Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo

The Al Azhar Mosque in Cairo is said to be world’s oldest university and specialises in Islamic studies. On entrance to the Mosque, it is a common site to see Muslim students sitting reading inside from a walk of nationalities worldwide



Located in the Khan Khalili district and just under the underpass from the Bazaar, it is roughly 30 minutes from Downtown Cairo and a location for many of cairo’s ancient Mosques from different periods and designs.


The Al-Azhar Mosque, whose name can be translated as ’The Radiant’, ‘Blooming’ or ‘Resplendent’ was founded in 970, Al-Azhar claims to be the world’s oldest university. As the ultimate theological authority for Egyptian Muslims, the Mosque has always been politically significant. Salah al Din changed It from a shi’ite hotbed into a bastion of Sunni orthodoxy, whilst Napoleon’s troops savagely desecrated it to demonstrate their power. A nationalist stronghold from the nineteenth century onwards, Al-Azhar was the venue for Nasser’s speech of defiance during the Suez invasion of 1956.
The mosque is an accretion of centuries and styles, harmonious if confusing. You come in through the fifteenth century Barber’s Gate, where students traditionally had their heads shaved, onto a great sahn (courtyard) that’s five hundred years older, overlooked by three minarets. The sahn façade, with its rosettes and keel-arched panels, is mostly Fatimid, but the latticework-screened riwaqs (residential quarters) of the madrassa on your right hand side date from the Mamluk period. While these are rarely opened for visitors at time of writing, but it’s worth asking if you can go up) offer great views of Islamic Cairo’s vista of crumbling, dust-coloured buildings that could have been erected decades or centuries ago, the skyline bristling with dozens of minarets.
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