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The Mosque of Aytmush al-Bagassi


 

About Egyptian Mosques

 

The Mosque of Aytmush (Aytmishi) al-Bagassi in Cairo

by Lara Iskander
 

Lara Iskander

 

 

View of Aytmush al-Bagassi Moosque while coming from the direction of the citadel down darb al ahmar

 


The early Mamluk period is architecturally the most rich of the archaic Islamic periods of Cairo, for many major buildings were erected under their reign.

This is due to the fact that the Mamluks started erecting different styles of religious and educational complexes influenced mostly by Spain, Iran and North Africa.

After the strict Ayyubid regulations, which made it possible to have only one main congregational mosque at any one time, during the fourteenth century, the Mamluks allowed several complexes to be built demonstrating a diverse range of styles and designs.

Several of these buildings have survived and are still found in ancient Islamic quarters. Halfway down Bab Al-Wazir Street, near the Muhammad Ali's Citadel, one of these examples can be found, though today it is in a rather poor state of repair.

Nevertheless, the Mosque of Aytmush al-Bagassi, built in 1383, is still used for daily prayer irregardless of the poor state it is in. This is rather unusual in Cairo, and demonstrates the buildings' religious importance.

 

 

Back view of the mosque.

 

The mosque was, at the time, one of the most important buildings considering its location. Bab al- Wazir street or al Darb al-Ahmar road was a fashionable area during the reign of Sultan Al-Nasir Muhammad and later in the 19th Century due to the presence of Sultan Muhammad Aly at the Citadel which encouraged urban expansion.

The road was also a main spine as it connected the Citadel to Bab Zuweila, one of the ancient city gates.

Noticeable while walking down the narrow street are various old residential buildings, testifying to the fine architecture of the 19th Century, built during the Muhammed Aly era.

Going further north, one cannot miss Aytmush Mosque erected on a street corner just before the Khayer Bek Complex and the Blue mosque "Aqsunqur" located further down the road.

The mosque was built by the great Circassian "Amir", Prince Seif al-Din Aytmush al-Bagassi, who for a short period of time held the post of regent under the reign of Sultan Barquq.

 

Interior view of the mosqueHorse-shoe arches

 

Left: Interior view of the mosque; Right: Horse-shoe arches

 

View of the Sabil Kuttab  and Basb al Wazir, (Gate of the Minister).

 

The plan of the complex gathers the Mosque, Mausoleum and a Sabil-Kuttab into a single unit. The plan has an unusual form, plain both in shape and decorations. It consists of a Durqa'a, a rectangular space covered by plain buttresses of a flat wooden ceiling with a central lantern and of course, the Qibla iwan occupying around fifty square meters of a total of 250 square meters.

The Qibla iwan is a rectangular area facing the Durqa'a through a pointed horse-shoe arch. In the center is the mihrab with two pointed arched niches on its sides.

The Main entrance of the mosque is located on the street facade leading directly to the covered courtyard. As for the secondary entrance, it was used for the mosque's services and utilities.

 

 

A view of the Mosque's dome and entrance

 

The facade is richly decorated and topped with a ribbed dome that was common from 1360 to the 1400's. The recessed entrance is defined by plain stucco, and above the two side sitting banks is a band of inscription. It is also surmounted with inverse heart shaped leaf patterns. The interior of the mosque is characterized by its simplicity and the use of natural materials, the same as the exterior facades which are also remarkably simple.

The minaret is placed adjacent to the entrance as a landmark emphasizing its location and the street alignment.

To the left corner, behind the mosque lies the Sabil-Kuttab.

The Sabil (ablutary) is separated from the mosque but can still be reached from both inside and outside. The drinking trough is located behind the mosque, which one can reach through the Sharia Bab al-Turba ("Gate of the Tomb"), on the mosque's north side, which was the site of a former city gate.


 

A view of the mosque and its minaret

 

This adjacent building has a beautiful facade full of fine and unique details.

The building is not in use nowadays. It is connected to Bab al-Wazir "Minister's Gate" which separates the Kuttab from the facing monument, the Mausoleum of Tarabay al-Sharifi, another magnificent building with a huge carved dome.

The surrounding area is lined up with diverse monuments, one next to the other.

Facing Tarrabay and Aytmush Kuttab is the remains of the newly excavated Ayyubid Wall of the 12th Century. This wall was planned by Salah el-Din in order to join the old Fatimid city of "Al-Qahira" with the Citadel and the Aqueduct.

 

Resources:

 

  • Islamic Monuments in Cairo, The practical guide. Caroline Williams.

  • Principles of Architectural designs and urban planning during different Islamic eras, the organization of Islamic Capitals and Cities.

 

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