After the El Hussein Mosque, the Al Azhar Mosque was the next most venerated mosque in the country. I did not get a chance to spend much time in here as I would have liked as time was passing by and I needed to go check out the citadel as well. This mosque was made way back in 971AD but I am not going to repeat the wiki article in here :). Do check out the fascinating history of this lovely institution.
So turning back from the El Hussein Mosque, I see this sight. The Al Azhar mosque is on the left.
So off I go towards the Al Azhar mosque passing an Abou Hamza restaurant. For me, Abu Hamza reminds me of a former night club bouncer and Egyptian Sunni who is currently in prison in the UK for being frankly a nutter, a bit of a thief and a thoroughly hypocritical man.
You cross the road via an underground tunnel and then come up on the other side of the road just in front of the entrance to the mosque.
Here is the barber gate, so named because at some time, barber’s would sit here and barber the hair of the students. But more on this gate later on. There was a police car parked in front with the policeman sleeping inside it. A significant number of policemen that I saw were sleeping in the city. But I didnt go into the mosque directly, instead decided to check out the outside and other parts of the mosque. So turned right.
This is the alleyway behind Al Azhar. Beautiful buildings, and this is supposed to be the booksellers alley (Diagon Alley?). And this was absolutely heaving with booksellers and book binders and and and. What a wonderful place for a bibliographer.
The walls of the mosque have these lovely stone plaques on the wall with highly stylised Arabic writing on them. Can you imagine the intricacies of actually carving something like this on unforgiving stone? One slip of the hand and you have ruined it all. Also, the sheer antiquity of the building is shown up on how the darker stones have weathered away compared to the whiter stones. It gave a beautiful look to the building.
This is supposed to be a basin of Al Suitan Qaitbay. No idea what this is about, couldnt find anything on the net, but if its a basin, then presumably it would be a sabil of some sort. He is supposed to be a huge patron of arts and architecture in the city.
This is the gate on the north side of the complex which seems to be closed and unused.
The closed gate has the same decoration as the Barber gate, with a beautiful arched and highly carved dome on top. I just love the tall double panelled windows with the circular window on top. Just look beautiful indeed with the columns on each side. The striped stone lintels also add to the overall beauty of the window.
The photographs show a warmly lighted workshop, three rooms. The middle room is the main room with beautifully carved book cases on both sides filled with notebooks and other stationery which needs book binding. The room on the left is where they actually do the book binding, I could see the printer typeset racks on the far end, the screws and casts. One day when I grow up, I will learn to be a book binder. Its just so wonderful to imagine restoring a book to a pristine condition, lovingly making sure that the tatty book again has a new set of clothes and a new set of happy eager hands will again read those words, cradled in a new binding. Wonderful. The room on the right is more of a storeroom with more books piled up.
A bread seller, she got very excited when I clicked her photograph. Can you see her wagging her finger at me? Goodness, I scarpered from there quickly and entered the mosque proper.
A close up of the three storied minaret, the bottom two stories are octagonal with the characteristic Mamluk highly carved columnar construction with balconies, while the top story is a circular one, again with a balcony.
A closeup of the doorway, the bottom end can show stone fascia’s with a blue stone now. Also there were highly carved Arabic sayings on the panels. This is brilliant fine artistry on display. You wont find such fine work in Ancient Egyptian work, no wonder people say that Islamic Cairo is better than Ancient Egyptian Cairo. But I suppose its a matter of taste.
Here is the Barber Gate in detail. Just look at the wonderful panels all over. The panel on top with carved Arabic sayings, the panels below with painted plants, shrubs and more Quranic sayings. A closeup of the central panel shows the even finer work with flowers, vines and geometrical panels.
A seriously ancient lamp was outside, now sadly rusting and the glass broken, but it was really beautiful.
There was a perfumery and he had these cute little pots hanging outside. Here is the slideshow with more photographs and bigger resolutions.