Name of Monument:

Aqmar Mosque

Location:

Aqmar Mosque is located on al-Muizz li Din Allah Street, in the Jamaliyya district. At the time it was built, its location was to the north of the Eastern Fatimid Palace, which is now extinct, Cairo, Egypt

Date of Monument:

Hegira 519 / AD 1125

Architect(s) / master-builder(s):

Abu 'Abdallah Muhammad ibn Fatik supervised construction of the building and was vizier to Caliph al-Amir bi-Ahkam Allah. His name was written along with that of Caliph al-Amir in the foundation text on the building’s façade.

Period / Dynasty:

Fatimid

Patron(s):

Caliph al-Amir bi-Ahkam Allah (r. AH 495–525 / AD 1101–31).

Description:

Al-Aqmar Mosque is considered one of the most beautiful Fatimid mosques and the oldest of the remaining examples of small mosques in Egypt. Perhaps the most prominent of its distinctive features is its western façade, among the oldest stone facades, decorated in this rich varied style, in Islamic architecture in Egypt. Possibly the decorative elements on the façade of the projecting portal of al-Hakim Mosque in Cairo (built AH 403 / AD 1012) influenced the construction and decoration of the entrance to this building. Historical sources indicate that stone was used in Fatimid architecture alongside brick. The great traveller, Nasir Khasraw, who visited Egypt in AH 439 / AD 1048, describes the Fatimid palaces that he saw as having walls of stone that fitted into each other so smoothly that the viewer could imagine that it had been hewn out from one single block of rock.
On the façade and on the entrance, the decoration has been carved out symmetrically and includes a number of components including shell forms, blind-arched niches borne on spiral columns, in addition to vases, rosettes and diamond shapes. The façade also consists of chamfered-edged niches (muqarnas); a new architectural element to be introduced into Egyptian Islamic architecture, and a device previously seen only on a gate, Bab al-Futuh in Cairo (built AH 480 / AD 1087). The façade is also embellished with inscription bands carved in the floriated kufic script. To the left of the entrance is a minaret that was constructed in AH 799 / AD 1396, built by order of Amir Yalbugha al-Salimi, who was in the service of Sultan al-Zahir Barquq who reigned twice (AH 784–91 / AD 1382– 9 and in AH 792–801 / AD 1390–9).
The mosque's interior measures 28 m x 17.50 m. At the centre is an open square courtyard whose length at the side is 10 m, and which is surrounded by four roofed areas with rows of columns. The deepest of these is the qibla area, which consists of three colonnades, while there is only one colonnade in each of the other three areas. All the arches of the colonnades are made of brick. The colonnades of the mosque – with the exception of that, which precedes the mihrab – are covered with small shallow domes, built of brick. The transition zones of all the domes consist of spherical-triangular pendentives, a style previously applied in Bab al-Nasr and Bab al-Futuh in Cairo, and both built in the Fatimid period, in around AH 480 / AD 1087. The style was used subsequently in the Mamluk period for the construction of Khanqah Faraj ibn Barquq in Cairo (built AH 813 / AD 1410). The convention of spherical-triangular pendentives became widespread in Ottoman mosques where a number of small domes were used to cover the colonnades.
One of the most distinguishing aspects of the floor plan of this mosque is its response to the street alignment, which deviates from the direction of the qibla, and where the western façade of the building and the entrance lies. There is, however, a respect for the direction of the qibla, brought about by means of a rectangular cross-section that forms a transition area, since on the outside it faces the street whereas the inside faces the direction of the qibla. This mosque is considered one of the earliest examples in the Islamic world of a building that used a triangular section to adapt to the residential fabric surrounding it.
The mosque was exposed to encroachments in the AH 13th / AD 19th century, the most prominent of which led to the loss of the right-hand side of the western façade, which was replaced by a residential building. In the 20th century the building that had encroached on the mosque was pulled down. The façade of the mosque was then restored to its original form based on the features of the left-hand side of the façade, which was supposed to be identical to that on the right.

View Short Description

One of the most beautiful Fatimid mosques and the oldest extant example of small mosques in Egypt. It is recognised for its rich and varied decorations especially in the façade. The arches inside are built with bricks while the arcades (except that of the qibla) are covered with small shallow domes which appear later in Ottoman mosques.

How Monument was dated:

The dating of this building is based on two foundation epigraphs which were written in large kufic script, which include the name of the sponsor of the building, the supervisor and the date of construction. One of them is located on the western façade of the building and the other on the northern façade.

Selected bibliography:

Abd al-Wahab, H., Tarikh al-Masajid al-Athariya [History of Monumental Mosques], Cairo, 1994.
Berchem, M., Van, Une Mosquée du Temps des Fatimides au Caire, Cairo, 1889.
Creswell, K. A. C., Muslim Architecture of Egypt, Vol. I,Oxford, 1960.
Al-Maqrizi, Al-mawā'iz wa'l-i'tibār bi-dhikr al-khiţaţ wa'l-āthār [Exhortations and Contemplation of the Recollection of Plans and Monuments], 2 Vols, Cairo, Egypt, 1853.
Williams, C., Islamic Monuments in Cairo: The Practical Guide, Cairo, 2002.

Citation of this web page:

Tarek Torky "Aqmar Mosque" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2024. 2024. https://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;isl;eg;mon01;33;en

Prepared by: Tarek Torky
Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (from the Arabic).
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez


MWNF Working Number: ET 33