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Altunbugha al-Maridani Mosque in Cairo


 

 

Exterior view of the Minaret and main entrance of the mosque.

 


 

Exterior view of the Minaret and main entrance of the mosque.

 

 

This Mosque, one of the finest monuments of the 14th century, was built by Amir (Prince) "Altunbugha al-Maridani" in 1340.

 

Al-Maridani mosque if located in "Bab-Al-Wazir" street - a major road in the 14th century running from "Bab Zuweila" to the Citadel- in "Darb al-Ahmar" district where many Mamluk complexes crowd one next to another emphasizing the great architectural style of their distinguished buildings.

 

Amir Al-Maridani, who was one of Sultan Al-Nasir Mohammed's sons-in-law, built his mosque following the traditional hypostyle plan very similar to Al-Nasir Mohammed's mosque on the Citadel.

 

It is recorded that the Sultan took an active interest in the construction of the mosque, providing building materials just as he did with Amir Aqsunqur, another son-in-law. His mosque, the Aqsunqur or Blue Mosque, is found further along the same street.

 

 

Ground floor plan of  Al-Maridani Mosque

 

 
 
Ground floor plan of Al-Maridani Mosque;
 

View of Bab-al-Wazir  street.

 

 

View of Bab-al-Wazir street.

 

 

This mosque still retains much of its original decorations. The French Committee restored it during 1895-1903.

 

Almost all available materials and techniques available at the time were applied; including marble incrustation, stucco, wooden and stone carving.

 

Like many other religious buildings, the interior of Al-Maridani Mosque is shifted at a separate angle than that of the street alignment by a stair-step arrangement in order to orient it towards Mecca.

 

The exterior facades are decorated with recessed panels crowned with stalactite hoods with two windows on each panel. A Quranic inscription band runs along the top.

 

 

Reconditioning  efforts at the Mosque

 

 

 

Reconditioning  efforts at the Mosque

 

 

 

Reconditioning efforts at the Mosque There are three entrances to the mosque.

 

The principal one is on the northern faade. It is set in a plain vaulted recess, a monumental portal encrusted with Muqarnas hood stones. (Stalactite frieze).

 

 

Mashrabeyya screen separating the main prayer hall

 

 

Above: Mashrabeyya screenseparating the main prayer hall;

 

One of the Mosque  domes

 

 

Above: One of the Mosque domes

 

The interior of the mosque consists of a central vast open courtyard surrounded by four arcaded halls "riwaqs"; pointed stone arches supported with marble columns. Seen above those arches are a row of alternating keel-arched niches and medallions, above each medallion is a lozenge form. On the keystone of each arch, the stones are framed with a continuous molding forming a loop.

 

 

View of the courtyard  fountain

 

 

 

In the middle of the arcaded courtyard is a sort of beautifully wooden carved fountain in the form of a domed, small pavilion like roof. The fountain was normally designed to permit a number of worshippers to wash simultaneously under running water before prayer.

 

A unique aspect found in this mosque is the superb wooden Mashrabeyya screen separating the main prayer hall Qibla that runs along the summit of the courtyard facades.

 

It adds a striking unusual element to the mosque nearly not at all seen in any of Cairo's other mosques.

 

 

The Mihrab also  found in the Qibla.

 

 

Above : View of the main prayer hall "Qibla";

 

View of the main  prayer hall

 

 

 

Above : The Mihrab also found in the Qibla.

 

 

The Qibla wall is lavishly ornamented with fine stucco work and unusual tree motifs. The Mihrab, (niche indicating the direction of the prayer oriented towards the Qa'ba) a domed, nine-bay maqsura is also carefully decorated with mosaics and carved marble frames.

 

 

The dome of the  mosque

 

 

 

The Maqsura is originally a place set apart to safe guard the life of the Imam who was also the Caliph or governor.

 

Arches supported on eight red granite pharonic columns define the Qibla dome. Reused church columns with a variety of capitals support the lateral aisles.

 

The minaret found next to the main entrance, shows new elements that set the style for later designs. It is remarkable for it's sculpted stalactites that take you from one level to another.

 

The square shaft of the first stage has become almost reduced serving only as a transitional area between the mosque and the minaret.

 

 

The dome of the  mosque

 

 

 

It is toped by a pavilion consisting of eight slender columns surmounted by a bulb (little dome) on a Muqarnas cornice, which is the final stage. This design is to become the distinguishing mark of Mamluk minarets later on.

 

The best view of the mosque, its courtyard and the minaret is on the rooftop where you can also easily spot several other nearby monuments.

 

Al-Maridani Mosque is considered to be one of the important mosques remaining from the Mamluk era (1250 AD - 1527AD) which left behind a rich heritage of architectural buildings that combined religious, funerary, educational and other functions into multifunctional complexes.

 

 

References:

 

  • Islamic Architecture Robert Hillenbrand.

  • Islamic Monuments in Cairo - Caroline Williams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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