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1. Modern Cairo

2. The National Museum

3. al-Azhar Mosque

4. Old Cairo

5. Hanging church

6. Coptic museum

7. Coptic churches

8. The synagogue

9. Fustat

10. Mosque of Amr

11. Ibn Tulun Mosque

12. Khan el-Khalili

13. The Citadel

14. Muhammad Ali Mosque

15. Sultan al-Nasir Mosque

16. Suleyman Pasha Mosque

17. The bloody museums

18. Panorama of Cairo


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Ibn Tulun Mosque

The mosque of Ibn Tulun is not only the oldest surviving mosque structure of Cairo, it is also unique and one of the city's most distinct ones.
It was built in 876 by a Syrian Christian, something which lead to a great number of designs and motifs from Coptic churches. But the general layout is most likely designed after the Great Mosque of Samarra (now Iraq). This can be seen both in the huge, open court yard as well as the spiral minaret. Although dwarfed by its Mesopotamian counterpart, the similarities are more than theoretical.

Cairo, Egypt: Mosque of Ibn Tulun

Cairo, Egypt: Minaret of Mosque of Ibn Tulun

The entire mosque is 140 times 122 metres, with the inner courtyard making up a perfect square of 92 metres. Beyond the impressive open, almost empty feeling of the courtyard, these are the things not to miss:
1. The frieze running beneath the arcade is about 2 km long, and contains about 20% of the whole text of the Koran.
2. The minaret is accessible, and from it you can view large parts of old Cairo. It is also quite seldom you will have to make the most the climb up a minaret on an outer staircase.
The mosque of Ibn Tulun has had a history of much neglect. In 905, only 24 years afters its completion, the Egyptian ruling dynasty that had commanded the mosque's construction, was removed from power by the Abbasids of Baghdad. They destroyed most of the city around the mosque, but left the mosque in peace but also neglect. It was not restored before 1296. During that process the dome in the centre of the courtyard was built.

Cairo, Egypt: Mosque of Ibn Tulun

But as the mosque was in the outskirts of Cairo it would fall into neglect over the following centuries. It would become converted into a military hospital, later a salt warehouse and even a beggar's prison. It was first in 1918 that it was restored into its present condition: a mosque, but not in ceremonial use.

All parts of the mosque is open to the public, from 7.00 till 17.00 every day. There is no entry fee, and no regulations on photographing or filming.

By Tore Kjeilen