Mosque of Sulayman Pasha
The mosque is in the proximity to the northern wall of the Citadel of Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi within the military area, Cairo, Egypt
Hegira 935 / AD 1528
Suleyman Pasha al-Khadim, Governor of Egypt during the Ottoman period twice: (first AH 931–40 / AD 1525–35; second AH 943–5 / AD 1536–8), during the reign of Sultan Suleyman al-Qanuni (r. AH 926–74 / AD 1520–66).
The Mosque of Sulayman Pasha is considered to be the first Ottoman-style mosque in Egypt. The new mosque was the result of a complete renovation and restoration programme on the site of the old mosque built in AH 535 / AD 1140 by Abu Mansur Qastah Ghulam al-Muzaffar ibn Amir al-Juyush, who was the Governor of Alexandria during the Fatimid period.
When the original mosque showed signs of deterioration, Sulayman Pasha undertook a programme to completely renovate and restore the old mosque, virtually rebuilding it in the Ottoman style. He used as his inspiration the mosques of Istanbul, Turkey, such as the Suleymaniye Mosque (built AH 965 / AD 1558). The Ottoman style is charaterised by domes , semi-domes, pencil-shaped minarets and the use of ceramic-tile revetment on the internal walls.
The Mosque of Sulayman Pasha was originally erected for the Janissaries, a troop unit of the Ottoman armies that entered Egypt in AH 922 / AD 1517 with Sultan Salim (r. AH 918–26 / AD 1512–20), and which resided within the northern walls of the citadel. The new mosque was built after a large portion of the old Mosque of al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qalawun had been destroyed and was no longer fit for prayer.
The principle façade of the mosque is on the southwestern side. It is set with a projecting portal that is preceded by stone steps. The steps lead up to the outer entrance which is crowned by a rounded arch. The minaret is located to the left of the southwestern façade. It consists of a square base with bevelled corners and is topped by a cylindrical body surrounded by two wooden balconies. Each balcony is supported by three tiers of muqarnas. The top of the minaret terminates in a conical finial, assuming the shape of a pencil, and the central dome of the mosque is panelled with green-glazed tiles.
The floor plan of this mosque consists of a prayer hall that is covered with a central dome, surrounded by semi-domes. It is preceded by a large, square open courtyard that is surrounded by four colonnades covered by small shallow domes. The prayer hall has two iwans. The first iwan is the qibla iwan (southeastern) which contains the mihrab, marked by a pointed arch and polychrome marble decoration. The upper portions of the walls of this iwan have four circular cartouches that contain inscriptions from Qur'anic verses in addition to the name of the sponsor and the name of Sultan Suleyman al-Qanuni (the Magnificent). The second (northwestern) iwan is characterised by a marble floor that is lower than the floor of the qibla iwan, and in its southeastern side there is a decorated marble minbar which is embellished with gilded geometric and vegetal leaf designs. There is a door in the northeastern wall that leads to the interior annexes of the mosque, such as the ablutions and water provision areas. The northwestern wall, which faces the qibla wall, has four arched niches, one of which contains a window, while another has a door that leads to the mosque courtyard. The courtyard precedes the prayer hall on the western side, while, crowning the front of the northwestern wall is the dikkat al-muballigh, an elevated platform from which the prayers of the day are recited to worshippers. The dikkat al-muballigh is supported on 10 wooden brackets.
The walls of the mosque are panelled with polychrome marble revetment, above which is an epigraphic inscription band that includes Qur'anic verses in leafy kufic script. The inscription, engraved in black on white marble, belongs to a style of decoration achieved by carving the decoration into the marble and then filling-in with a paste made from coloured clay; a decorative technique that appeared in Egypt in the latter half of the Mamluk period. The central dome and semi-domes above the inscription are ornamented with vegetal decoration and inscriptions in large thuluth script. The floor of the mosque is decorated with marble ornamentation consisting of geometric units. The decoration of the mosque shows a continuation of the Mamluk traditions of embellishment, despite the use of the Ottoman style in the architecture.
When the Citadel fell into the hands of the Ottoman armies under Sultan Selim I in AH 922 / AD 1516, the first Ottoman mosque in Egypt was built inside its walls to serve the Ottoman soldiers stationed there. It followed the style of the Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul. For the first time Cairo saw a mosque designed with one main dome, satellite domes and elegant slim minarets with conical finials. The internal walls were covered with polychrome ceramic tiles, vegetal and epigraphic decorations.
The building was dated based on a foundation text found at the top of the portal in the southeastern wall of the courtyard which includes the name of the sponsor and the date of construction.
Rabbat, N., The Citadel of Cairo, Geneva, 1989.
Rizq, A., Atlas al-'imara al-Islamiya wa al-Qibtiya bil Qahira [Atlas of Islamic and Coptic Architecture in Cairo], Cairo, 2003.
Williams, C., Islamic Monuments in Cairo: The Practical Guide, Cairo, 2002.
Zaki, Abd al-Rahman, Qal'a Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi wa ma hawlaha min al-Athar [The Citadel of Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi and the surrounding Monuments], Cairo, 1970.
Tarek Torky "Mosque of Sulayman Pasha" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2024. 2024. https://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;eg;Mon01;19;en
Prepared by: Tarek TorkyTarek Torky
Tarek Abdel Aziz Torky holds a BA in Islamic and Coptic Antiquities from Cairo University (1982). He is currently Head of the Statistics Department at the Information Centre of the Supreme Council of Antiquities and reporter of the committee set up to prepare for the celebrations of the centennial of the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo. As Expo Curator for the Discover Islamic Art project in Egypt he prepared the database information for the Egyptian monuments included in the project and participated in formulating the dynastic and cross-dynastic exhibitions. He has participated in the first phase of the Islamic Art in the Mediterranean project as product manager and prepared the texts and photos for the catalogue Mamluk Art: the Splendour and Magic of the Sultans (MWNF, 2001). In 2002 he obtained a scholarship for Med. Master on new technologies for valorisation and management of Mediterranean Cultural Heritage in Ravello, Salerno.
Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (from the Arabic).
Translation copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez
Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.
True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.
MWNF Working Number: ET 19