Moving down the Sharia al-Muizz li-din Allah street, I noticed this rather unassuming little mosque on the right. It is called as the Al Aqmar Mosque. Constructed in 1125AD, this is one of the very few Fatimid mosques in existence.
Walking up on the side, the minaret is very unassuming, squat and not at all prepossessing but the facade is highly decorated in stone. Apparently, when it was made, the entire mosque was built on top of a set of shops which are now buried. The shops were part of the waqf which would provide the income for the mosque’s operating income.
Even more curious, the inside of the mosque proper is in the form of a rectangle, but the facade and the left hand side juts out extra to make sure that the mosque frontage aligns with the 2 roads. Very curious indeed. This means that while the mosque proper is aligned to Mecca, the door and facade isn't. This was apparently the first time this was done in Cairo and then repeated many times. One great example of the pragmatism that the architects of this age showed to maintain the religious strictures of aligning the mosque to Mecca but then being cognizant of streets and available space to make sure the mosque fits and maximise usage.
Here is a discussion on what this facade means and what the various carvings represent. There seems to be quite a lot of debate over what the meanings could be. Now here’s an interesting point. While there is quite a lot of carvings signifying the name of Mohammad, the name of Ali is given precedence. For example, in the circular carving in the centre of the keel shaped carving above the door, you can see the word Mohammad repeated on the outer circle, but in the middle the name Ali is placed. Bloody brilliant carving, but why give more importance to Ali? Because this was a Shia mosque.
The minbar is made out of marble and severe in sight. For some reason, only the first few words of the Arabic words carved on the top of the minbar are gilded. Was that because these words are special or they are still doing it and stopped at the first 3 words, dont know.
Here is the minaret. It is made of bricks and covered with cement plastering. Very very insignificant specially compared to the other minarets along this street. Here’s a good discussion on this mosque. Apparently this was not the original minaret and nobody knows what it looked like.
Moving outside the mosque and peering down the right hand side, it had an extraordinary decoration on the side. Not sure what this is for, perhaps they would keep candles or lamps here? Never seen anything like this. This is apparently called as a chamfered corner, it also has the names of Mohammad and Ali carved into it.
And finally looking down the street, there is another sabil on the left. This form of sabil seems to be quite common, this was the third one which i saw, all within about a kilometre. Here is the slideshow with more photographs and higher resolution.