THE MOSQUES OF EGYPT
THE EVOLUTION OF MUSLIM ARCHITECTURE IN EGYPT
3.THE FATIMID PERIOD, 358 - 567 H. (969-1171 A.D.): Towards the end of the Ikhshid period, the Fatimids were casting an eye upon Egypt, and were aiming to make it the seat of a strong Khalifate, where they hoped to establish a new era and convert it to a Shi'a State. In 358 H. (969), Gohar as-Saqalli, Commander of al-Mu'izz li-Din illah, the fourth Fatimid Khalif, invaded Egypt, marked out the plan of the city of Cairo and founded the first Fatimid mosque, al-Azhar. This period was associated with some architectural innovations, such as the use of dressed stone for the first time, in the faades of mosques, instead of brick, as well as the decoration of the faades with various motifs, carved in the stone, previous faades having been of a simple character, as may be observed in the Mosques of 'Amr and Ibn Tulun. Domes were small and simple in this period, both internally and externally. Their external ribbing was seen for the first time in the dome of as-Saiyida 'Atika, founded at the beginning of the VI century H. (beginning of the XII century A.D.). Dome supports (or pendentives) began to develop towards the system of multiple tiers of stalactites; thus beginning with a simple squinch as in the Mosque of al-Hakim, then two tiers of niches as in the dome of Shaykh Yunis and the two domes of al-Ga'fari and 'Atika, and so on. The pride of Fatimid architecture, however, was apparent in its attractive and beautiful ornament. Decorated Kufic inscriptions and stucco ornament attained a high standard in their beautiful motifs, good distribution and varied designs. They were most highly developed in mihrabs, and they formed borders for arches and windows. The cleverness of the Egyptian craftsman was not confined to stucco decoration alone, for he also excelled in the art of carving in wood; thus doors minbars, movable mihabs and wooden tie-beams, bear witness to his great skill, and all show the high level of craftsmanship attained in this period.