defeat of the Moslems over the crusaders in the holy lands.
To the left hand side going towards the ancient gates of Cairo to the north, lays the Sultan Barquq Mausoleum. Built in the period between 1384 and 1386, the mausoleum has for bronze entrance gates. Each gate leads a spate set of classes for Islamic teaching and students cells.
The mausoleum itself contains a remarkable gilded dome and marbled walls. However, Barquq was not buried here, but in the Northern Cemetery of Cairo.
The Sabil Kutab of Abdel Katkhuda
A common scene in Islamic Cairo is the dotted odd shaped structures with huge windows. These Sabils or public water fountain was where the people used to get their needs of fresh water.
Wealthy leaders and nobles would usually build a Sabil to help the people of his country and gain the blessings of god for such a good deed.
The upper floor of the Sabil was often constructed as a small terrace open from three direction and it was used for the Islamic teachings, following the preaches of Prophet Mohamed who noted that the Sabil should provide two things, water for the thirsty and education for the ignorant.
This structure that was carefully renovated was actually built in 1744. Colorful tiles representing Mecca decorate the first floor of the Sabil while the second floor is decorated with wooden pillars and beams. Sabils are among the structures that are really admired by tourists who Travel to Egypt.
The faade of the Sabil has some fine joggling, panels of colored marble that fit together like a jigsaw. When travelers walk about the Mui'z Street as part of their custom tour in Egypt they always ask about information concerning the Sabil of Abdel Katkhuda as it looks rather strange in comparison to the mosques and Madrasa in the Street.
The Mosque of Al Aqmar
The Al Aqmar or the moonlit mosque is not shining as it used to do. Hundreds of years of Cairo dusts have changed the original color of the structure.
The mosque was built in 1125 by one of the last Fatimid Caliphs in Egypt and it is the oldest mosque in Egypt to be built out of stones, as older structures were constructed out of bricks and plaster.
Al Aqmar mosque is the first to be built in Egypt with its entrance gate not facing Mecca, which was an architectural challenge. Many affordable tours to Egypt may include a visit to the monuments in Islamic Cairo.
The faade of the mosque, being well preserved until today, shows one of the earliest examples of stone decoration that will become very famous afterwards during the reign of the Mamluks.
Beit El Sehaymi
It is the most beautiful and elegant preserved historical house in Cairo. It actually consists originally of two houses; the first was constructed in 1648 while the other was built in 1796. A visit to Beit El Sehaymi is always recommended for tourists enjoying theirEgypt Packages.
The traditional design of the house gives entrance through a right angled passageway. Into a central courtyard that is full of greenery and acts as the heart of the house.
The rooms of the ground floor was the Salamlek, the section of the house where the men used to have their meetings and the upper floor was the Haramlek, the part of the house specified for women to stay.
The house has some of the finest Mashrabeya screens in Egypt together with few colored windows provided fresh air to the house and gave the women the chance to watch the street from behind the Mashrabeya screens without being seen from outside.
After a long restoration period, the house is now open for public as the finest example of an Ottoman residence in Egypt. Many tourists who travel to Egypt enjoy their visit to the house nowadays.