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The mosque of caliph Al-Hakim at Cairo ,Egypt


Al-Hakim mosque

Al-Hakim mosque is located at the end of Al-Moez Street, in the heart of Al-Gamaleya district in Cairo, is the Al-Hakim Bii-Amr Allah Mosque, one of the most famous mosques during the Fatimid period in Egypt, and the second largest mosque in Cairo after Ahmed Ibn Tulun Mosque. Al-Hakim mosque was founded by the caliph al-Aziz(Al-Hakim's father) in 380 A.H. & a year later the first prayer was celebrated there although the building was still incomplete. Twelve years later in 393 A.H. The caliph al-Hakim ordered to complete the mosque. In 401 A.H. important alternations were made to the minaret and in 404 A.H./ 1013 A.D. prayers started in the mosque. Al-Hakim Mosque includes the largest mosque courtyard in Egypt, with an area of ​​about 5330 square meters.

Al-Hakim mosque was also called "Al-Anwar" or the illuminated .  Al-Hakim Mosque is the fourth oldest mosque in Egypt, after Amr Ibn Al-As Mosque, Ahmed Ibn Tulun Mosque, and Al-Azhar MosqueThe mosque originally stood outside the city walls. so Badr Al-Gamali later rebuilt the walls in stone ,he enlarged them  so as to include the mosque of Al-Hakim. The mosque was also called in Arabic "Al-Anwar" which means "the illuminated".

Al-Hakim mosque

General description 

The area of ​​the mosque is about 16,200 square meters. The Fatimids inspired the style of the prominent main entrance on the western facade of the Al-Hakim mosque from the Mahdiyya Mosque in Tunisia.  The mosque is about an irregular rectangle consisting of an open courtyard surrounded with four riwaqs & such as Ahmed Ibn Tulun's mosque, it has pointed arches supported by rectangular brick piers.

Al-Hakim Mosque is the first prominent entrance built in the Cairo , covered by a cylindrical vault 3.48 meters wide and 50.5 meters long, at the end of which is a door whose width is 21.2 meters. The mosque has a transept crossing the qibla riwaq(like Al-Azhar mosque) and ending at the prayer niche.  The qibla riwaq also has 3 domes( one over the prayer niche and two at the corners of the riwaq).  The windows(set at the end of each aisle) were decorated with stucco grills, but only few of the original grills have survived.

 The mosque was also decorated with a stucco band running along the arches of the mosque with kufic inscriptions of Quranic texts.  The original decoration of the prayer niche waqsn't survived. The entrance of the mosque is a monumental entrance with two square towers projecting out of the walls and having the portal between them. The interior which was in a ruinous state was rebuilt in 1981 by the BohrasThe history of the Al-Hakim Mosque is so interesting, as the French campaign took it as the headquarters of its soldiers &they used its minarets as watch towers, and its qiblah of the mosque was used as the first Islamic museum in Cairo, and it was called the Arab Antiquities House.

The minarets

The mosque has two huge minarets, each occupying a prominent corner of the northern facade of the mosque. At the corners of the main facade of the mosque the minarets were built. Historians mentioned that in 401 A.H. modifications were made to the minarets of Al-Hakim mosque, adding to them two "arkaan". These are the two minaret structures we see today, wrapping the original minarets. 

The minarets are made of stone, and each of the two minarets is surrounded by a huge square base in the form of a pyramid. The two minarets are not identical:

  1. The southern minaret begins as a rectangle, surmounted with an octagonal story ending with stalactites and at the top there is the mabkhara. The southern minaret is decorated with a large band of inscriptions carrying the name of al-Hakim and the date.
  2. The northern minaret has a rectangular base then a tapering cylinder & decorated with horizontal carved bands and with lozenges. Its windows are decorated with carved frames. There were the mabkharas at tops of the two minarets, were attributed to Baybars Al-Jashankir who restored the minarets after a great earthquake in 1303. 

Crenellations of the mosque:

The original crenellations of the mosque were similar to those of Ibn Tulun's, but only parts of them have survived. The existing crenellations are stepped and were added after the restoration of the mosque. Over the different centuries, the building(Al-Hakim mosque) has been used variously as a prison for Crusader captives, a warehouse and fortress (by Napoleon Bonaparte), a repository for Islamic art (1890), a boy’s school in modern times and from time to time, as a mosque.