Mosque of El-Azhar
The Mosque of El-Azhar lies in El-Azhar Street few meters away from the complex of El-Ghuri. It is the headquarter of theology in the Islamic World and one of the oldest universities all over the world. This mosque was used for teaching the Islamic rules and Prophetic traditions and the principles of the main four schools of Islamic rites for Muslim Students from Egypt and other countries. El-Azhar played a great and influential rule in the political life of Egypt and Arab World as well. The subjects that were studied in El-Azhar have been recently modeled to cope up with the development of life and more faculties were added including the Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of girls and others. The number of students and the teaching staff in El-Azhar is increasing and the system is continuously remodeled. the mosque was established by Gawhar El-Seqilly in the 10th century.
One of the most attractive features of the mosque is the three Minarets standing next to the main entrance of it. The first one was built by Aqbughawiya as a part of his complex nearby the mosque. The second one was established by Sultan Qaytbay and it dates from 1475, while the third was erected by Sultan El-Ghuri. Those two Minarets are similar in their design since both of them have two staircases on their sides used for ascending to the upper floor for seeing the surrounding area of the mosque. Yet the Minaret of Qaytbay is distinguished by its double finial in its end.
Next to the main entrance of the mosque one can see two Madrasas that were established in the Mamluk period standing on the either sides of the way that leads to the interior plan of the mosque:
Firstly, the Mosque-Madrasa of Emir Seif El-Din Aqbugha that dates back to the early 14th century. It was constricted by Emir Aqbugha who was the brother of Sultan El-Nasir Mohammed's favorite wife and he served as Majordomo and as Commander of Royal Mamluk. This School was designed by the famous architect of the court El-Muallim Ibn El-Seyufi. It is admired for its two Mihrabs that are luxuriously decorated with Pearl and glass mosaic patterns.
Secondly, the Mosque Madrasa of Taybarsiya that lies next to El-Azhar opposite to Aqbugha Madrasa and dates from 1309. It was erected by Emir Alaa El-Din Taybars and restored by Emir Abdul Rahman Katkhuda in 1753. The Qibla wall of the mosque belongs to the original Madrasa while the façade and Mihrab with its marvelous decorations were added in a later renovation process. The walls of the Madrasa are handsomely decorated with Quran Inscriptions and the name of God in a charming way.
One can enter El-Azhar mosque through the Gate of Qaytbay that date back to the 15th century and is regarded as a good example for the Mamluk style of decoration for its interlacing stalactites. There is another entrance called Bab El-Saayda marked by a Minaret next to it and it was constructed by Abd El-Rahman Katkhuda in his renovation of the mosque. The Sahn of the mosque with its keel arches that date back to the days of the Caliph El-Hafiz reflects the Fatimid period style of decoration. On the right side of this Sahn or main courtyard appears a. The mosque includes also some rooms standing behind the beautiful Mashrabiya window that were dedicated to the students of El-Azhar to live in for free during the time of study.
The interior part of the mosque is illuminated by a number of windows, and the ceiling is excessively decorated with stucco forms that traces back to the restoration of Caliph El-Hafiz. It has a cruciform, and the main aisle is distinguished from the other surrounding aisles in its height and width. The hood of the Mihrab is beautifully ornamented with stucco forms that date back to the 10th century.
Since the construction of the mosque in 970, till now it had witnessed a large number of restorations and enlargements and this forms a building with various types of decorations. The Façade of the mosque highlights that since the right part of it was added by Khedive Tawfik, while the left one was added by Khedive Abbas Helmy. The central part of the façade that contains the gate that is supported with two arches date back to the mid 18th century.
After 1303 earthquake Emir Salar added some panels with stucco carving over the niche to support it. Later on, the area under the niche was restored by the Boharas and handsome marble decoration was added. The mosque was enlarged in 1751 by Abd El-Rahman Katkhuda who is buried in a tomb on the right side from the mosque in a small mausoleum preceded by a number of stair-steps. During the restoration of 1999, beautifully colored niche-patterned carpeting was added to the interior plan of the mosque.
The Tomb-Madrasa of Emir Gawhar Qunqubay is one of the prominent monumental places that can be found next to the El-Azhar. This tomb that date back to the 15th century was constructed by the Eunuch Emir Gawhar who served as a treasurer of Sultan Barsbay. Of special interest in this complex are the marble paving and the handsome wooden door and widows of stained glass that reflect the spirit of the mid-fifteenths century decoration. The Madrasa is admired for its carved stone dome with its arabesque interlacing scrolls and floriated motifs. This complex was renovated in the late 20th century.