THE MOSQUES OF EGYPT
3.THE FATIMID PERIOD, 358 - 567H. (969- 1171 A.D.).
7- THE MASHHAD (Mausoleum) OF AS- SAIYIDA RUQAIYA 527H.(1133) . ONE OF THE SACRED SHRINES OF EGYPT is the Mashhad (mausoleum) of as- Saiyida Ruqaiya, daughter of 'Ali ibn Abi Talib. It was built 527H. (1133) , during the reign of al- Hafiz li- din illah, the eighth Fatimid khalif of Egypt. All that remains of it is the eastern iwan. This is composed of a proch, the arches of which are supported on pairs of marble columns, with a door at the back leading into a square domed bay in front of the mihrab. The dome is ribbed, and is supported on an octagonal drum. This bay is flanked to right and left by small extensions, with a mihrab in each. The ribbed dome appears in Egypt, for first time, over the shrine of as- Saiyida 'Atika, at the beginning of the VI cent. H. (XII cent. A.D.) , and later on in ash- Shabihi and as- Saiyida Ruqaiya. The drum rests on four pendentives, each consisting of three niches surmounted by one, i.e. similar to those at al- Ga'fari, 'Atika and Shaykh Yunis, outside Bab an- Nasr. The last dome may have been built by Badr al- Gamali about 480H. (1087) ; hence it should be rgarded as the first step in the evolution of stalactite pendentives, which took the place of the single niche (squinch) employed in the Mosques of al- Hakim and al- Guyushi. The development of this element was a marked feature of the Mamluk period when stalactite pendentives of various forms and many tiers are employed. The chief glory of this shrine is its principal mihrab which is one of the greatest masterpieces of stucco decoration. It is a niche, covered by a shell- like hood, the ribs of which radiate from a medallion, decorated in the centre with the name of 'Ali surrounded with the name of Muhammad several times repeated. The ribs end at the edge of the arch with motifs recalling stalactites. The spandrels are decorated with beautiful ornament; above them runs a band of inscription in decorated Kufic, with its surface curved forward. Crowing the whole is a band of interlaced ornament. In the centre of the shrine; and in front of the mihrab, is a wooden cenotaph carved with beautiful designs and inscriptions in decorated Kufic, which stand out in relief, comprising verses from the Qur'an and the date of its construction, i.e. 533H. (1138/39). This Mashhad was provided, about 549- 55H. (1154- 60) , with a portable wooden mihrab, rich with ornaments and inscriptions of great beauty. This mihrab is at present preserved at the Museum of Arab Art, together with two other wooden mihrabs, one of which was constructed about 533- 41H. (1137- 45) for the Mashhad of as- Saiyida Nafsa, and the other by order of al- Amir Bi- ahkam- illah in 519H. (1125) , for al- Azhar mosque. Plates 24- 25.