THE MOSQUES OF EGYPT
3.THE FATIMID PERIOD, 358 - 567H. (969- 1171 A.D.).
3- AL- AZHAR MOSQUE 359- 61H. (970- 72) . WHEN GOHAR AS- SAQALLI (Saqlabi) , Commander- in - chief of al- Mu 'izz li- Din illah, the first Fatimid Khalif, conquered Egypt and founded the city of al- Qahira, he began the construction of al- Azhar mosque in Gumada I, 359H. (970) , and finished it in Ramadan, 361H. (972). It is therefore, the first mosque founded in the city of al- Qahira, and the earliest existing Fatimind monument in Egypt. The origin of the name of this mosque has been disputed. It is said however, that the Fatimids have named it "al- Azhar" in commemoration of Fatima az- Zahra', daughter of the Prophet. This mosque, at the time of construction, probably had an open sahn, surrounded by three riwaqs, the largest being the sanctuary which is five aisles deep. A slightly higher transept cuts the sanctuary in the middle, running from the sahn to the qibla wall, where it ends with a dome over the mihrab. The two corners of the aisle next to the qibla wall were covered with two domes, similar in form; no traces of these remain. Each of the side riwaqs is three bays deep. The arches surrounding the sahn rest on rectangular piers while all other arches rest on marble column with varying types of capital. About the year 400H. (1009) , this mosque was restored by al- Hakim Bi'amr illah, third Fatimid Khalif in Egypt. A wooden door, now kept in the Museum of Arab Art, is the only trace of this restoration. At the end of the Fatimid Dynastry (VI cent. H. = XII cent. A.D.) , the covered part was enlarged by the addition of one aisle to each side of the sahn; the arcades of these rest on marble columns. In the middle of the eastern aisle at the beginning of the transept, stands a dome, the interior of which is decorated with stucco ornament and bands of Qur'anic inscriptions in Kufic. A good deal of the original stucco ornament and Kufic inscriptions can still be observed: (I) all round the arches of the transept, and their spandrels, (2) in the hood of the old mihrab, and (3) the stucco windows and their borders, in the ends of the east and north walls of the sanctuary. The first of the additions after the Fatimid Dynasty was the Taybarsiya Madrasa which stands to the right of Bab al- Muzaiyinin entrance, in al- Azhar square; this madrasa was built by the Amir 'Ala' ad- Din al- Khazindari, commander of the armies, in 709H. (1309). An important feature of this madrasa is its marble mihrab which may be regarded as one of the most beautiful, on account of its good proportions, fine craftsmanship, the harmony of its polychrome ornament, and the gilded fusayfisa 'which decorates the two spandrels. The next addition was the Aqbughawiya madrasa, opposite the Taybarsiya and to the left of the entrance mentioned above. This was built by Amir Aqbugha 'Abd al- Wahid, Ustadar to Sultan an- Nasir Muhammad ibn Qala'un, in 740H. (1339). It is famous for its beautiful entrance and marble mihrab, which is in no way less splendid than its fellow in the Taybarsiya Madrasa. About 844H. (1441) , Gohar al- Qunuqbayi built the Gohariya Madrasa, against the north side of the sanctuary. It had two entrances, one from the mosque and the other from outside. In this madrasa, the Amir constructed a dome over his tomb. This madrasa, although small in size, is remarkable for its high artistic qualities. In 873H. (1468/69) , Sultan Qayt- Bay rebuilt the main entrance which stands between the Taybarsiya and Aqbughawiya Madrasas and leads into the sahn, and constructed the minaret which stands to the right of it. These two edifices, like other works of Qayt- Bay, are very richly decorated. Qayt- Bay's extensions included a riwaq for the Maghrabys, and lavatories. In 920H. (1514) , Sultan Qansuh al- Ghuri erected a tall minaret with two heads, next to that of Qayt- Bay. A feature for which this minaret is remarkable is that it has two separate staircases starting at the first storey, so that if two persons ascend the two staircases at one time, they do not see each other until they meet on the landing of the upper storey. The most important extensions added to this mosque, however, were those carried out by the Amir 'Abd ar- Rahman Katkuda who, in 1167H. (1753/4) , constructed:. I- The large riwaq behind the old mihrab, the floor and roof level of which were higher than those of the older part;. 2- A marble- lined mihrab and a wooden minbar next to it;. 3- The Bab as- Sa 'aida entrance, at the end of the southern wall, which leads into maktab for the study of the Qur'an;. 4- A minaret, to the right of the last entrance;. 5- A dome over his tomb and,. 6- the Bab ash- Shurba, with a minaret next to it. The Amir also renewed the faade of the Taybarsiya Madrasa, and linked it together with the Aqbughawiya Madrasa by constructing a double entrance, known as Bab al- Muzayinin; this overlooks al- Azhar square. About 1210H. (1795) , al- Wali Ibrahim Bey constructed a riwaq for ash- Sharaqwa students; Muhammad 'Ali Pasha al- Kabir built another for as- Sinnariya students; the Khedive Isma'il ordered the demolition and rebuilding of Bab as- Sa'aida and the maktab, and restored Aqbughawiya the Madrasa; the Khedive Tawfiq rebuilt the riwaq which had been added by 'Abd ar- Rahman Katkhuda. Works of restoration had been going on almost continuously in this mosque until 1310H. (1892 / 93) , when the Diwan al- Awqaf renewed all the arches round the sahn. In 1312H. (1894/95) , the Khedive 'Abbas II built the 'Abbasi riwaq, renewed the north faade of the mosque and the wooden screen round the sahn. Finally the marble flooring of the sanctuary and the magnificient carpets which cover it were furnished as a graciousgift by H.M. King Farouk I. Plates 10- 13, 53, 59, 60, 123, 163, 164.