Mosque of Ibn Tulun

sights / Religious

Mosque of Ibn Tulun information

Cairo , Egypt
Sharia al-Saliba
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The city’s oldest intact, functioning Islamic monument is easily identified by its high walls topped with neat crenulations that resemble a string of paper dolls. It was built between AD 876 and 879 by Ibn Tulun, who was sent to rule the outpost of Al-Fustat in the 9th century by the Abbasid caliph of Baghdad. It’s also one of the most beautiful mosques in Cairo, despite a rather ham-fisted restoration using cement on the mud-brick-and-timber structure. Ibn Tulun drew inspiration from his homeland, particularly the ancient Mosque of Samarra (Iraq), on which the spiral minaret is modelled. He also added some innovations of his own: according to architectural historians, this is the first structure to use the pointed arch, a good 200 years before the European Gothic arch. The mosque covers 2.5 hectares, large enough for the whole community of Al-Fustat to assemble for Friday prayers.

The mosque’s geometric simplicity is best appreciated from the top of the minaret, which also has magnificent views of the Citadel. Reach the tower from the outer, moatlike courtyard, originally created to keep the secular city at a distance, but at one time filled with shops and stalls.