Ahmad Ibn Tulun built this mosque from 870 to 879 AD in order to accommodate all of his troops. It was the third congregational mosque to be built in the Cairo area and the oldest mosque in Egypt that has survived mostly in its original form. Ibn Tulun was the son of a Turkish slave of Mongol origins owned by the Abbasid Caliph al-Ma'mun. From these humble origins he rose to great power, founding the Tulunid Dynasty (868-905 AD) of Egypt. After becoming the ruler of Egypt, Ibn Tulun founded a new city called al-Qata'i on a rocky outcrop, clearing a Christian and Jewish cemetery in order to do so. Many biblical legends were attached to this hill: it was said to be the landing site of Noah's Ark, the place where Moses had confronted Pharaoh's magicians, and near the place where Abraham nearly sacrificed Isaac. When the Abbasids regained power in 905, Ibn Tulun's city was razed, but the great mosque at its center was spared. But as the city center shifted away from the rock, the mosque fell into neglect. In the 12th century it was used as a shelter by pilgrims, which caused some damaged. The Ibn Tulun Mosque was first restored by Mamluk Sultan Lajin in 1296. Lajin had been a conspirator in the assassination of Sultan al-Ashraf Khalil ibn Qalawun. He hid in the deserted mosque and vowed to restore it if he escaped with his life. This restoration included the rebuilding of the famously unique minaret. There have been several renovations in modern times, including major work in 1999 that included the paving of the courtyard and the refacing of the fountain in black marble.
Built between 1356 and 1363 by the Mamluk ruler Sultan Hassan, the scale of the mosque is so colossal that it nearly emptied the vast Mamluk Treasury. Historians believe that the builders of this mosque may have used stone from the pyramids at Giza. Early in construction, some design flaws in the colossal plans became apparent. There was going to be a minaret at each corner, but this was abandoned after the one directly above the entrance collapsed, killing 300 people. Another minaret toppled in 1659, then the weakened dome collapsed. The early history witnessed by the mosque was as unstable as its architecture: Hassan was assassinated in 1391, two years before completion, and the roof was used as an artillery platform during coups against sultans Barquq (1391) and Tumanbey (1517).
Al Rifa'i Mosque is located in Cairo, Egypt, in Midan al-Qal'a, adjacent to the Cairo Citadel. The building is located opposite the Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan, which dates from around 1361, and was architecturally conceived as a complement to the older structure. This was part of a vast campaign by the 19th century rulers of Egypt to both associate themselves with the perceived glory of earlier periods in Egypt's Islamic history and modernize the city. The mosque was constructed next to two large public squares and off of several European style boulevards constructed around the same time. Al-Rifa'i Mosque was constructed in two phases over the period between 1869 and 1912, when it was finally completed. It was originally commissioned by Khushyar Hanim, the mother of the 19th century Khedive Isma'il Pasha to expand and replace the preexisting zawiyya (shrine) of the medieval era Islamic saint Ahmad al-Rifa'i. The zawiyya was a pilgrimage site for locals who believed that the tomb had mystical healing properties. Khushayer envisioned a dual purpose for the new structure as a house for sufi relics and a mausoleum for the royal family of Egypt. Over the course of its construction the architect, design, and purpose were changed. The original architect was Husayn Fahmi Pasha al-Mi'mar, a distant cousin in the dynasty founded by Muhammad Ali in 1803. He died during the first phase of construction, and work was halted after Khedive Isma'il Pasha abdicated in 1880. Khushayar Hanim herself died in 1885, and work was not resumed until 1905 when the Khedive Abbas Hilmi II ordered its completion. Work was supervised by the Hungarian architect Max Herz, head of the Committee for the Conservation of Arab Monuments in Cairo. The building itself is a melange of styles taken primarily from the Mamluk period of Egyptian history, including its dome and minaret. The building contains a large prayer hall as well as the shrines of al-Rifa'i and two other local saints, Ali Abi-Shubbak and Yahya al-Ansari. Tomb of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi the King of IranThe mosque is the resting place of Khushyar Hanim and her son Isma'il Pasha, as well as numerous other members of Egypt's royal family, including King Farouk, Egypt's last reigning king, whose body was interred here after his death in Rome in 1965. The mosque served briefly as the resting place of Reza Shah Pahlavi of Iran, who died in exile in South Africa in 1944, and was returned to Iran after World War II. Part of the burial chamber is currently occupied by Reza Shah's son Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, who died in Cairo in 1980.
Known in Arabic as al-Muallaqah ("The Suspended"), the Hanging Church is the most famous Coptic church in Cairo. The church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is thus also known as Sitt Mariam or St. Mary's Church. The Hanging Church is named for its location above a gatehouse of the Roman fortress in Old Cairo; its nave is suspended over a passage. The church is approached by 29 steps; early travelers to Cairo dubbed it "the Staircase Church." The Hanging Church was built in the 7th century, probably on the site of a 3rd or 4th century church for the soldiers of the bastion. It has been rebuilt several times since then, including a major rebuild under Patriarch Abraham in the 10th century. By the 11th century, the Hanging Church became the official residence of the Coptic patriarchs of Alexandria and several Coptic synods were held in the church. The main furnishings - the pulpit and screens - date from the 13th century.
This is the oldest church, with 3rd- and 4th-century pillars. It is said to be built over a cave where Joseph, Mary and the infant Jesus sheltered after fleeing to Egypt to escape persecution from King Herod of Judea, who had embarked upon a ‘massacre of the first born’. The cave in question (now a crypt) is reached by descending steps to the left of the altar. Every year, on 1 June, a special mass is held here to commemorate the event.
The Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo is located behind the Hanging Church and was once a church itself. The Ben Ezra Synagogue was originally a Christian church, which the Coptic Christians of Cairo had to sell to the Jews in 882 AD in order to pay the annual taxes imposed by the Muslim rulers of the time. The church was purchased by Abraham Ben Ezra, who came from Jerusalem during the reign of Ahmed Ibn Tulun, for 20,000 dinars. The synagogue was a place of pilgrimage for North African Jews and the site of major festival celebrations. The famous medieval rabbi Moses Maimonides worshipped at Ben Ezra synagogue when he lived in Cairo. Numerous restorations and renovations were made over the centuries, and the present building dates from 1892. It is a faithful reconstruction of the original, which had collapsed. During the reconstruction, a medieval Geniza (a hiding place for sacred books and worn-out Torah scrolls) was discovered, revealing thousands of original documents from the Middle Ages.
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